The Thomas Crown Affair: The Dinner Suit That Wasn’t Allowed

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It has widely been said that Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond contract states that he “wasn’t allowed to wear a tuxedo in any other film” (read at IMDB). Rather than cut or alter a scene in 1999’s The Thomas Crown Affair that places Brosnan at a “black and white ball”, Brosnan sports a midnight blue wool dinner suit and improperly wears it with an open shirt collar and an untied white bow tie so that he is not wearing true black tie. The dinner suit is made by Milanese tailor Gianni Campagna, who made all of the elegant suits for The Thomas Crown Affair. The button one dinner jacket is cut with a clean chest and straight shoulders on the natural shoulder line, and it has black satin peaked lapels, jetted pockets, four-button cuffs and no vent. The buttons on the dinner jacket are black corozo.

The dinner suit has a matching midnight blue waistcoat, properly low-cut with three buttons and black satin shawl lapels. The dinner suit trousers are cut with double reverse pleats, in the Italian traditional.

Though the men at the ball surrounding Brosnan are dressed in proper black tie, Brosnan wears the nicest dinner suit and has by far the nicest shirt. Most of other men are following the 1990s fashion trend of wearing an attached wing collar with black tie, which is a modern imitation of the traditional stiff, detachable wing collar. Brosnan, on the other hand, wears a classic dress shirt from Turnbull & Asser with a spread collar. The shirt also has double cuffs, shoulder pleats and a pleated front with mother-of-pearl studs down the placket.

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Brosnan, however, wears the shirt unbuttoned at the collar and open at inconsistently the first stud or both the first and second studs. Wearing the shirt open further distances it from a proper black tie outfit, which would breach his James Bond contract. And instead of a proper black silk bow tie, Brosnan drapes around his neck—rather that ties around his neck—a white cotton marcella bow tie, again to distance the outfit from black tie. A white bow tie should only be worn with the more formal white tie dress code and never black tie. Wearing an improper white bow tie with a dinner suit, wearing the bow tie untied and wearing the shirt collar open allows Brosnan to wear a dinner suit outside of the Bond series without breaching his contract.

At a black tie event, dressing as Pierce Brosnan does here is unacceptable. Since the dress code is black tie, that means a black bow tie is required. Anything else, such as a white bow tie or a black four-in-hand tie, violates the dress code—that is what traditionally sets apart the help from the guests. And wearing the shirt collar unbuttoned and the bow-tie draped over the neck is both sloppy and disrespectful to the host. On the other hand, someone as wealthy as Thomas Crown can sometimes make his own rules and dress however he wants to. He certainly could get away with it at a charity ball, though no amount of money should give a gentleman reason to disrespect his host by dressing sloppily and improperly.

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10 COMMENTS

  1. The clothes look fine, but when worn that way with the deliberately untied bow tie, he appears to be hapless and half-hearted. It’s an unfortunate look because it looks unfinished when done for it’s own sake, but I could accept it if the wearer either goes about tying or untying a bow tie, and is interrupted, leaving it to sway around the collar. Was Daniel Craig as Bond interrupted in Casino Royale when he was seen with this look, or was it done on purpose? I believe it should be a situational effect rather than a deliberate choice, and it looks out of place to plan on wearing a bow tie that way, especially in the context of the scene. That the color is wrong to begin with is probably a lot less consequential, despite it being a black tie event. Thomas Crown could still be considered regularly well-dressed, in much the same way as James Bond or Simon Templar, despite occasionally mediocre clothes or outright mistakes.

    • It was most likely done on purpose with Craig in Casino Royale. He’d just come out of an extremely harrowing poker game, it was after midnight, the restaurant was almost empty, and he was with an intimate companion. Considering the circumstances, his going open-collar with Vesper was understandable.

  2. Great movie, great actor. When I first saw this scene I was wondering why an actor with his black tie experience would make such a mistake 😉 (I read about the contract later ).
    This of course is a smart solution but wouldn’t it be better to dress everyone in correct white tie? And could you do the suit of the first date/dinner in the future ?

  3. I think it is obvious that Crown has not worn the outfit like this all evening. Naturally, he has loosen his bow tie after getting warm at the dance floor and we can presume, because of this, that it is after midnight.
    Further, it is a black and white ball and Crown, naturally, wants to stand out among all the other black ties, and still not break the black and white rule. Since all the other characteristics of a black tie is there, I think it is a nice touch with the white bow tie to clearly mark that you have understood the theme for the evening. A proper black tie would be boring when you, as a host, can presume that the guests will dress according to a theme.

    • I agree, I had always assumed that this party had been going on for some time before Banning’s arrival, and that Crown has undone his tie and shirt collar to loosen up on the dance floor, much as many groomsmen do at weddings.

      The 90’s were a rather dark age for black tie– lots of wing collars and regular neckties being worn in lieu of the classic turn-down collar and black bow tie. With that in mind, wearing a white bow tie as part of an otherwise perfect black tie ensemble to a black and white ball doesn’t seem to be that egregious an error to me. I still don’t think Crown should’ve undressed in public, he’s not someone attending his high school prom after all, but he hasn’t broken the two rules that my father taught me about attending black tie events, which are “Never take your jacket off, and never let them [ladies] see you sweat.” Wise words I’ve taken to heart!

      • The problem with a white bow tie is that combining elements from different dress codes is how servants are traditionally dressed. And he is the only man who has undressed. If all the other men could stay dressed, Crown could have too.

    • ” The problem with a white tie is that combining elements from different dress codes is how servants are traditionally dressed.”

      True, but servants are Traditionally identified by giving a black tie, either bow or four in hand to what would normally be white tie, morning dress or dinner jacket. (white tie, morning dress with black bow and dinner jacket with four in hand.)

  4. That is a very nice looking dinner jacket. On one hand it’s unfortunate that they had to have him wear it open collared like that. It does make him look like the type of person that does what he pleases just because he has money. On the other hand, it would be even more unfortunate if they changed the scene and not have the dinner jacket at all. It really is very nice.

  5. But the dress code is NOT black tie, they specifically say “black and white ball” which applies to both men and women. It’s a way of specifying “formal” without dictating “black tie”

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