Brad Pitt as Tom Bishop, experienced CIA operative and U.S. Marine
Beirut, Summer 1985
Film: Spy Game
Release Date: November 21, 2001
Director: Tony Scott
Costume Designer: Louise Frogley
Halfway through Tony Scott’s espionage thriller Spy Game, we get to the operation that led to the expository situation of rogue CIA agent Tom Bishop (Brad Pitt) landing himself in Chinese captivity in the midst of secret trade negotiations.
As his one-time mentor Nathan Muir (Robert Redford) explains to agency top brass, Bishop arrived in Beirut in 1985 under the cover of a photojournalist (“he was good, he was talented, he had a good eye… probably had a photography merit badge stuffed in the drawer at home”) to try to get close to the family doctor of their target, Sheik Salameh. Along the way, Bishop breaks the rules and falls for one of his assets, a mysterious Brit named Elizabeth Hadley (Catherine McCormack), and is eventually forced to choose between his assignment and his amour.
Bishop: She’s just someone I used to get to the camp.
Muir: She gonna be of any more use to us?
Bishop: (with a knowing smile) Not to us.
What’d He Wear?
Embedded in 1985 Beirut under the cover of a war correspondent, Tom Bishop wisely appropriates a rugged, utilitarian look that allows him to move quickly on his feet, particularly through the rough urban terrain under siege during the explosive War of the Camps.
Tom Bishop’s drab army green vest has at least nine external pockets, ostensibly for his camera supplies, and those are just the ones we can see on the front! There are three rows of pockets on each side of the vest: a bellows pocket at the top that closes with a velcro-fastening flap, a long bellows pocket in the center that closes with a double-snap flap, and the lowest row that differs on each side. The bottom right side has two small pockets, each with a velcro flap, and the left side has a long single pocket with a double-snap flap, mimicking the pocket above it. Both sets of pockets on the bottom have a top zipper for additional storage behind the pockets themselves.
Though he almost always wears it open, the front is designed to close with a short zipper and a single tab that extends across the front with a single snap closure.
On the right shoulder is an epaulette, sewn closer to the arm and fastened at the neck with a single sew-through button.
This post was requested by an avid BAMF Style reader named Lee who had found a “fishing hunting survival hiking vest” from Mil-Tec available on eBay that appears to be very similar to the screen-worn vest sported by Brad Pitt. Priced at $49.90, this 65% polyester, 35% cotton vest is available in navy blue, black, and olive drab, and the description mentions a whopping total of 14 pockets: four on the inside and one back pocket in addition to the nine we see on the front. If you’re looking for the Tom Bishop vest, this one is as good as it gets.
…And the Rest
The rest of Tom Bishop’s war correspondent look is very contemporary to the time period, a blend of mid-’80s fashion with holdouts from the late ’70s, particularly in the shirts. Let’s go from head to toe.
Tom’s navy San Diego Padres baseball cap has already been called out as a potential anachronism by the eagle-eyed contributors at IMDB as the intersecting white “S” and orange “D” on navy design wasn’t introduced until 1991, six years after this scene is set. In 1985, the cap would have featured the intersecting “S” and “D” both in orange on a brown ground. (For the full logo history of the San Diego Padres, check out this page!)
Tom wears a pair of silver-framed sunglasses with a wide rectangular frame similar to the “navigator” variant of the classic aviator shape. Brad Pitt is a known Oliver Peoples wearer in both real life and his movies, and Redford wears Oliver Peoples glasses throughout Spy Game, but I haven’t seen any confirmation that Pitt is wearing OP eyewear in this sequence.
Attached to a dark brown leather cord around his neck, Tom wears three small silver discs not unlike early dog tags from the World War I era.
The Swiss Flag logo replacing the 12:00 position on Bishop’s analog watch indicates that it’s a Victorinox Swiss Army timepiece, but Lee again came to the rescue to provide the positive identification that the watch is a Victorinox Swiss Army Crusader, model #25324.
“Very lightweight but a beautiful watch,” confirms Lee, who owns the same model. The Crusader has a brushed steel case, light tan dial with a date window at 3:00, and a tan strap in nylon and leather.
Jeans of all colors are Tom Bishop’s go-to trousers in Beirut. most frequently a pair of off-white cotton jeans with the standard five-pocket layout and a brown maker patch on the back right, most likely Levi’s.
Tom also often sports a pair of dark gray denim jeans with the same brown patch on the back right.
Tom wears a pair of well-worn brown leather boots with reinforced soles and raised heels.
It would be an exercise in futility to catalog all of the shirts worn by Tom Bishop during his extended tenure as “Terry” in Beirut, and yet…
Our first shot of Tom Bishop in Beirut finds him bellying up to a crowded bar, sporting a linen or lightweight cotton délavé short-sleeved shirt with a point collar, breast pocket, and plain front half-unbuttoned to reveal a plain white cotton crew-neck undershirt. The cream shirt has a pattern that alternates between a wide faded blue stripe and a column of well-spaced red squares, each consisting of its own five-by-five micro-squares.
A few scenes later, Bishop heads to the refugee camp to make his first contact with Elizabeth Hadley and Dr. Ahmed (Amidou), sporting an off-white treated cotton field shirt with a two flapped front pockets and a point collar… unbuttoned, as are the few mixed brown plastic buttons below it down the front placket. A roll-up sleeve tab system allows Tom to unbutton his cuffs, roll up the sleeves, and hold them in place above the elbow with a tab that extends out to fasten to a button on the outer forearm.
On Nathan Muir’s first day in Beirut, Tom goes to greet him in one of the more expressive shirts from his closet, a light blue floral-striped cotton long-sleeved shirt with curved ‘smile” pockets on the front, a point collar, and pearl snaps up the front placket.
Tom seemingly abandons the trappings of his cover after Nathan’s arrival, first discarding the green vest and then the San Diego baseball cap. He accompanies Dr. Ahmed to a meeting with Nathan in a sky blue field shirt with a point collar, button-down epaulettes, front placket, two box-pleated chest pockets (with mitred corner flaps that each close with a single button), and roll-up sleeve tabs. He wears this shirt with the San Diego cap and dark gray pants that are most likely his jeans.
A similar shirt is the pale blue cotton snap-up shirt that makes its appearance a few scenes later when Nathan insults Elizabeth during her date with
Tom, er, Terry. This shirt has a moderate point collar, pointed Western yokes on the front and back, and pearl snaps up the front placket with a traditional button at the neck. The dramatic pointed flaps on the double chest pockets and the cuffs each close with matching pearl snaps. He appears to wear the same gray jeans with his shirt.
For the climactic day of their assignment in Beirut, Tom foregoes wearing anything that could impede his mission of getting Dr. Ahmed to the sheik’s headquarters in time. This is the most activity that his assignment has called for, and he sartorially responds in a proto-military ensemble of monochromatic field shirt, undershirt, and jeans.
Tom’s light stone-colored cotton bush shirt is styled like the earlier sky blue shirt with epaulettes, roll-up sleeve tabs, and two box-pleated chest pockets with button-down flaps. He wears the same lightweight white cotton long-sleeve t-shirt with its wide crew neck seen in an earlier scene, and he sports the same off-white jeans with no belt.
Following his mission, Tom suits up in an all-olive outfit of bush shirt and jeans that comes even closer to resembling military fatigues and further away from the guise of a photojournalist. This outfit may warrant its own scaled down BAMF Style post in the future.
Go Big or Go Home
Tom Bishop’s boss, Nathan Muir, is obviously impressed by Bishop’s skills as a photojournalist, proving a necessary rule of spy-craft: don’t pick a cover that isn’t a job you can actually do. By extension, the same principle can be applied to life: don’t volunteer to do a job and then not learn how to do it.
Bishop goes about it by getting his hands on the necessary equipment, in this case a classic Leica M6 camera and a Nikon FM, with enough skill to effectively wield it à la Horst Faas. In fact, Tony Scott reportedly said that he was impressed by actual photos taken by Brad Pitt, who is an avid photographer in real life.
On a more personal level, Bishop also goes the extra mile to honor his friend’s birthday… of course, it’s after executing a fancy bit of spy-craft to find it out, despite the seven different birthdays that Langley has on file for Muir. Armed with this knowledge, Bishop takes Muir to a special birthday breakfast to a restaurant where he had taught the chef to make migas and gifts him a flask – the perfect birthday present for a whiskey aficionado like Muir.
How to Get the Look
Tom Bishop’s utilitarian look suits his cover while also providing him with an ideal degree of functionality and mobility while operating in hostile territory. Other spies may look dashing in three-piece suits and tailored tuxedoes, but for Beirut circa 1985, you want light layers, plenty of pockets, and nothing getting in your way.
Plus – unlike some of his screen-worn outfits – this isn’t one where you necessarily need to look like Brad Pitt to pull it off!
- Light-colored cotton long-sleeved field shirt or snap-up shirt*
- Olive drab polyester/cotton utility vest with 14 pockets, right-side epaulette, and
- Cream cotton denim Levi’s jeans
- Brown leather boots with raised heels
- Navy cotton twill San Diego Padres white/orange-logo baseball cap
- Dark brown leather corded necklace with three silver discs
- Victorinox Swiss Army Crusader #25324 quartz watch with brushed steel case, tan dial with 3:00 date window, and tan nylon-and-leather strap
*If you don’t feel like a deep dive into the many shirts that make up Tom’s Beirut wardrobe, just know that he wears a mix of plain t-shirts and vintage-styled snap-up shirts or button-up field shirts, some of which we only see for a single shot. Also known as adventurer shirts, pilot shirts, and bush shirts (in more specific cases), field shirts are classic pieces of sportswear that typically have a button-up front, multiple pockets, and roll-up sleeve tabs.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
We have some fucked up barometer for success, don’t we?