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The making of Brand Pitt

Hollywood heartthrob Brad Pitt has become a trademark onto himself. Over the past three decades he’s gained fame globally as an actor and producer

Success is a beast. And it actually puts the emphasis on the wrong thing. You get away with more instead of looking within.

Few faces are more recognisable globally than Brad Pitt’s. Undeniably attractive, he has built a career in front of and behind the camera on those good looks and no small amount of talent, ambition, grit and determination. 

The 55-year-old brings his star power to what could just be his next Oscar vehicle — Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, alongside Leonardo DiCaprio and Margot Robbie. 

Tarantino’s ninth film has Pitt’s loyal stuntman Cliff Booth comfortably subservient to DiCaprio’s fading Western star Rick Dalton against the backdrop of a changing Hollywood. Set in 1969, the real historical tragedy of the Manson family murders permeates every frame. It is bathed in glossy LA nostalgia and the Tarantino trademarks that pop culture obsessives live for, and has found fans among audiences and critics alike, raking in more than $40 million in its opening weekend. 

Success is a beast. And it actually puts the emphasis on the wrong thing. You get away with more instead of looking within.

Pitt played his fair share of cowboy-inspired characters before making it big. Here, he revels in it — he brings to the role the self-confidence of someone at the apex of their craft. 

Questioned by director Guy Ritchie for an article for Interview magazine years ago, Pitt revealed a self-awareness that was telling even then: “I think I’m at a point now where I feel like I can jump into anything and lay something down that’s quality. Someone may be better at it — or maybe not — but I know that if I have a feeling for it, then I can make it interesting. 

“But even more as I get older, it’s about the company that I keep. That’s the most important thing to me — that if I’m gonna spend however long it takes to make a movie, give up 14 hours a day for however many weeks or months, then it’s very important for me to know that I’m working with people who I respect and enjoy and that we’re going for something together.”

Born in Oklahoma and raised in Missouri as the eldest of three children in a conservative family, Pitt has been inimitably cool for three decades. His high-profile relationships with Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie, his divorce from whom was finalised earlier this year, has kept tabloid pages filled, as has news of his struggle with addiction, which likely played no small part in it. 

He has rewritten his story, though, and become a champion of sobriety. He’s also been vocal about the hard work he’s had to put in to reach a place where he’s at peace with himself. 

Pitt could easily have been dismissed as just another pretty face, but he’s grafted to become one of the most bankable stars in filmmaking, proving his versatility in more than 70 roles for projects as diverse as the Ocean’s franchise, Twelve Monkeys, Fight Club and A River Runs Through It. Lately he’s also channelled his creative energies into producing some of the most beloved films of recent times as the owner of Plan B Entertainment. 

“I’m behind the camera on the producing side and I enjoy that a lot,” Pitt tells an Australian men’s magazine. “But I keep doing less and less.”

He’s racked up nearly 30 producer credits, including for Oscar-winners The Departed, 12 Years a Slave and Moonlight, and the blockbusters Eat, Pray, Love, Moneyball and The Big Short. The company is also behind Pitt’s next venture, the sci-fi adventure Ad Astra

“I really believe that overall it’s a younger man’s game — not that there aren’t substantial parts for older characters. I just feel, the game itself, it’ll move on naturally. There will be a natural selection to it all.”

At this year’s Cannes Film Festival, the very meta Hollywood received a six-minute standing ovation, while Pitt and DiCaprio were the toast of the town at the photo call earlier. Pitt’s wrist received a lot of attention for the Breitling Premier B01 Norton Edition catching the summer sun on the French Riviera. 

He is one of four A-listers in the Swiss luxury watchmaker’s Cinema Squad, starring in the brand’s 360° #squadonamission advertising campaign shot by Peter Lindbergh alongside Charlize Theron, Adam Driver and Daniel Wu. Breitling launched the campaign last year with its Jet Team Squad. It also boasts top athletes in Explorers, Surfers and Triathlon Squads. 

“The brand has been around for over a century and is now rebranding itself, and looking towards the future; refining and redefining itself, it’s an exciting thing to be a part of,” South China Morning Post quotes Pitt saying.

He tells Hong Kong Tatler his first luxury watch was a Breitling. “I was 26 and had been in the business for a few years. I didn’t have a car yet. I felt like Breitling matched me at the time because I like technical things like precision instruments.”

The brand drew on Pitt and Wu’s celebrity clout to announce its arrival in Mainland China at the start of the year. “I do like a watch very much,” he says. “I guess it’s a man’s only expression, or jewellery, so to speak. It’s the only thing a man really adorns himself with. And something about a watch, it’s not just decoration — it’s a tool. Finely made watches like these just have a gravitas to them — they feel damn good on your arm.

“I like a sense of history — something retro. Something that calls back to its history but also speaks to the moment and maybe the future. I think the Premier collection does that very successfully, because it originally started in the ’40s. It’s still technical like all of Breitling’s stuff, but there’s this other classy elegant-ness to it that wasn’t there before.”

Similarly, he connects Hollywood with the biggest development in Tinseltown in recent years — the #MeToo movement. Asked if anything has shaken the film industry in the way the Manson murder of Sharon Tate (played in the film by Robbie) and others affected Hollywood, Pitt tells the Sunday Times: “Harvey Weinstein. Is that bad taste? [Like the Manson murders], it’s more that I think we’re getting recalibrated. But [this time] in a good way.”

Pitt is said to have picked up a pay cheque of a cool $10 million for the film. 

“Success is a beast,” he’s been quoted saying. “And it actually puts the emphasis on the wrong thing. You get away with more instead of looking within.”

Here’s to a continuation of the introspective journey Pitt is on. And more sculpting — of the fine art and cinematic kind. 

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