North by Northwest, The Suit

North by Northwest is not just famous for its sexy suspense. It is also famous for the suit — an iconic grey suit worn by Cary Grant that has left a lasting mark on men’s fashion.

North by Northwest stars Grant as a Manhattan ad man pursued across the country while he looks for a way to survive. Most men would crumble, but Thornhill is smooth, suave and calm under pressure, and he is never less than devastatingly handsome in that iconic grey suit.

The suit is a silver-gray, slim-cut suit with no flaps at the hem of the jacket (ventless). It was unique at the time and created a silhouette that would become the famous later, especially as the Madmen-style suit.

The suit became popular in the late 50s and early 60s, and is now popular again as a result of Madmen. It is based on the famous Kilgour suit which was designed by a century-old haberdasher on London’s famous Savile Row especially for North by Northwest.Hitchcock let Grant decide on his own wardrobe and Grant had input into the suit’s design. It helped that his contract stated that he got to keep everything he wore in the film.

Oh how he wears it! He is pursued across America, from New York to Mount Rushmore, chased by the police and the dastardly James Mason. Grant keeps his cool and the suit remains unruffled. Mason’s henchman even notes “He’s a well-tailored one, isn’t he?”. Only a low flying plane on a murderous rampage dusts up the suit but he soon has it pressed and dry-cleaned.

Throughout all the action Grant remains the dashing and debonair advertising executive.  The suit adds to this persona but some would go so far as to say that the suit is like a character of its own. The 2006 Granta essay, Cary Grant’s Suit written by Todd McEwen says that, “North by Northwest isn’t a film about what happens to Cary Grant, it’s about what happens to his suit.”

Whether you feel as strongly about the suit as Todd McEwen or not, you must admit that it is a damn fine suit that would make any man look dashing. So if you plan to emulate Cary Grant for Film Fatale presents: North by Northwest, here are some tips:

The suit is a Lightweight wool single-breasted suit, ventless, with three button fastening and notched lapels.  Worn with matching trousers with forward pleats and a white medium spread collar shirt with double cuff and a grey silk tie.

Suits like these don’t grow on trees and are incredibly expensive so it’s best to find something similar. Look for a silver-grey suit but navy and black will also work.

The most important thing is the cut. Choose a slim line single-breasted jacket and matching trousers. Pair with a thin silk tie and buttoned-up shirt. If you are a stickler for detail, mirror Grants outfit entirely by wearing cuff-links and brown leather shoes.

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If you can’t find your perfect suit simply go for the trousers, shirt and tie option. Brylcreem your hair into a side parting and make sure your clothes are so well pressed that no amount of dancing or Martini drinking will ruffle your collar. When you are looking the part, reach inside yourself and find your inner Cary Grant. Mahogany tan is optional.

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