More or less since the dawn of celluloid, men’s clothing and the world of cinema have been intrinsically linked. Typically dressed by the world’s best tailors and fashion houses, Hollywood’s leading men act as a rich and diverse record of style throughout the twentieth century. As an enthusiast of both film and classic menswear, I’ve assembled a list of my personal top five suits in cinema. I can’t pretend that I’ve been in any way exhaustive or impartial – instead you’ll find a slim selection of my favourite suits to ever grace the silver screen.
5. Cary Grant in North by Northwest (1959)
Roger O Thornhill, New York ad man and victim of a mistaken identity, is one of Cary Grant’s most iconic roles. It’s fitting, then, that his wardrobe is similarly recognisable. This two piece, woven in a subtle grey and blue check, is worn for most of the film’s runtime, even as our hero is violently pursued by planes, trains, and automobiles. Blending American and British styles, this suit is a perfect example of late fifties tailoring, worn with panache by one of Hollywood’s most stylish men.
4. Michael Caine in Get Carter (1971)
Get Carter was a landmark moment in the heritage of British gangster films, but also indicated a major transition in Michael Caine’s career, pitting him as a remorseless and vengeful London gangster, Jack Carter. Directly as he steps off the train in Newcastle, Carter’s suit clearly distinguishes him from his surroundings; the sombre, close-cut three piece is immediately distinct from the casual tweeds he encounters in the North. Tailored by the legendary Douglas Hayward, Caine’s suit makes few concessions to the fashions of the time, creating a sense of timeless style that remains as impressive today as in 1971.
3. James Stewart in Rope (1948)
One of Alfred Hitchcock’s more overlooked films, Rope is never short on beautiful tailoring. Jimmy Stewarts’s Rupert Cadell, however, is a cut above his co-stars. The three-piece suit, crafted from a heavy wool and featuring large, peaked lapels, is a beautiful demonstration of late forties opulence. Other details include a pinned shirt collar, a classic but stylish touch which helps to establish Stewart’s character as a one of taste and refinement.
2. Steve McQueen in The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
Steve McQueen was a man who looked good in more or less anything, and The Thomas Crown Affair is an effective demonstration of this fact. From business suits to casual knitwear, McQueen never fails to cut an elegant figure. His first suit of the film, however, is in a league of its own. This grey three piece, featuring a peculiarly straight-bottomed waistcoat, exudes an impossible level of cool. The list’s second example of Douglas Hayward tailoring, McQueen’s suit also illustrates how a relatively limited colour pallet can achieve eye-catching results
1. Sean Connery in Goldfinger (1964)
The fifty-year history of the Bond franchise is littered with stunning outfits, but this three-piece example from Goldfinger surely remains Bond’s finest sartorial moment. Produced by Sean Connery’s usual tailor at the time, Anthony Sinclair, the Goldfinger suit is defined by its ageless appearance and superb detailing, from a subtle Prince of Wales check to the waistcoat’s notched lapels. Paired simply with a white shirt and navy knitted tie, the suit is an unfussy but masterful take on classic tailoring.