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Lifestyle: How to dress like Cary Grant

by Frances Carbines
28 February, 2013
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About the author

A London based writer with a long-held interest in vintage clothing, antiques and timepieces, Frances' regular editorial content for Click Tempus' Lifestyle section includes everything from city guides to sartorial advice.

Cary Grant

The life and work of Alfred Hitchcock, widely regarded as the greatest British film director of all time, has recently been dramatised in both a film starring Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren, and the BBC/HBO play The Girl. To this day, his cultural influence is prolific: parts of the soundtrack from his revered film Vertigo was used in 2011’s Oscar winning The Artist, and the infamous screeching strings music that eerily punctuates the scariest moments in Psycho has been ubiquitously parodied since its composition. The ‘master of suspense’ wanted his actors to wear classic, timeless styles so that his films wouldn’t become dated. Luckily, in the 1950s, men’s fashion was really all about tailoring and getting the right fit, rather than ostentation or frills which would, like some fashions of the ’70s and ’80s, date badly.

Cary Grant, one of classic Hollywood’s definitive leading men, was named Greatest Male Star of All Time by the American Film Institute. He was also Hitchcock’s favourite actor, appearing in four of Hitchcock’s films, and one of the best dressed men in the history of movies. However, he came from very humble origins:  born Archie Leach, he was raised in Horfield, a  then working-class suburb of Bristol in the UK. Grant joined a travelling stage troupe, voyaging across the Atlantic, before becoming a United States citizen in 1942, at which time he legally changed his name to his stage name “Cary Grant”.

His legendary sense of style boiled down to a simple summation: in his own words, he liked to present himself as a “well-dressed, sophisticated chap”. Unfortunately for those of us not endowed with Grant’s inherent sense of style, a little guidance may be  needed.

The glasses

Cary Grant in North by Northwest

In the suspense classic North by Northwest, Hitchcock’s 1959 thriller, Cary appears alongside leading lady Eva Marie Saint, and plays an advertising executive embroiled in a bizarre case of mistaken identity. To keep a low profile in an increasingly perilous environment, while maintaining his dapper appearance, he dons a pair of brown tortoise shell Tart Arnel sunglasses.

Pierre Cardin Round Tortoise Shell Sunglasses

Pierre Cardin Tortoiseshell Sunlasses

These Pierre Cardin Round Tortoise Shell Sunglasses are just the ticket for apeing Grant’s classic mid-century eyewear appeal: while these are also a vintage piece, they are far more widely available – and, for those on a limited budget – cheaper than their Tart Arnel precursors, and can be found in many a good vintage emporium.

Alternative: Ray Ban Wayfarer Tortoiseshell Sunglasses

Ray Ban Wayfarer Tortoisehell Sunglasses

The ever popular and stylish Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses are great for carrying in unpredictable weather. The iconic design is uncompromisingly stylish, while the brown tortoiseshell pattern gives them a timeless Cary Grant debonair appeal that will keep you looking dapper throughout the summer.

The Watch

North by Northwest - watch

Grant wore a Cartier Tank watch in the filming of North by Northwest, and favoured the brand outside of filming for its elegant and timeless appeal. The idea behind the design was thought up when Louis Cartier spotted Renault tanks on the Western Front during the First World War. Released in 1919, the Cartier Tank was one of the first wristwatches and certainly the first rectangular dress watch, and was also championed by Warren Beatty and Harry Truman.

Luxury: Cartier Tank Watch

Cartier Tank Watch

Beautifully curve-free, simple and unadorned, Cartier Tank watches should be serious contendors for the timepiece of choice of any man wishing to dress as well as Cary Grant. The style has only known slight alterations in its 90 year pedigree, and is a recognisable tribute to Hollywood’s Golden Age while retaining a contemporary sense of simplicity and timelessness. It would look great peeking out from under the cuff of a well-chosen suit (more on this later!)

Affordable: Rotary rectangular watch

Rotary Rectangular watch for men

If you want Cary Grant’s style but don’t have his Hollyood movie star salary, this Rotary rectangular watch for men could be just the thing. Rotary is a Swiss brand that make a huge range of styles. You could pick up this Tank lookalike for around £125.

The grey suit

Cary Grant in North by Northwest

Dressed suavely,  Cary sports a bespoke medium grey Glen check suit made by Savile Row tailors Kilgour in the most famous scenes of North by Northwest, accessorising this classic piece of tailoring with an understated grey silk tie and monogrammed silver cuff links. Grant predominantly stayed faithful to masculine, dark hues of grey, black and navy, and these colours added to his much admired ‘dashing good looks’. ‘The suit is clean and uncluttered, and looks as good today as it did then. Hitchcock gave the stylish Cary Grant full leave to choose his own wardrobe, and Cary was contractually allowed to keep his movie wardrobe, which to some degree accounts for the fine dress sense he maintained throughout his life!

Luxury: Gucci Single Breasted Two-Button Signoria Suit

Gucci Grey Suit

The classic grey suit is a staple for any man’s wardrobe, and as it’s a wearable item for most seasons and situations, it’s a garment worth paying more for. Gucci’s single breasted two-button Signoria suit is a sound investment, with its light grey wool and silk micro design, as its excellent cut ensures that it will flatter most forms.

Affordable: Topman’s Grey Nottingham Skinny Two-Piece Suit

Topman's Nottingham grey suit

If investing in a Gucci suit galls you, a more affordable alternative is  Topman’s Grey Nottingham Skinny Two-Piece Suit: it features real attention to detail, like its grey satin trim on the lapels, and grey horn buttons. The skinny cut is a flattering one for those who feel wary  about venturing into the world of bespoke tailoring.

The shoes: Oxblood leather Derbys

Oxblood Shoes

As for shoes, Cary Grant favoured quality brogues, and ensured that the colour of his brogues complimented rather than matched his suits. His choice of colour made him stand out from the crowd, while not yielding to passing fashions of his age. Seen here rolling on a desk following the (unwitting) consumption of vast quantities of Bourbon, Grant’s Oxblood Derby shoes thus revealed to the camera are a fine addition to his outfit.

Luxury: Paul Smith Oxblood Red Patent Leather Derby shoes

Paul Smith Oxblood Red Leather derby shoes

These Paul Smith Oxblood red leather Derby shoes really look the part for aspiring Cary Grants: the contrasting navy facing proves an eye-catching feature, while the chunky rubber soles afford comfort and wearability. Oxblood shoes may not seem like an obvious choice when choosing a sophisticated outfit, but in fact the colour is one of the most versatile that you can wear. Oxblood can be used as a substitute for brown when you want to make a more interesting and individual impression; the hue goes with pretty much every colour, and compliments all tones of grey. However, if Oxblood shoes prove hard to come by, any reddish-brown leather brogues will do.

Affordable: Merc Retro 60’s Ox Blood Wingtips

Merc Retro 60's Ox Blood Wingtips

You can of course walk in Cary Grant’s shoes for less. These classic round toe punched brogue Ox Blood wingtips from Merc could provide a convincing alternative to an expensive pair of Paul Smith’s for around £100.

And last but not least – the  Cadillac Cabriolet

1929 Cadillac Cabriolet - Cary Grant's first car
A keen motoring enthusiast, Cary Grant  drove a 1929 Cadillac Cabriolet. To round off your timeless new look, an investment in one of these beauties is essential, in order to chariot you and your attire off in style. Well, one can dream.


Hitchcock silhouette

Frances Carbines | Website

A London based writer with a long-held interest in vintage clothing, antiques and timepieces, Frances' regular editorial content for Click Tempus' Lifestyle section includes everything from city guides to sartorial advice.

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