The most beautiful thing in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1959 film North By Northwest is undoubtedly a luminescent Eva Saint Marie in the role of Eve Kendall. However, for men interested in style, the suit worn by Cary Grant’s character, Roger O. Thornhill, comes in a close second.Share
Three factors came together to produce the outfit, one of the most celebrated male costumes in cinematic history. The first was the intention of the director. Eva Marie Saint told Cary Grant biographer Richard Torregrossa, “Hitchcock made everybody in the picture dress in a classic style… He didn’t want the picture to date because of the clothes.” The second was that Grant, largely free to choose the clothes he wore on camera, understood what flattered his physique. The last was the skill of his tailors. The suit has confusingly been credited to both Kilgour, French & Stanbury, of Savile Row, and Quintino, of Beverly Hills. Both establishments probably made clothes for the film; as Grant appears to wear the suit almost throughout the movie multiple versions would have been used.
Judged by the shrunken proportions of today’s fashionable tailoring, Grant’s jacket is much too long and the whole suit is too loose. It’s telling that despite this, the outfit is still hugely admired. Grant knew that a suit with the appearance of an unbroken vertical line (albeit with powerful shoulders) makes a man look tall and elegant; for this reason his trousers are cut wide through the hips, in order to meet the hem of his jacket, and the jacket doesn’t have flaps on the hip pockets, or vents at the back.
Grant’s suit was based on the shape of the American sack suit, and it bears an almost indistinguishable glen check. He wore it with a white shirt, a gunmetal grey tie, long grey socks and oxblood-coloured shoes. Any man would be impeccably dressed in the same ensemble half a century later. (Read more.)