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North by Northwest: Cary Grant's Tips on Style

Port revisit's the actor's own words on how a true gentleman should dress.

Cary Grant was, throughout his illustrious career, many things. A palaeontologist, a pilot, an advertising man, British, American, brooding, effervescent. But no matter what else, he was always the perfect leading man: refined and erudite, with a hell of a knack for dressing. "Devastatingly handsome, practically imperturbable and as elegant as a Cole Porter lyric," the New York Times wrote upon his passing in 1986. It's perhaps telling that such an article would open with a mention of Grant's legendary dress sense, definitive as it was – and continues to be. He was a man of simplicity, with a keen eye for detail, and a believer in the great American tailor over all else. For the most part he allowed his work and his appearances do the talking, but did on one occasion agree to write down his thoughts on what constitutes proper attire, for This Week in 1962. Here, we illustrate Grant's advice in a thoroughly modern context, interpreting it through an edit of today's best menswear.

"Stick to the Middle of Fashion

Grant was an avowed believer in a regular fit. Of his collection of suits, all were “in the middle of fashion. By that I mean they're not self-consciously fashionable or far out, nor are they overly conservative or dated. In other words, the lapels are neither too wide nor too narrow, the trousers neither too tight nor too loose, the coats neither too short nor too long.” This advice feels especially sage in the age of the extreme silhouette. In the past decade, the ultra-skinny fit has been traded in for volume which often (and consciously) veers on the ridiculous, and is surely the very definition of self-conscious. While this is all well and good for today's taste, who's to say what will come in one or two years? A regular fit will remain just that: regular, no matter the trend of the day. 

"Dispense with Accessories that Don’t Perform a Function

In the modern day, Grant would have been labelled a minimalist for his less-is-more approach to accessories. Belts were to be worn only with blue jeans (trousers being adjustable by side loops), cuff links were never to be ostentatious (a “menace to the enamel on your car and your girlfriend's eye”), ties were preferably black foulard. On shoes, Grant followed his father’s advice, which is to say that one expensive pair is better than four cheap ones. In practice, this thoughtfulness can be applied to almost any sartorial decision. Put simply, wear only accessories that provide a clear purpose, and spend with the intention of holding on to pieces for a long time.