The Famous North By Northwest Suit


“He’s a well-tailored one, isn’t he,” says Martin Landau’s character Leonard. Alfred Hitchcock’s North By Northwest set the tone for all spy films to come in the 1960s, and Cary Grant’s famous plaid suit has many similarities to the many plaid suits Sean Connery wore in the Bond films. Much has been written about this suit already, though I felt it iconic enough to include in my own blog.

Arthur Lyons at Kilgour, French & Stanbury of Savile Row made the original suit for the film. At one point in the film when Cary Grant takes off his suit it is possible to see a label from his Beverly Hills tailor Quintino, who made extra copies of the suit to be dirtied. Quintino is credited for the wardrobe Grant wore a year earlier in the film Indiscreet.

The two-piece suit is made from lightweight worsted wool in a blue-grey fine glen plaid pattern. It is the same type of check as Sean Connery’s three-piece grey suit in Goldfinger, which also appears to be solid from a short distance. It has been said that Holland & Sherry made the cloth, and they make similar cloths today.

The suit has a full cut overall but is still neatly tailored. The suit jacket has a three-button front rolled to the middle button. Though some people have the idea that this suit has no darts like the American sack, there are indeed darts to shape the front. The shoulders are padded and straight with roped sleeve heads. It has jetted pockets, three-button cuffs and no vent in the back. The trousers are very similar to what Sean Connery wore in the Bond films, with a long rise, double forward pleats, turn-ups and side adjusters. Whilst Connery’s side adjusters have buttons, Grant’s are two strips of cloth that tighten with a clasp. The trousers also have slanted side pockets and one rear jetted pocket on the right.

The white poplin shirt has an unusual point collar. Typically point collars have an interlining and are worn with collar stays to keep the points straight, but Grant’s collar is soft like a button-down collar. A soft collar like this would usually be worn pinned, though this collar may be a little too wide for a pin. The shirt has double cuffs fastened with round blue enamel cuff links, though round silver cufflinks are also seen. The shirt also has a shirred back and no pocket.

Though Grant’s tie looks like grey satin silk, it’s actually grey with white pin-dots, giving it a shiny effect. It is tied in a four-in-hand knot. Grant wears grey socks and cap-toe oxfords in burgundy, a colour that might suggest cordovan leather.


  1. Thank you very much for your article, Matt. This is just my favorite suit of all time. The cut is timeless, the lapels are just a little wide but on the wider side of classic, the trousers look great – Grant’s turn-ups and pleats are quite high but well-proportionate to its height. By the way, another precision : the shirt has a French front.
    What do you think about the cloth used, and his weight ? Since it’s a summer suit I still think there is some mohair, or kid mohair, or perhaps fresco in it, but that’s just me. And about the weight, perhaps a 12 oz cloth ?

    And, as a conclusion, a funny thing striked me. In the film, in the railway station, when Cary Grant is about to leave Eva Mary Saint, he gives her her luggage ticket. One thus can precisely see Grant’s cuff jacket, and his cuff buttons do seem fixed. What do you think about it ?

    • I’d guess the weight is more like 10 oz. It could possibly include kid mohair but I don’t think it’s crisp enough to be mohair. The shine is more due to the pattern. The pattern is too fine for it to be fresco. Fresco is a high-twist yarn. It’s a lightweight suit in a plain weave, and that’s really all we can tell. I never noticed that the cuff button-holes could be false. But it’s really not something that matters in a suit made for a film, as long as it looks right.

      I’ve also updated the part about the tie.

  2. I love this suit too, so glad you did an analysis on this one. North By Northwest has to be right up there on the list of greatest suit movies of all time, along with Goldfinger, Casablanca and both versions of The Thomas Crown Affair.

    Based on what I’ve read this was indeed made by Kilgour, although it seems that just about every tailor claims to have made suits for Cary Grant at some point or another, after all he is a well-tailored one!

  3. Good post, but I have a quick question: do you have a preference when it comes to side adjusters? Is there a functional difference between the two styles (buttons or buckles), is one more appropriate for certain types of cut, or is it merely aesthetic?

    • Good question. I prefer the buckles myself because it allows for a more precise adjustment. However, I think buttons look better. Button tabs are connected to elastic that runs through the back of the waistband and over time the elastic wears out. But because of the elastic, the waistband is taken in over a larger area of the waistband, as opposed to the localised bunching that occurs with the buckle adjusters. Buttons can, of course, be moved for a better adjustment, but it’s not so convenient. Both are appropriate for any situation. I suggest you try both as your experience could be different from mine. More than either of those I prefer braces. That’s the best choice if you really want your trousers secure, but they should only be worn with a jacket.

      • The elastic buttoned tabs are specifically Daks Top trousers and surprisingly harder to come across than the general button tabs; unless mtm/bespoke where one has the choice. And the elastic can be replaced of course.

        Funny thing is Daks doesn’t even have them in their range any longer!

      • I have a number of pairs of trousers with Daks tops from Polo Ralph Lauren and Paul Stuart. I have one pair of trousers from Polo with buttons but no elastic. Ralph Lauren Black Label and Purple Label use the buckle adjusters instead. Paul Stuart makes some casual trousers with D-ring side adjusters.

      • That’s interesting, Matt. I sort of prefer the way the buckle tabs look, myself. I’d like to explore either style anyhow. I plan to go for MTM or bespoke clothes as soon as I can, and I’ll probably end up with some of each.

  4. Dear Matt,
    From a previous comment I gather that the literary Bond´s suit would sport a medium shoulder as seen in Flemings own suits.
    Assuming one would like to recreate the literary Bond´s feel in one´s daily wear which tailors on Savile Row or elsewhere do a medium shoulder (I´m guessing Henry Poole) as a designated house style ?
    What options are there off the rack/mtm?
    Thanks for taking the time to answer!

    • Henry Poole or Gieves and Hawkes would be appropriate. Gieves and Hawkes’s off the rack suits would also be appropriate. Ralph Lauren Purple Label is close too. The problem now is finding the right trousers. Fleming wore forward-pleated trousers like Connery’s Bond, and that’s just as important to the style as the cut of the jacket.

  5. I think the shirt collar might be a hidden button down. not only do the points seem to be invisibly held down, but the shirt fabric underneath the collar sometimes appears to be pulling up slightly towards the underside of them.

    I suspect that Cary Grant did have a suit just like this one by Kilgour, French and Stanbury (they will have records of it) and indeed may have worn it in the publicity shots for the film. But in the actual film it’s self they probably used 4 or 5 Quintino suits. At the very least, I doubt he was being chased by the crop duster in the Savile Row suit.

    • Have a look at the crop-duster scene and you’ll see that nothing is holding the collar to the shirt. The points don’t always stay against the body and the collar moves a little when he turns his head. Were hidden-button-down collars around back then? The ones today typically roll like a regular button-down, and they aren’t meant to be worn with a tie.

  6. Revisited this article today and had a thought: I’d love to see you analyze iconic menswear in general from television and movies.

    The tie looks like a repp weave from those screenshots to me, but I could be wrong.

  7. This may be splitting hairs a bit, but is North By Northwest the only film where Cary Grant buttons his jacket appropriately?

    He absolutely ruins Charade by buttoning the lower button – sometimes exclusively – on everything in sight, 3-button jackets included. Same applies for his creme blazer in That Touch of Mink, and grey tweed (?) in To Catch a Thief. Someone notes that the same applies during his appearances in Monkey Business and People Will Talk.

    Props to the Terence Youngs of the North By Northwest crew that kept Grant in check!


    • He buttons the bottom often, but not all the time. Even in Charade he sometimes gets it right. I think he always had it right in Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House. At least he always wears double-breasted suits well. It’s hard to mess those up, whether you button the top, the bottom or both.

  8. Really good and informative article. Many thanks. Grant and Connery’s early Bonds are THE go to references for how a man should dress.

  9. I wonder what inspiration this suit had on the QoS suits. This suit is very similar to the grey deleted scene QoS suit.

    There are certain similarities, especially the 3-roll-2 button coat with roped sleeveheads. The colour of the coat and tie contrasting against a white shirt. Even the collar is similar.

    However the QoS collar was more of a ‘pointy’ spread collar and the knot probably a windsor. Also the QoS coat was more surprised in the waist, had a ticket pocket and a much more exaggerated shoulder.

    What also strikes me about these old classic films including the Connery Bonds is that the suits and shirts looked worn. In QoS for instance, Bond looks like he has a brand new suit and shirt after every take. Which is probably not too far from the truth, with the amount of suits they make for modern films.

  10. What if the shirt was a a normal point collar shirt but had the collar stays removed by Grant himself ? He did have some unique tastes when he chose his shirts. If my memory serves me right ; he also had french cuff shirts with button down collars.

  11. I’ve been reading articles on this site for a while now, and I was just wondering how you know what you know. Are you a tailor? Just curious.

    PS. I really love this site, I’ve learnt a lot from it, so, thank you.

  12. Matt, what’s your idea on the better kind of trousers for a man with the same physique as Cary Grant : tall and slim, with a slim waist and slim hips and legs.
    I like the double forward pleats style a lot paired with a full cut leg. Although, like in the first picture, the fullness of the fabric at the top of the trousers do hide a bit the hips and they look lost in an excess of fabric… it looks difficult to find an equilibrium. Slim trousers close to the hips and legs, on the other hand, have a ‘carrot-like’ effect that I dislike a lot.

    • I wouldn’t recommend something quite as full cut as Cary Grant’s trousers here. I’d recommend something that fits closely through the hips and thighs, either with forward pleats or no pleats but with little tapering below the knee to avoid the “carrot” effect.

    • Thanks Matt. And about the width at the bottom of the trousers, have you an idea about it ? I mean not a value in particular, but a value range perhaps. I am 6 feet tall and my shoe size is an 8 UK /42 European.

  13. Thanks for the article Matt. I think this suit is one of the most influential of the twentieth century. It is SB, three button etc. but the cut and colour move away from flannel and predict a tonal pallette that lasted decades (seventies earth colours notwithstanding). I also think it had an influence on JFK’s attire and style through the ’60 to ’63 period. One of the most important features of the jacket was the breast pocket. I think it is jetted (like a waist pocket) vs. a single welt which leaves it slightly gaping. From a distance it makes it almost invisible, this does two things: lengthens and leans the torso whilst also broadening the chest by promoting a less distracted silhouette; secondly by removing the traditional pocket hank it modernises the visage by removing, for a modern eye, the 50’s anachronism. The overall effect of the clean, sleek cut (by combining all of the features you point to) also presages the less formal form of suit silhouettes introduced by Armani in the eighties and again in the nineties.

    • You’re not the first person who has mistaken this welt breast pocket for a jetted pocket. It has a regular welt breast pocket, not a double or single jetted breasted pocket. The glen check helps the pocket welt to blend in with the suit so it is difficult to see. The welt is also not cut at the same angle as the chest, which is what gives it that gaping look. The front is dramatically darted, further making the pocket look gaping.

  14. I don’t necessarily think that a pocket hank is anachronistic but I comment on the period and how it was moving on from the decades before. The waistcoat, pocket hank, boutonnière etc. (a more European inheritance) began to disappear by the late 50’s. The US ‘sack suit’ silhouette (Man in the Grey Flannel Suite etc.) moved to being more shaped and shorter in length. For example, in Dr No and FRWL a hank is present, by YOLT and DAF the hank is gone. In LALD and MWTGG the hank remains absent. Outside of Bond this was reflected in American Gigilo (1980) wherein Richard Gere’s character sports Armani, sans accessories. Wall St. (1987) heralded a turning point with Gordon Gekko wearing braces, hank etc. The hank skipped Dalton’s Bond but came back with the better dressed Brosnan in Goldeneye (1995). It is all a generalisation but each film marks a position in the way menswear was being presented at the time.

    • The pocket handkerchief was very still popular into the 1960s. It hadn’t yet fallen out of favour by the time of North By Northwest. The lack of a pocket square in a certain film does not mean they were not in favour at the time. Even at the times it was very popular it was never compulsory. Pocket squares were very popular in the 1980s, but you don’t see Bond wearing one then. By the time of Wall Street they had already been very popular for a few years. When Bond wears them in GoldenEye it seems to be a carryover of Brosnan’s 1980s preferences since pocket squares weren’t very popular in the 1990s. Currently many well-dressed men see the pocket square as necessary to being well-dressed, but it used to be more of an optional dandy element than anything else. And since you bring up the sack suit, that was also very popular into the 1960s. When you look at film, the sack suit was always underrepresented. American film tended to prefer Hollywood tailoring styles, with very dramatic cuts used from the 1930s through the 1960s. These cuts were not at all shapeless, even if they were full. But in the 1960s it wasn’t that uncommon to see shapeless sack suits, even if they were cut trimmer and shorter. Sometimes films represent fashions of the times, but not always. Roger Moore’s 1980s fashions were hardly representative of mainstream fashion, which went for strong-shouldered suits rather than the unpadded shoulders that he wore.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.