The Italian Job: A Suit for Michael Caine in the Hayward Style

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Italian-Job-Grey-Suit

We know Douglas Hayward as Roger Moore’s tailor in the 1980’s Bond films. But Hayward is even better known as Michael Caine’s tailor and for his work in some of Caine’s films during the 1960s and 70s, most notably Alfie. The Italian Job features some of his most rakish cutting, and being that the movie is from 1969 there are similarities with George Lazenby’s suits in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The similarities also come from the fact that Hayward was a partner of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service tailor Dimi Major. The suit we’re going to look at from The Italian Job is the first one Michael Caine’s character Charlie Croker wears after visiting his tailor and shirtmaker when he is released from prison. It’s not as iconic as the beige suit he wears later in the film, but it’s a good place to start.

Croker's
Croker’s old “revolting” suit

Initially when released from prison, Croker wears a mid-60’s-style button-two, grey houndstooth check suit with narrow lapels and pocket flaps, and a plain ecru shirt. He is first fitted for a new suit but before it is completed he wears his old suit to the shirtmaker. The dialogue with his young shirtmaker Adrian follows:

Adrian: I don’t want to be rude, Charles, but times have changed.

Charlie: I’ll tell you something, Adrian. When I went in, that was all the go.

Adrian: What did you do, life? You know, Charles, you could put all these in a museum. [mutters] Quite revolting.

Italian-Job-Grey-Suit-2

The new suit the Croker wears in the subsequent scene is a button-three, medium grey pick-and-pick. The cloth may have a subtle windowpane. The jacket has three-button cuffs, deep double vents and flap pockets placed higher on the hips. This higher positioning is the ideal place according to shirtmaker Frank Foster, who at one time worked with Douglas Hayward. This jacket has little in common with Roger Moore’s jackets twelve years later, but they both have the same natural shoulder. The trousers have a flat front, lower rise, frogmouth pockets and narrow legs. Despite the trouser legs being just as narrow as Daniel Craig’s in Skyfall, they hang straight.

Italian-Job-Grey-Suit-Shirt

Croker’s shirt has a pale blue ground with wide medium blue stripes and strips of narrow medium blue stripes in between. It has a very tall, moderate spread collar, plain front and double cuffs with the link holes very close to the fold. He wears a medium blue satin silk tie that matches the medium blue in the shirt. His shoes and belt are black.

27 COMMENTS

  1. Have to say that I like this look although I am not a great fan of the 3 button jacket. This style is very close to modern Italian men’s fashion, shorter jackets, very slim legs. The problem, in my opinion, is that you need to be really slim to look good in it.

  2. Great post, Matt. I was suspecting (and expecting) you would cover this wonderful suit. I watched the movie for the nth time recently, and could simply not get my eyes away from this suit (nor from the Aston that meets a sad end later on).
    This is -to me- the epitome of tailoring. Simple as that. No unwanted contemporary tightness.

    Interestingly, check thr suit worn by Roy Scheider in Marathon Man. Quite sharp too. I wonder who was the tailor, as the suit was certainly not off the rack, in my opinion.
    Thanks
    Stan

    • Roy Scheider’s clothes were from designer Roland Meledandri’s operation, R. Meledandri. They were indeed fantastic and a deft riposte to those who think peacock designers/dressers are one-dimensional. I covered some of this in an article, “Homme Couture”

      Best,

      BON

  3. The suit is beautiful and the colours look good on Michael Caine. As for the fit, well, I think the narrow legs ruin the otherwise very nice silhouette.
    A glance at the third picture shows how wide the hips look. On the other hand, the first one is much more harmonious and smoother: straighter legs would have been perfect in my opinion.

  4. Absolutely superb, faultless. As for the trousers, IMO they are probably cut straight from the knee, which was contemporaneous for the time. To me they look to be a perfect fit, not skin tight like Craig’s.

    Perhaps you could cover Get Carter in a future post.

    • If these were cut straight from the knee, then they’d have an even more pronounced taper at the upper leg. I doubt it.

      Straight-leg wouldn’t look this tight – what’s more, a straight leg cut on a pair of pants with the tight upper-leg fit (and taper) as Caine’s suit would result in the appearance of a very mild flare leg from certain angles.

      -Kurt

      • Perhaps. I’ve watched the scenes with this suit on DVD and this screenshot does make the trousers look tighter than they were. There is a definite ‘kick-out’ when Caine walks that one finds with a slim straight leg, plus he appears to be wearing some sort of ankle boots which would minimise the ‘flare’ effect. If they are tapered the taper is minimal.
        The reason I think they may be straight from the knee is that I have a number of suits similar to this, the jacket almost identical, the trousers are close cut to the thigh (though not unduly tight) and then 18 inches straight from the knee to hem. Worn with minimum break it is a very similar look to Caine’s suit here and in fact Lazenby’s here https://www.bondsuits.com/?p=1545

  5. The line between this and Craig’s Skyfall suits is a thin one, but this does look better.

    There are a couple of flaws here. For instance, pants still look uncomfortably tight, despite hanging straight. And the tie is visible at the waist, due to the lower cut trousers I assume. Perhaps the shoulders are a tad narrow as well, although I’m only going from the picture and I don’t think they look bad.

    • In the full-length picture the tie is tied about two inches too long and is below the belt in that shot. The trousers are a little bit low, but not low enough that the tie would have to show below the jacket button. I think the shoulders look spot on.

  6. Well, this is certainly a perfect example of how to cut trousers close to the body, but I am not really convinced by the suit. To me there’s to much contrast between the jacket (which looks rather structured and cut close to the body, but not too much) and the trousers (very narrow and slim). With a two-button jacket the ensemble could have looked better. The jacket’s sleeves look a bit short in the first picture too.
    Do I prefer his first “has-been” suit ? Yes -although the trousers’ rise seems strangely low for the era ! Do you think it’s the same rise as his new suit pants, Matt ?

    • I prefer the new suit over the old one, except the cut of the trousers in the old one looks better. The old trousers appear to be sagging down a bit. I don’t think the rise is actually as low as it seems.

  7. Though it may not be perfect – and it is definitely not my personal style – I will say this: Caine wears the suit well, and the suit returns the favor. He wears it effortlessly, regardless of any fashion-forward details (and that’s coming from a fellow who can’t stand tapering pants).

    Then again, Caine also pulls off that loud (dare I say “Moore-esque” instead of “Carnaby Street-inspired?”) double-breasted 6×6 pinstriped suit from Austin Powers in Goldmember with equal ease. I think it’s fair to say that the suit was the only redeemable thing in the film too…

    -Kurt

      • Ah yes, my mistake. 6×3. Bit too quick with the keyboard there.

        -Kurt

        P.S.: I will say one thing though – whether convenient or otherwise, the higher flap pockets interfere with the cut/silhouette of the suit.

        Given the fashion-forward ensemble, the jacket would have been an ideal candidate for angled flap pockets – thereby allowing the front to remain at the same height, while the drop at the back would assist the shape of the suit.

  8. I agree with Kurt K. And from what I have seen around L.A. for the last few years, this would fit in nicely.

  9. Had a feeling you’d cover this one eventually, it’s a great suit and would not look out of place on Lazenby’s Bond, or for that matter Craig’s. This really shows off how masterful a tailor Hayward was beyond his work with Roger Moore’s 1980’s Bond films. McQueen in The Thomas Crown Affair would be another example.

      • Indeed his whole wardrobe, whether it comes to suits or to jumpers, is pretty timeless. I wouldn’t say the same of Faye Dunaway’s haircuts though…

  10. Thanks for the brilliant coverage of the suit and scene from this great film, Matt. Shows how a great tailor can get the slim cut right. Of course, it helps if the actor is tall and slim. I’d be very surprised if Elvis didn’t inspire this suit, at least partially. His ’60’s suits seemed to be very similar. And there is a Bond tie-in. Michael Caine played spy Harry Palmer in five films. Their spy was a working-class fellow who wore specs and OTR suits, as a counterpoint to you-know-who.

    • The lapels are more of a French style called “cran necker”, also called “fishmouth”. Though Hayward was one of the most famous English tailors, his style was very much inspired by Continental tailors. He was one of the first English tailors to make truly lightweight suits, lighter than Anthony Sinclair’s.

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