Did cinema’s most famous suit influence the cinematic James Bond’s style? This famous suit is Cary Grant’s blue-grey fine glen check suit in North By Northwest, and it is frequently cited as the greatest suit on screen. Sean Connery’s Bond’s suits more often take second place to this suit. While none of Bond’s suit’s are copies of Grant’s suit, we see similar suits in Connery’s tenure as well as similarities in some of Daniel Craig’s suits.
North By Northwest was released in 1959, three years before the first James Bond film. The style of Grant’s suit and the style of Connery’s suits from his 1960s Bond films from Dr. No through 1967’s You Only Live Twice is of the same era, even if the silhouettes are different. The late 1950s saw the start of trimmer cuts and narrower lapels, a fashion that would be the standard through the end of the 1960s. Both Grant’s and Connery’s suits reflect these trends.
There’s no way to tell if any of Connery’s Bond suits are meant to be a direct homage to North By Northwest, since both Grant’s and Connery’s suits were products of the same era of London tailoring. Grant’s suit is from Savile Row’s Kilgour, French & Stanbury (with replicas made by Quintino of Beverly Hills) while Connery’s suit was from Anthony Sinclair on nearby Conduit Street.
The biggest difference between the two houses’ styles is in the shoulders. Kilgour, French & Stanbury was an equestrian tailor that did a stronger shoulder with padding while Sinclair did a very soft shoulder without padding. The stronger shoulder of Grant’s suit was a style that flattered him and one he was used to wearing over his previous three decades wearing strong-shouldered Hollywood-style suits.
Connery’s broader and more muscular build meant that he would have strong-looking shoulders without padding, and Sinclair’s softer style would have felt more natural to him as a suit-wearing rookie.
The fine glen check of the North By Northwest suit is a recurring pattern in Connery’s Bond wardrobe. It was a popular pattern at the time. Starting with Dr. No he wears a fine plain-weave black and cream glen check. He wears other fine glen checks in From Russia with Love, Goldfinger and Diamonds Are Forever, with the last two featuring the most subtle glen check in a hopsack weave that has the same subtly as the North by Northwest check. But all of Connery’s checks were grey-toned and never blue-toned like Grant’s.
Both Grant’s and Connery’s suit trousers are made in the same style, though Connery’s trousers are trimmer through the legs as trends changed in the few years between 1959 and 1962. Both men’s trousers have double forward pleats, turn-ups and side-adjusters, though Grant’s side-adjusters use buckles instead of Connery’s buttons.
Stylistically, Connery’s grey pick-and-pick suit in From Russia with Love may have the most in common with the North By Northwest suit. It is in this suit that Bond dodges and blows up a helicopter, in a scene directly inspired by North By Northwest‘s crop-dusting scene. He also has dinner on a train in this suit, just as Cary Grant does in his suit in North By Northwest.
It is the details of Connery’s suit in these scenes that makes it similar to Grant’s suit. These suits share jetted pockets and a vent-less skirt. Connery would wear more suits detailed like this in Goldfinger and Thunderball, but this is the only suit like this in From Russia with Love, which could indicate it is an homage to the North By Northwest suit. Considering the context of the suit in the helicopter scene this could be more than a coincidence.
Daniel Craig’s Bond brought some other aspects of the North By Northwest suit to Bond. The three-roll-two fastening of Grant’s suit first appears on Bond with Daniel Craig’s Tom Ford suits in Quantum of Solace. This buttoning style, where the lapels roll down to the middle of three buttons, has historically been more popular with American and Italian suitmakers than with British, and over the last decade and a half it has been trendy among tailoring aficionados. Craig wears this style again in Spectre and No Time to Die.
Craig’s Tom Ford suit trousers introduce the strap and slide-buckle side-adjusters that Grant wore to Bond.
In No Time to Die he wears a subtly checked, subtly blue suit with these details, and this suit mimics the North By Northwest suit better than any of Bond’s suits have before.
With the suit he wears a tie with a subtle pin-dot pattern, the same pattern that Grant’s tie in North By Northwest is. Though the colour is darker and is dark blue instead of grey, this tie is the closest that any of Bond’s ties are to Grant’s tie.
Some of Craig’s shirts in Spectre closely follow Grant’s white North By Northwest shirt. These shirts have a soft point collar worn without collar stays and have double cuffs.
A grey suit, white shirt and grey pindot tie in a scene cut from Quantum of Solace copies the North By Northwest look better than any of James Bond’s suits ever have. It’s a shame this outfit did not make it to the final film.
It is impossible to know if any of the suits from throughout the Bond series are directly inspired by the legendary North By Northwest suit, but of the details that make that suit special have made their way onto Bond in one form or another.
The main reason why the North By Northwest suit is so iconic is that Cary Grant wears it throughout most of the film, day and night for many different occasions. It has less to do with the suit itself and more about how Grant wears it. James Bond has never put one of his suits through so much and always travels with a large wardrobe so he can change his outfit often. Because of this, none of Bond’s suits will every truly be comparable to film’s most famous suit.