The North By Northwest Influence on James Bond Style

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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.

Cary Grant’s suit in North By Northwest

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 subtle glen check of Sean Connery’s suit in Goldfinger

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.

Connery’s grey pick-and-pick suit in From Russia with Love

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 wearing a three-roll-two Tom Ford suit in Quantum of Solace

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.

Tom Ford’s side adjusters, as seen in Quantum of Solace, are the same style as on Cary Grant’s suit

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.

Daniel Craig’s blue glen check suit in No Time to Die

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.

Daniel Craig wearing a North By Northwest-esque outfit in a scene cut from Quantum of Solace

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.

38 COMMENTS

  1. Craig’s grey suit from the “deleted scene” in QoS is one of the best in the series. The proportions are, simply put, ideal. Brosnan’s suits from “The World…” are similarly perfect. It’s a shame this scene didn’t make it into the film and it’s a pity that Tom Ford did not outfit Daniel Craig in this style of suit in the consecutive films.

    • I couldn’t agree more.
      Every time I see that film I end up just watching the suits to see them from all angles! It is a shame the mid grey one didn’t make it into the movie.

    • I agree too. The suits from QOS have definitely been Craig’s best. With a higher rise on the trousers, close to perfect.

  2. Chris Kerr, a tailor in Soho, London, recreated the “North by Northwest” suit, with a modern twist, for a client.
    The process is on YouTube, called “Recreating the North by Northwest suit”, and is worth a watch.

  3. Another nice post Matt. And North by Northwest pretty much founded the entire Bond genre anyway. I agree with others that the deleted Quantum suit was a good one. Finally, the picture of the three actors across the top of the post just underscores how non-traditional Craig’s casting was (and that’s just an observation; as I have stated many times, I generally like Craig, and really all, of the lead actors, and three of his four movies).

  4. Matt, I’ve never been a fan of the English suits with big shoulder pads. Which English tailors use very little, or at least thin, shoulder padding?

    • I can recommend Anthony Sinclair bespoke suits from Mason & Sons in this regard. I have a bespoke dinner suit from them with extremely light shoulders. I’m not sure who else in London tailors like this.

      • If one wanted a M&S bespoke suit with a somewhat more built up shoulder, do they offer some options in that regard?

      • They do seem flexible, though I’ve only seen them make bespoke suits with softer shoulders along the lines of Bond’s English bespoke suits. The shoulders have a fairly strong expression, despite their lightness.

      • Seconded. I couldn’t believe how light the jacket was on my Mason & Sons suit, and a large part of that is the minimal shoulder padding.

  5. Aside from my dinner jackets, every one of my suit jackets and odd jackets is a three-button.

    There are subtle differences in the position of where the lapel begins to roll in relation to the top button, even within the subset of ‘three roll two’ jackets.
    Although I usually prefer the ‘hard three’ with a high lapel roll, Cary Grant’s suit rolls right around the area of the top button, which looks fine to me.
    In some of Daniel Craig’s suits, the lapel rolls in such a way that the top button and buttonhole are all but invisible on the reverse of the lapel. I’m not sure if that very dark blue suit in the topmost photo is an example of this. It may be a two-button, or a three button with invisible details. I don’t care for this.

    The grey Daniel Craig version in the lowest photo has the roll pressed flat to the second button. It’s essentially a two button jacket with a pointless and ugly vestigial buttonhole buggering up the lower lapel. I don’t have words to describe how much I detest this look! It’s popular among Ivy Style fans.

  6. Aside from the North by Northwest suit, stylistically another Hitchcock/Grant film had even more influence on the Bond franchise – (and also influenced The Pink Panther films) the superb ‘To Catch a Thief’, especially the casino scene.

    • Also, if we’re talking casinos, the way in which we first see Bond in ‘Dr No’ bears an uncanny resemblance to the way in which we first see Rick in ‘Casablanca’.

      • I think Terence Young once said the Dr. No intro was meant to be a bit of a homage to the movie Juarez (which came out a few years before Casablanca).

      • A pan up from the hands of a character at a table doing something characteristic is a classic way to introduce a character using a character moment. Casablanca may be one of the benchmarks of the shot but it didn’t invent it nor canonize it.

  7. Seems that the Grant’s suits (was done in more copies) for North by Northwest were not cut by Kilgour, French & Stanbury,but by the Beverly hills tailor Quintino, of which Grant was customer from mid 50s at least.
    This is a established fact.
    The only doubt is, was the Quintino’suit inspired by a prototype make for Grant own wardrobe by Kilgour, French & Stanbury?
    The problem is that all the suits should have in the same cloth and design,and this is not easy if you are in Beverly Hills and must copy a suit cut many months ago in London.
    So is possible that Quintino merely copied ( in similiar cloth) the style of the suit that Kilgour, French & Stanbury did for Grant,but the original suit was never used in the movie.

  8. Excellent article, as usual. I personally find the North by Northwest suit more iconic and timeless than any of Connery’s own suits, which I still found beautiful. The narrow lapels and narrow trousers legs date them a bit more I think, even if one could argue that Grant’s wide trousers also date the suit in the opposite way.
    I agree that the unused suit from QOS looks beautiful, although the 3 roll 2 style isn’t done as subtly as Grant’s suit. Looks like a typical 2-button lapel but pressed flat with the top buttonhole showing completely when buttoned. Grant’s suit lapels have a beautiful curved roll, and when you look at the suit in the movie in some shots he looks like he is wearing a classic 3-button jacket and in some you see it’s really a 3-roll-2. I think it’s one of the multiple things -not forgetting, of course, how well Grant moved in it- that made the beauty of it.
    I also saw that Chris Kerr remade a modern version of it. However he didn’t mentioned the reference of the cloth in his articles. He just said it was from Holland and Sherry but didn’t mention if it was a seasonal cloth or something they always had in stock.
    Does anyone here would know what would be the correct reference for the cloth ? Has anyone attempted to find a similar cloth too ?

  9. I’m always intrigued by the moment in Fleming’s “Thunderball” where Bond thinks:

    “Rather a bind missing North by North-West at the Odeon. But one would catch up with it at Southampton”

    Fleming very deliberately chose to name check the film, so I assume he admired it, and he certainly fancied the idea of Cary Grant being cast as Bond. I wonder if Hitchcock had influenced Fleming’s conception of the character – Hitchcock, like Fleming, was a big fan of Buchan and Sapper in his youth. Apparently Fleming approached Hitchcock about directing an early version of “Thunderball”, so perhaps he had referenced Hitchcock’s film in the knowledge that the director would read it and be amused? A Hitchcock Bond film is certainly interesting to speculate on.

    • I believe Grant was offered the role but turned it down because he would only have wanted to do one film (he was pushing 60 at the time).

      • His standard salary at the time was $1 million which was the entire budget of Dr. No. Aside from Thornhill / Kaplan being “ An ad man, not a red herring” there are a number of parallels in the way Grant plays him and the way the character of Bond developed over the first few films.

  10. Nice job Matt – I join the ranks of those who think this is just about the ne plus ultra of movie suits and I’ve mentioned it on my own blog a few times too. Much has been written and discussed online about it but you’ve captured most of the details here. I do remember learning that Hitch was asked about how he managed to keep Cary Grant looking so sharp throughout the misadventures of the film and his reply was along the lines of having several identical suits made and swapping them in as needed. So we may never learn the exact provenance of the suit but logic would suggest that the ‘base model’ was from Kilgour on Savile Row and a bolt of the same cloth ordered and sent to Quintino in Beverly Hills to copy it several times.
    Also Cary Grant was known to favour soft collared shirts so this could either have been one of his own or else he was allowed to bring his influence to bear on the costuming. He was also known not to favour one single tailor but to bounce around several different houses to have his own suits made. The book on Cary Grant’s style mentions how he was so parsimonious he would cut the mother-of-pearl buttons off worn shirts to be re-used, and an anecdote on how he sent a forty year old shirt to Hawes and Curtis to have the collar band replaced. There’s also a copy of a letter to his shirt maker from his wife enclosing $250 for three evening shirts.

  11. Yes, I presume that your cloth from Dugdale Bros. is the most similar in pattern and scale but the cloth looks a bit too dark, more similar to a dark blue, while the slate blue glen check from H&S is exactly the same color, but the pattern is too big… Or sometimes I find the right match but with a blue overcheck on it…

    This quest seems quite impossible, especially since Holland and Sherry have presumably the biggest online catalogue… :/

  12. Great post, Matt. The North By Northwest suit remains one of my favorites in film. While I usually like to pick out my own pieces, I’ve long thought about commissioning a suit inspired by it. I’ve thought about going to a Savile Row military/equestrian style tailor for it as you mentioned on the other post (maybe Huntsman), or getting an approximation from Tom Ford MTM. Leaning towards the former, if I can swing it someday.

  13. Any Archer fans here? Love the random clothing references in the show.

    [Archer accidentally sets his sleeve/arm on fire]
    Katya: Darling, are you alright?
    Archer: [lifting up singed jacket sleeve] Yeah – I’m fine. Messrs. Kilgour, French, Stanbury, Turnbull & Asser, not so much.

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