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 2-piece suit is made from lightweight worsted wool in a blue and grey fine glen plaid pattern. It has a full cut overall but is still neatly tailor. The suit jacket has a 3-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 sleeveheads. It has jetted pockets, 3-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 is 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 no pocket and a shirred back. 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.

The Light Brown Silk Suit


Last year we looked at the elephant grey silk suit Bond wears in Moonraker. In The Spy Who Loved Me, Bond wears an identical suit from Angelo, Roma in light brown dupioni silk that wonderfully complements Moore’s warm complexion as well as the mediterranean surroundings. The lapels are wide and the trouser legs are flared, but the fit is superb. The suit coat has a clean cut with straight, structured shoulders, roped sleeveheads, a 2-button front, swelled edges, patch hip pockets and deep double vents. The flat front trousers have no side pockets and no visible method of tightening the waist. The trousers are fitted through the hips and thighs until the legs start to flare out a few inches above the knee.


Bond wears two shirts with this suit. The first is a fancy striped pattern in ecru and brown. The second shirt is solid ecru. Both shirts are made by Frank Foster with a deep point collar, tab cuffs and Foster’s unique placket front. Bond’s tie has wide stripes in cream, light brown and dark brown, and it’s tied in a four-in-hand knot. The shoes are light brown horse-bit slip-ons. Light brown socks extend the line of the leg into the shoes.


The Roman/Military/Equestrian Shoulder

Though not all the same, the Roman shoulder, military shoulder and equestrian shoulder are all strongly structured shoulders with a straight line and generous padding. Though the shoulders may be built up, they aren’t necessarily stiff. The width and amount of padding vary depending on the tailor and depending on the current trends. Characterised by a clean, strong silhouette, the Roman style has its origins in the military and equestrian style on Savile Row. H. Huntsman is a good example of a Savile Row tailor who makes an equestrian style. Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig have all worn this style shoulder in the Bond films.

Most of Roger Moore’s suits in The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker come from Angelo Roma. These suits have narrow, straight shoulders with thick padding and roped sleeveheads.

Timothy Dalton wears suits in Licence to Kill with the straight, oversized shoulders that were popular at the time. Though his suit is more characteristic of something from a Milan fashion house, the idea of a straight, built-up shoulder is the same.

Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig have both worn suits from Brioni, the most famous Roman tailor. Brioni’s shoulders are very similar to what Angelo made for Roger Moore, though they tend to be wider. When Brosnan started the role in 1995, Brioni’s shoulders were wider and more built up, following the 1990s trends, and by The World is Not Enough had a more classic Roman look (see the top image).

Introducing Skyfall

Daniel Craig is back in Tom Ford for Skyfall, which will be released 26 October later this year. Jany Temime, known for the Harry Potter films, is reported to be the costume designer, and she is dressing Bond in a much more modern direction than we’ve seen in recent years. Though the narrow lapels and narrow tie may resemble 1960’s suits, the cut and fit of the suit follows the trends of the past few years, trends that were avoided in Quantum of Solace most likely for fear of dating the film. The cut and fit of Daniel Craig’s suits that we’ve seen so far in the released images from Skyfall shows a suit that is a size too small on Daniel Craig. The jacket is too tight through the body and sleeves and too short (it doesn’t completely cover his buttocks), whilst the flat-front trousers are also too tight and have a very low rise. It’s the complete opposite of Timothy Dalton’s over-sized suits in Licence to Kill. But Tom Ford gets one thing right that most other current short fashion suits get wrong: the fastening button is still at the waist and isn’t pushed up 3 inches too high.

The suit pictured above is charcoal serge with a closely-spaced light blue rope-stripe, and Craig wears a charcoal glen plaid suit in the film. The jacket has a padded shoulders and a button three front, with narrow lapels that roll gently over the top button. The cuffs also have three buttons, with the last button left open, flapped pockets and a single vent. Though it has a very fashionable fit, the actual style of the suit—and outfit overall—is very traditional. The pale blue poplin shirt is also from Tom Ford and features a tab collar. Tom Ford’s tab collars fasten with a stud rather than the more common button or snap fastening. Bond has never worn a tab collar before, and its affected look that frames the tie knot probably isn’t something that Ian Fleming would have liked. But it’s also a classic style and is always correct with a lounge suit. The tie is a grey neat pattern in something similar to a houndstooth check.

This will probably be the only material this blog will cover on Skyfall until its release in October.

The English Straight Shoulder

The tailors on London’s Savile Row and its neighbouring streets are known for making many types of shoulders, from Anderson & Sheppard’s softly structured shoulders to Huntsman’s strong, built-up shoulders. But the most popular style is the lightly padded straight shoulder that follows the natural shoulder line. Padding is used to give the shoulders structure and clean lines rather than to purposely change the shape of the body. This type of shoulder is typically made only as wide as the actual shoulder, though some tailors extend their shoulders a little to help the sleeve hang straighter. Cyril Castle, Roger Moore’s tailor in his first two James Bond films, tailored his suits with this style shoulder, and he often makes the shoulder narrower than the actual shoulder for the suits in the Bond films. He uses a little bit of roping in the sleevehead to keep the shoulder looking strong, but not so much as to make it look unnatural. The straight shoulder has a middle-of-the-road look that’s well-suited to most builds.

The Soft Shoulder

Bond and Q wear soft-shoulder suits

The shoulder is the most defining aspect of a suit’s silhouette. Shoulders can be padded or unpadded, straight, curved or pagoda-shaped. But what is a soft shoulder? Neapolitan tailoring probably comes to mind. Soft shoulders have little or no padding and follow the line of the shoulder. Some may call this a natural shoulder, but what a “natural shoulder” is varies depending on who you ask. A natural shoulder generally does not have roped sleeveheads, and can have a varied amount of padding. A soft shoulder, on the other hand, has little padding.

To some, a soft shoulder has no structure at all, neither padding nor canvas. That would follow an unstructured jacket. But most jackets have canvassing, and it’s still very much possible to have a soft shoulder on a canvassed jacket. The canvas extends from the shoulder seam down the entire front length of the jacket to give it its shape.* Canvas can be very light and soft, as found in Neapolitan tailoring, or heavy and stiff, like in some English tailoring. The amount of canvas in the chest and shoulders varies from tailor to tailor and can determine how natural a shoulder is. Neapolitan tailors are known for having unpadded shoulders, and traditional American tailoring is known for the same. But the English don’t as often get their credit when it comes to unpadded shoulders. 

Anthony Sinclair, Sean Connery’s tailor in the Bond films, was one English tailor who was against the use of padding in his shoulders, though they had a little wadding. Douglas Hayward, who tailored Roger Moore’s suits from the 1980’s onward, also did not use much shoulder padding. Their suits’ shoulders follow shoulder line, but they are also structured with canvassing. You might also notice that these suits have roped sleeveheads, the bump at the top of the shoulder. Whether or not the jacket has roping has little imapct to the shape of the actual shoulder, but it has a great impact of the overall look of the suit.

Soft shoulder suits are very difficult to find off the pegs since they need to closely match the natural shoulder line. They also need to be the correct width; if the shoulder is too wide it will droop down since there is little or no padding to support it. When the slope is off the jacket will look sloppy and the only practical way to fix it is to add padding. Some off the peg examples of a natural shoulder include Kiton, Isaia and Polo Ralph Lauren’s “Polo” model.

*Less expensive jackets may have fusible down the entire front and canvas only in the top half, canvas only in the lapels, or no canvas at all.

Woman of Straw: The White Dinner Jacket

Another iconic piece from Goldfinger also first appears in Woman of Straw: the white dinner jacket. It sees a little more use in this film than it does in Goldfinger, and Connery wears it on two occasions in the Mediterranean. This off-white dinner jacket has a 1-button front with peak lapels, 4-button cuffs, jetted pockets and no vents in the rear. The black trousers have double forward pleats and no stripe down the side. The shirt is different than what Connery wore in Goldfinger. It’s plain white poplin with a spread collar, double cuffs and a placket, no pleats or satin stripes like the shirt in Goldfinger. The placket has stitching is closesly spaced down the middle that suggests Frank Foster, but it’s possible another shirtmaker also stitches plackets in that style. Connery foregoes the bouttonnière but wears a folded white linen handkerchief in his breast pocket.

Woman of Straw: The Hacking Jacket

In 1964, Sean Connery starred in a crime thriller called Woman of Straw, and it features many of the same clothes that Connery wears a few months later in Goldfinger, including suits and dinner jackets most likely made by Anthony Sinclair. The classic brown barleycorn hacking jacket that we see in Goldfinger and Thunderball also appears in this film. It could possibly be a different piece altogether, but the resemblance is striking. It would seem odd that the Bond films would use leftovers from another film, though it may have been planned this way. The clothes in this film didn’t see nearly as much wear as they did in Goldfinger, and the production could save money and time by using perfectly good suits already made.

Connery wears both the hacking jacket as well as the tan cavalry twill trousers with frogmouth pockets that are later seen in Goldfinger and Thunderball, but what he wears them with is different. The shirt is the same style as the shirt in Goldfinger, with a spread collar and double cuffs, but in sky blue instead of ecru. Connery wears a solid brown tie, tied in a four-in-hand knot, and he wears the same waistcoat seen in Goldfinger under the houndstooth suit from M’s office. The beige wool waistcoat has a 6-button front, and Connery closes all the buttons. The bottom button isn’t supposed to be buttoned on this waistcoat and it causes the bottom to bunch up and pull.

Later I will be writing about other clothes from Woman of Straw, whether seen in Goldfinger or just exclusive to this film.