Charade – Cary Grant’s Dark Suit

Cary Grant as the multi-named hero in Charade.

Cary Grant as the multi-named hero in Charade (1963).

On January 18, 1904, Archibald Leach entered the world in Bristol, England and soon found stardom as Cary Grant. On the 109th anniversary of Grant’s birth, here is…

Vitals

Cary Grant as Brian Cruikshank (aka Peter Joshua, Alexander Dyle, or Adam Canfield)

Paris, April 1963

Film: Charade
Release Date: December 5, 1963
Director: Stanley Donen

Background

Referred to as “the best Hitchcock movie that Hitchcock never made”, Charade is a well-made blend of espionage thriller, screwball comedy, romance, and whodunit mystery. It was one of Cary Grant’s final movies before his retirement after Walk, Don’t Run in 1966.

In the film, Grant plays the well-suited hero or foil (depending on the scene) to Audrey Hepburn’s character, a housewife who is gradually learning the layered criminal truth about her recently deceased husband. Although he was 59 years old when the film was made, Grant makes a convincing action hero, spending most of the final third of the film running, jumping, and shooting.

As to be expected, Grant is immaculately suited through most of the film.

What’d He Wear?

Cary Grant has several wardrobe changes throughout Charade, and the most featured of his costumes the charcoal blue suit worn in several scenes including the famous climax chase through Paris.

The charcoal blue suit is first introduced when Grant arrives at the home of Hepburn’s character, Regina “Reggie” Lampert, as she is mourning her husband (and her possessions). He pairs the suit with a pale blue shirt and a medium blue necktie.

On his first date with Reggie, Grant again wears the suit, this time with a white shirt and solid forest green necktie. While wearing this suit the next day, Reggie spills some ice cream on it. Grant brags that the suit is “drip-dry” and proceeds to show her as much by wearing it into the shower… thus foiling her plans to search it for clues to his identity.

Don't try this at home.

Don’t try this at home.

Grant is next seen wearing the suit on a dinner date with Reggie on a boat traveling down the Seine (try and top that, Mr. I-Got-Us-Reservations-At-Chili’s). For this, he wears a white shirt and a solid navy tie.

Finally, Grant suits up for the film’s climax in the charcoal blue suit, white shirt, and same medium blue necktie worn earlier. Possibly expecting rain or moments of badassery, Grant pairs the ensemble with an ivory knee-length Aquascutum raincoat. The coat is single-breasted with 5 light brown buttons. The raglan sleeves fasten at each cuff with a single smaller button on a half-tab. Unlike the traditional trench coat, this coat has no epaulettes or belts, keeping the lines of the coat clean and fitted. The back has a single vent and a storm flap across the top.

Remember this the next time you're thinking, "It might rain today. I should wear a bright yellow parka." No, you shouldn't.

Remember this the next time you’re thinking, “It might rain today. I should wear a bright yellow parka.” No, you shouldn’t.

The Suit

BAMF Style reader Shaiaz Shah deducted from Grant’s “drip dry” comments that his charcoal blue two-piece suit is likely the Haspel “Exemplar” suit in a then-groundbreaking polyester/rayon “wash-and-wear” blend. Haspel seems to support this theory on their site.

Grant often wears his suit jacket with just the lowest one or two of the three buttons fastened. This isn’t recommended for most men, but it works with Grant’s frame and also has a practical purpose within the film; as Grant’s character wears his gun on his right hip, his weapon remains concealed under the closed jacket but the lower buttoning point allows him a large enough opening to draw it if needed.

he also

Grant also wears the jacket with just the bottom button fastened. Because what are you gonna do about it, tell Cary Grant how to wear a suit?

Grant’s suit jacket has a single back vent, two-button cuffs, straight flapped hip pockets, and a welted breast pocket where he keeps his eyeglasses.

Cary Grant's eyeglasses spend about 99% of the film in his pocket, 0.5% of the film on his face, and 0.5% of the film being wiped off.

Cary Grant’s eyeglasses spend about 99% of the film in his pocket, 0.5% of the film on his face, and 0.5% of the film being wiped off.

The high rise trousers are flat front with plain-hemmed bottoms, worn with a black nylon belt.

Everything Else

Grant wears a series of similar white shirts – with one pale blue exception toward the film’s beginning – with the charcoal blue suit. The shirts have a moderate spread collar and are slightly wider than what people typically associate with early ’60s collars. Grant often wore these wider collars to de-emphasize his muscular neck. The shirts have front plackets and no pockets.

Single shirt cuffs – rather than traditional double (French) cuffs – accommodate Grant’s links. In Charade, these are round translucent link-button style cuff links. A button further up the gauntlet keeps the sleeves in place.

Under the left cuff, Grant wears a plain and sensible wristwatch with a round steel case, white dial with a marker at each hour, and a simple black leather strap.

Bonus points to anyone who can tell me what time it is.

Apparently, it’s 3:30? Either their date went very late or it gets dark early in Paris.

All of Grant’s ties are of a conservative width, getting slightly wider towards the bottom. With the green tie, Grant wears a gold tie pin that keeps it in place. The tie pin serves a secondary purpose; he uses it to rig a device to booby trap Reggie’s hotel room door after their date.

Best seen when rigging Reggie’s door, Grant wears a pair of black leather two-eyelet derbies with a long plain toe. He wears thin dark navy dress socks.

shoes

Probably the best view any movie has ever provided of Cary Grant’s socks.

Grant’s character wears his revolver in a right side hip holster. The holster itself is only seen clearly once, when Grant removes his jacket after a long night of orange-transferring and bad guy-chasing.

pistol

Uh oh!

Go Big or Go Home

In a contrast to North by Northwest where Grant played an innocent man thrust into the world of espionage with a mysterious woman playing seemingly both for and against him at every turn, Charade finds Grant playing the mysterious man to Audrey Hepburn’s innocent woman finding herself surrounded by spies and assassins, unsure of whom to trust. (Who to trust? Whom? Whatever.)

Grant doesn’t get much time to get any on-screen drinking done, replacing his martini with a revolver. However, he does enjoy a highball in a Parisian nightclub before the action takes off and is also shown to enjoy skiing. So check those off of your list of things to appreciate (or look like you appreciate) in your lifelong quest to be like Cary Grant.

In another contrast from his usual roles, Grant finds himself to be the pursued, rather than the pursuer, in his relationship with Hepburn’s character. Having cited his concerns about playing the love interest to someone 25 years his junior – very gentlemanly too, I might add – the plot was adapted to have Hepburn trying to seduce Grant at every turn.  Naturally, he can only resist so much before realizing, “Oh, right, this is Audrey Hepburn.”

ChRC-CU2

How to Get the Look

In Charade, Grant shows how to diversify a simple wardrobe to fit the moment, wearing the same suit on a date, a meeting, and a chase through the streets and subways of Paris.

  • Charcoal blue polyester/rayon “drip dry” suit, consisting of:
    • Single-breasted 3-button jacket with notch lapels, welted breast pocket, flapped straight hip pockets, 2-button cuffs, and single rear vent
    • Flat front trousers with belt loops, side pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
  • White dress shirt with moderate spread collar, front placket, and single cuffs
    • Translucent round link-style cuff links with a light gold frame
  • Solid tie (in light blue, dark blue, or forest green)
  • Ivory gabardine knee-length 5-button Aquascutum raincoat with shirt-style collar, side hip pockets, single-button half-tab cuffs, back storm flap, and single vent
  • Black nylon belt
  • Black leather 2-eyelet plain-toe derby shoes
  • Thin dark navy dress socks
  • Steel wristwatch with round white dial on black leather strap
  • Black-framed eyeglasses
  • Black leather hip holster (RHD) for S&W 2″ medium-frame revolver

As usual, you can buy all of these things but just keep in mind that Cary Grant will still look better than you.

Grant manages to create a variety of good looks using only three ties and two shirts.

Grant manages to create a variety of good looks using only one suit, three ties, and two shirts.

The Gun

Unusual for Cary Grant, his character wears and uses a gun throughout the film. The gun in question is a snubnose Smith & Wesson Model 10. The Model 10 was one of Smith & Wesson’s most popular handgun designs, having been around in various models since its introduction in 1899 as the “Military & Police Hand Ejector”. It introduced the venerable .38 Special cartridge to the firearms world and quickly shot to popularity among both police and criminals.

The snubnose Model 10 is an appropriate choice for Grant’s character, an American government agent who requires a concealed weapon just in case of an incident. He’s not James Bond, going out and getting into gunfights, but it’s good that he has something reliable and powerful at hand if he needs it.

The Smith & Wesson Model 10: Because you never know when Walter Matthau will be lurking about.

The Smith & Wesson Model 10: Because you never know when Walter Matthau will be lurking about.

The Model 10 is differentiated from the Model 36, the .38 snubbie used by Ray Liotta in Goodfellas as well as countless other film characters, as the Model 10 is a full-size 6-round revolver whereas the Model 36 only carries 5 rounds.

Do Yourself A Favor And…

Buy the Criterion Collection version of the movie. Since it’s in public domain due a Universal Pictures error back in the ’60s, many companies have released versions of varying quality. Only Criterion has issued a version clear enough to satisfy.

The Quote

Adam Canfield (since it’s his name in this scene): We didn’t steal it, there’s no law against stealing stolen money.
Regina “Reggie” Lampert: Of course there is!
Adam: There is?
Reggie: Yes!
Adam: When did they pass such a silly law?

No arguing with Grant's logic.

No arguing with Grant’s logic.

13 comments

  1. Jovan

    I can’t say I agree with it being black, even “soft black” (which would merely be a dark shade of charcoal). It still looks dark navy or midnight blue to me. Cary Grant was not known for wearing black suits, even when his persona style declined a bit with age. He was an old school dresser. Black suits don’t figure into the Anglo-American menswear tradition. I wouldn’t wear a black suit unless it’s a tuxedo (even then midnight blue is preferable) or a The Matrix/Reservoir Dogs cosplay. The reason being that there are always better options with more versatility in what shirts, ties, shoes, and other accoutrements can be worn with them and look good.

    Like

    • luckystrike721

      Many of my early posts have me cringing at my lack of knowledge. It’s remarkable how much I’ve learned in two years just by screencapping, writing, and getting feedback from guys in the know like you. When I first started, I had no idea – though I should have guessed – about the relative uselessness of a black suit. With this knowledge, and much else learned, I still need to revisit some older posts and add a new layer of “enlightenment”. One of the more egregious errors that I couldn’t help but to correct expediently: not quite grasping the difference between a blazer and a sport coat.
      I will need to correct the Charade post as well as a few other ones. I think that one was written insecurely because it was one of my first “requests”, and I was eager to please. Thanks for your input; I appreciate it much more than just saying “it’s blue, not black dummy”.

      Like

      • Jovan

        I try to never say things like that. That is, unless someone isn’t receptive to learning at all and insists on their mistakes! It also just dawned on me that two suits may have been used, since it looks charcoal in some screencaps and navy in others. But the only way to confirm that would be to get a behind the scenes confirmation.

        Cary Grant himself said, “Don’t be a snob about the way you dress. Snobbery is only a point in time. Be tolerant and helpful to the other fellow — he is yourself yesterday.” It’s my Ask Andy Forums signature for a reason.

        Like

  2. Pingback: Cary Grant’s Charcoal Flannel Suit in Charade | BAMF Style
  3. Shaiaz Shah

    Hi , just want to say that l am a big fan of your blog , sir. I do believe that Haspel made Cary Grant’s Suit in “Charade ” if l am not mistaken. There is a scene when Grant comments that the suit is a ” Drip Dry “. In the 1960s , Haspel used to produce a Suit called Exemplar ” Drip Dry “. The suit is ( or was ) unique because it was one of the only suits that you could wash and wear like one would , a shirt. The suit is made from Polyester and Rayon , which is typically not fabrics which one would associate with Cary Grant ( I always imagined he dressed in natural fabric suits like Worsted wool , linen or dupioni silk ). What do you think ?

    Like

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