Michael Caine’s Beige Summer Suit in The Italian Job

Michael Caine as Charlie Croker in The Italian Job (1969).

Michael Caine as Charlie Croker in The Italian Job (1969).

Vitals

Michael Caine as Charlie Croker, British career criminal and mob thief

Turin, Italy, Spring 1969

Film: The Italian Job
Release Date: June 2, 1969
Director: Peter Collinson
Wardrobe Supervisor: Dulcie Midwinter

Background

Nearly fifty years after its initial release, The Italian Job is still considered to be one of the coolest classic caper flicks. With a very funny ensemble cast led by Michael Caine at the height of his cheekiness, The Italian Job is a slightly corny but immensely entertaining film that perfectly captures an era and brings the hippest parts of 1969 alive with the help of Caine, Noël Coward, and Benny Hill.

I always viewed The Italian Job in a similar vein as 1960’s Rat Pack extravaganza Ocean’s Eleven. Both films offered more style than substance and gave audiences a fun excuse to watch a bunch of the day’s top stars carrying out a simple and nearly perfect heist gone awry. Also, both films were remade in the early 2000s due to the desire of modern audiences to see good criminals get away with a crime using plenty of technological glitz.

In 1969, much more glitz went into costuming the criminals than into giving them gadgets. This is particularly true of Michael Caine in The Italian Job, who was fitted with several beautiful bespoke suits created by legendary London tailor Doug Hayward.

What’d He Wear?

One of the most iconic of Caine’s suits created by Hayward is the timeless beige linen summer suit worn when Caine’s character Charlie Croker is driving his girlfriend to the Turin airport then briefing his crew before the actual heist. The suit is fresh and modern, without dating itself too heavily to the ’60s. Some fashions have changed, but Charlie Croker could walk through any airport in the world with this suit and receive the envious attention of men and the lascivious attention of women.

Caine benefits from Hayward’s ability to make any suit look flattering. By this point, Caine had began packing a few extra pounds (best seen in Get Carter) and – while he wasn’t fat – he began looking a little jolly. Hayward’s tailoring fits the suit perfectly on Caine, keeping him lean and slim without resorting to the tightness of the notable Skyfall suits (which would have the opposite effect.)

If you have a reason for not owning a tailored suit, it's a stupid one. Don't you want to look this cool when dropping your girlfriend off at the airport? (Hint: If you don't, she may never come back.)

If you have a reason for not owning a tailored suit, it’s a stupid one. Don’t you want to look this cool when dropping your girlfriend off at the airport?
(Hint: If you don’t, she may never come back.)

Also worth mentioning is the quality of the linen used. A linen suit, while comfortable in the heat, often betrays its wearer with telltale wrinkles throughout the garment. Caine’s suit practically refuses to wrinkle, leading me to believe that it is either a linen-cotton blend or it was constantly being pressed during the filming of these scenes. The latter option seems impractical, but if I had a Douglas Hayward suit, I would take extreme measures to keep it in shape as well.

The suit jacket is single-breasted with high notch lapels. It buttons with three brown horn buttons in the front, and Caine wears it with the center button fastened throughout. The patch pockets on each hip are slanted and flapped, and the welted breast pocket is embellished with a burgundy patterned silk handkerchief with a single point emerging from the top of the pocket.

ij69b-CL-jkt-BP

A closer look at the suit reveals heavy quarter-inch stitching on both the lapels and all pockets. There is a single functional button on each cuff, matching the brown horn buttons on the front. The front of the jacket is darted, and there are two long double rear vents, both fashionable and functional in the warm climate.

The suit’s flat front trousers have a low rise worn just below Caine’s natural waist. There is definitely a jetted rear pocket on the right side, but we don’t see much more than that.

Heil Caine!

Heil Caine!

He wears a brown leather belt with a large, rounded gold clasp. The trousers have straight and narrow legs down to the plain-hemmed bottoms, which fall with a short break over his shoes.

Caine wears a pair of dark brown leather loafers which appear to be very plain with no toe decoration or perforation, no straps, no tassels, and no laces. This minimalist shoe style, found on both low shoes and ankle boots, was very popular among mods at the time. His socks are appropriately beige silk, continuing the leg line from his beige suit into his shoes.

Also of note as a sartorial highlight is Camp Freddie's pink suit, serving as a reminder that while real men may wear pink, so do campy men.

Also of note as a sartorial highlight is Camp Freddie’s pink suit, serving as a reminder that while real men may wear pink, so do campy men.

Caine’s sunglasses are his typical Yvan pair with imitation tortoiseshell frames and light brown tinted lenses. Caine had earlier worn a pair of Yvan glasses with prescription lenses as Harry Palmer in The Ipcress FileFuneral in Berlin, and Billion Dollar Brain, which Christie’s auctioned in December 2006.

Plenty of details visible here, from his sunglasses to the jacket stitching and tie details.

Plenty of details are visible here, from his sunglasses to the jacket stitching to the tie details.

Croker’s Turnbull & Asser shirt is white with bold light brown stripes. The spread collar is very large, and – given the fashion-forward nature of the suit and the character – correctly predicts the large collar trend of the upcoming decade. Caine wears a set of large, round onyx cuff links with gold trim through French cuffs.

A smart criminal tries to keep his dress relatively understated to avoid attention... unless getting attention for diversion is the point, of course.

A smart criminal tries to keep his dress relatively understated to avoid attention… unless getting attention for diversion is the point, of course.

His necktie is wide with a cream silk ground and a repeating pattern of dark brown squares with faded edges, almost resembling stamps.

Even if you're just dropping someone off, there's no reason not to look stylish in an airport... especially when it's an Italian airport.

Even if you’re just dropping someone off, there’s no reason not to look stylish in an airport… especially when it’s an Italian airport.

When planning the heist itself, Croker dons a pair of soft dark brown nappa leather gloves.

He also wears a stainless-cased wristwatch on a black strap, sinfully worn over his left shirt cuff.

Wearing a wristwatch over your shirt cuff might save you time (pun grossly intended), but it's typically a sartorial no-no. Michael Caine, considered to be one of the most fashionable men of the '60s, gets a free pass here.

Wearing a wristwatch over your shirt cuff might save you time (pun grossly intended), but it’s typically a sartorial no-no. Michael Caine, considered to be one of the most fashionable men of the ’60s, gets a free pass here.

How to Get the Look

The beige linen suit tailored by Hayward for the film is nearly the perfect summer suit. Caine wears it coolly and fashionably, which is exactly how a summer suit should be worn. While you may not have Doug Hayward at your disposal, you can certainly take direction from The Italian Job‘s suit to create your own mod masterpiece.

ij69b-crop1

  • Beige linen suit, tailored by Douglas Hayward and consisting of:
    • Single-breasted jacket with notch lapels, 3-button front, welted breast pocket, slanted and flapped hip patch pockets, 1-button cuffs, and long double rear vents
    • Flat front trousers with belt loops and short break plain-hemmed bottoms
  • White Turnbull & Asser shirt with bold light brown stripes, large spread collar, and double/French cuffs
  • Cream silk necktie with a repeating dark brown “stamped” square pattern
  • Onyx cuff links with round gold trim
  • Brown leather belt with rounded gold clasp
  • Dark brown leather loafers
  • Beige silk dress socks
  • Yvan imitation tortoiseshell sunglasses with light brown lenses
  • Dark brown nappa leather gloves
  • Stainless case wristwatch with black strap

Do Yourself a Favor and…

Buy the movie.

The Quote

Hang on, lads. I’ve got a great idea…

2 comments

  1. Pingback: The Cream Suit in Layer Cake | BAMF Style
  2. Pingback: German Expressionism as a meme in British film cinematography (1949-1981) by referencing selected work by Robert Krasker, Otto Heller and Douglas Slocombe. – How to see art

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