The Italian Job: A Gray Tailored Suit and ’62 Aston Martin

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

London, Spring 1969

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

Background

If you’ve seen The Italian Job, you know the moment I’m talking about. Fresh out of prison, Charlie Croker is taken to a a shady garage – run by a surprisingly posh manager – where the elevator doors swing open and he stands, impassive and perfectly-tailored, as he is presented with his shining Aston Martin DB4.

It’s the perfect moment to kick off this installment of BAMF Style’s biannual Car Week, celebrating the greatest intersections of cars, clothes, and cinema.

What’d He Wear?

Take me to my tailor.

Chris Laverty wisely makes the observation at Clothes on Film that “this is Croker’s ‘make an impression’ suit”, and it indeed leaves an impression on both his fellow characters and the audience. The first appearance of this gray suit kicks off one of the coolest combined sartorial and automotive moments in British cinema as Charlie Croker strides out from the elevator to his new DB4.

The gray semi-solid suit was tailored by Douglas Hayward, Caine’s personal tailor at the time, with a contemporary close fit that clearly differentiates it from the baggier fit of the check suit he wore when released from prison. The suit tells us that this is clearly a man keeping up with the times, just as one would expect from a Michael Caine character.

CROKER

Croker finds himself the guest of honor at a very special welcome party. Luckily, he’s dressed for the occasion… even if the rest of the guests are undressed for the occasion.

Croker’s single-breasted suit jacket has notch lapels – with a buttonhole through the left lapel – that roll to just above the top of the 3-button front. The jacket has a welted breast pocket and flapped pockets that sit straight on his waist. Each of the long double vents extend up to the top of the pocket flaps.

CROKER

Charlie Croker checks out the Aston Martin’s 3670cc straight-six engine… but more about that later.

The close fit continues through the trousers’ slim legs, though they are a bit wide through the flat-front hips to comfortably accommodate Caine’s physique. The frogmouth-style front pockets – rather than open side pockets – help maintain the suit’s sleek lines. The trousers have a considerably low rise, rising to just below Caine’s belly where they are held up with a black leather belt.

Croker faces the business end of Mrs. Beckermann's semi-automatic.

Croker faces the business end of Mrs. Beckermann’s semi-automatic.

Croker’s dress shirt is pale blue with wide blue stripes. The shirt’s tall spread collar has long points that are most noticeable when worn without a tie.

CROKER

Ain’t he cheeky?

The shirt, which Chris Laverty theorized was made by Turnbull & Asser, has a plain, placket-less front withe second button placed closely to the top. Croker wears a pair of small gold square links through the shirt’s square French cuffs.

CROKER

Receiving some news.

For more formal occasions, like receiving a stunning Aston Martin convertible, Croker completes the look with a true blue satin silk tie.

CROKER

Croker regards his new ride much more stoically than I would in the same situation.

A fitting accompaniment for a mod character in swinging London, Charlie Croker wears a pair of black leather slip-on Chelsea boots. A few glimpses further up the leg reveal a pair of dark socks, possibly black.

CROKER

Croker redresses after a romp in the hay.

This suit also received an excellent analysis on Matt Spaiser’s blog The Suits of James Bond.

How to Get the Lookij69gray-crop

Michael Caine looks effortlessly cool as he saunters from garage to hotel in his bespoke Hayward suit, providing a silent lesson on how a close-fitting suit can work in a man’s favor.

  • Gray semi-solid suit, tailored by Douglas Hayward, consisting of:
    • Single-breasted 3-button jacket with notch lapels, welted breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets, 3-button cuffs, and long double vents
    • Flat front low-rise trousers with belt loops, frogmouth front pockets, slim legs, and plain-hemmed bottoms
  • Pale blue blue-striped dress shirt with large spread collar, plain front, squared double/French cuffs
  • Blue satin silk necktie
  • Gold square cuff links
  • Black leather belt with small gold single-claw buckle
  • Black leather Chelsea boots
  • Black dress socks

The Car

Although The Italian Job and its 2003 remake would revitalize interest in the Mini Cooper, each film also prominently features an Aston Martin convertible. The recent version finds Jason Statham speeding through L.A. in a 2000 DB7 Vantage Volante, likely a tribute to the gray 1962 Aston Martin DB4 convertible that Charlie Croker gets his hands on in a London underground garage.

*Having ridden in a Mini Cooper for the first time lately, I can definitely see why people were interested!

Charlie Croker gets acquainted with his new ride.

Charlie Croker gets acquainted with his new ride.

The Aston Martin DB4 came on the heels of the DB Mark III at the time of its introduction in 1958. The DB4 shared many similarities with its predecessor, but it received a completed redesigned body and a larger and more powerful Tadek Marek straight-six engine. It became the first Aston Martin model to be built at the company’s Newport Pagnell works in Buckinghamshire. Like Croker’s suit, it was inspired by Italian design but manufactured in England.

1,210 total DB4 cars were produced during the model’s five-year run from 1958 to 1963. Only 70 of these were convertibles, a design introduced for the DB4 in 1962. The DB4 would ultimately be replaced by the DB5 in 1963, a car that would grow to legendary status thanks to James Bond and Goldfinger. (Interestingly, in the Goldfinger novel that was published in 1958, 007 drove a DB Mark III.)

1962 Aston Martin DB4 Convertible

ij69gray-CAR2Body Style: 2+2 drophead coupe

Layout: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive (RWD)

Engine: 223 cu. in. (3.7 L) Tadek Marek I6 with twin SU carburetor

Power: 240 hp (179 kW; 243 PS) @ 5500 rpm

Torque: 269.9 lb·ft (366 N·m) @ 5000 rpm

Transmission: 4-speed manual

Wheelbase: 98 inches (2489 mm)

Length: 177 inches (4496 mm)

Width: 66.1 inches (1676 mm)

Height: 52.5 inches (1334 mm)

A few unsubstantiated stories surround the legend of the DB4 – with registration plates 163 ELT – used in The Italian Job. One theory is that the car caught fire and/or blew up prior to filming the Turin destruction sequence so a Lancia Flaminia had to be dressed up like a DB4 and destroyed for the scene. Another theory states that the DB4 was used for the cliff destruction scene, but that Peter Collinson wasn’t satisfied with the crash and had to use the Lancia. Yet another theory is that the car wasn’t destroyed at all, and the Lancia was simply used to save the expensive Aston from destruction. Either way, at least one Lancia was used – for one reason or another, as one can tell by seeing the car’s hood opening with a hinge at the windshield end – rather than at the headlight end.

No matter what really happened on that Turin cliff in 1969, it’s nice to assume that there’s a stunning Aston Martin DB4 out there somewhere that was saved from destruction almost fifty years ago.

Do Yourself a Favor and…

Buy the movie.

The Quote

Typical, isn’t it? I’ve been out of jail five minutes, and already I’m in a hot car.

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