Cary Grant as Nicolò “Nickie” Ferrante, playboy socialite
Onboard the SS Constitution in the North Atlantic, December 1956
Film: An Affair to Remember
Release Date: July 2, 1957
Director: Leo McCarey
Executive Wardrobe Designer: Charles Le Maire
Happy birthday to Cary Grant, the charming maverick who personifies the intersection of style and screen during the golden age of both. The erstwhile Archie Leach defined men’s style for the better part of the 20th century and his timeless sartorial sensibilities live on through his charismatic performances on screen and, most specifically, via the advice he outlined for This Week magazine (and reprinted in GQ) in the 1960s.
Simplicity, to me, has always been the essence of good taste.
– Cary Grant on style, 1962
One of Cary Grant’s most stylish, romantic, and iconic roles was artistic playboy Nickie Ferrante in An Affair to Remember.
What’d He Wear?
What should one buy? Well, if a man’s budget restricts him to only one suit, then I would choose something unobtrusive. A dark blue, almost black, of lightweight cloth, serviceable for both day and evening wear.
Cary Grant exemplifies his own sartorial advice in An Affair to Remember, dressing for the final night of his romantic crossing on the SS Constitution in a dark navy worsted suit that he effectively wears from the afternoon into the evening for the ship’s New Year’s Eve dance. Common shipboard practices of the era deformalized the evening dress code on the final night of the voyage, operating under the assumption that most gentlemen and ladies would have had their fine evening attire already packed for the following day’s disembarking.
The single-breasted ventless suit jacket has notch lapels with an elegant roll over the top button, fastening on the second button to coordinate perfectly with his trouser waistline for an ideal balanced appearance.
“Learn to dispense with accessories that don’t perform a necessary function,” outlined Grant in This Week. I use belts, for example, only with blue jeans, which I wear when riding, and content myself with side loops, that can be tightened at the waistband, on business suits.”
Nickie’s double forward-pleated trousers here are thus likely fitted with his usual buckle-tab side adjusters, and the bottoms are finished with narrow turn-ups (cuffs).
Shirts should usually be white for the evening, but, in the city’s grime, it’s practical and permissible to wear a light blue or conservatively striped shirt during the day. The type of collar should suit the contours of the neck and face.
Nickie indeed wears a white shirt for this evening occasion with the universally flattering semi-spread collar that accommodates Grant’s wide neck and double (French) cuffs that he fastens with the same set of blue enamel-on-silver oval links that he also wears the following day with his charcoal flannel suit when the ship docks in New York City.
“Button-cuffed shirts are simplest to manage, but if you wear cuff links, as I do, don’t, I beg you, wear those huge examples of badly designed, cheap modern jewelry. They, too, are not only ostentatious, but heavy and a menace to the enamel on your car and your girl friend’s eye,” advised Grant for This Week.
Nickie wears a navy silk tie with a field of micro white pindots, barely discernible on screen but most visible in production photos. The navy tie contrasts little against the suit, providing a sharp look that effectively channels the monochromatic elegance of black tie for an evening soiree where he would otherwise indeed be attired in his dinner jacket.
Grant again adheres to his own advice with this suit, sporting a wear a pair of black cap-toe lace-up shoes, likely oxfords, on screen with dark socks.
Briefly seen on Nickie’s left wrist is a squared gold watch case on a dark leather strap, likely the Cartier Tank wristwatch that Grant was known to wear in real life.
Aside from a brief foray into an “impoverished artiste” phase, Nickie Ferrante maintains a mostly traditional wardrobe of lounge suits in conservative shades of gray and navy blue. This particular outfit would be paralleled decades later by Daniel Craig’s James Bond in Quantum of Solace when 007 attends an evening soiree in a midnight blue lounge suit with a 3/2-roll jacket and cuffed-bottom trousers, a white French cuff shirt, a subtly patterned tonal silk tie, and black oxfords.
How to Get the Look
When classic black tie isn’t feasible for an evening occasion, a dark navy suit with a white shirt and subdued tie a la Cary Grant in An Affair to Remember is a practical and elegant alternative.
- Navy worsted tailored suit:
- Single-breasted 3/roll/2-button jacket with notch lapels, welted breast pocket, jetted hip pockets, 3-button cuffs, and ventless back
- Double forward-pleated high-rise trousers with buckle-tab side adjusters, side pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- White cotton dress shirt with point collar and double/French cuffs
- Blue enamel-on-silver cuff links
- Navy satin silk tie
- Black leather oxfords
- Dark dress socks
- Cartier Tank yellow gold wristwatch with square white dial and black leather strap
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
I want to be worthy of asking you to marry me.