Cary Grant – Hollywood’s Best Dressed Star
As well as being Hollywood’s archetypal leading man, Cary Grant is also considered to be one of the best dressed men in the world. On and off- screen Grant was a sartorial sensation. His timeless style is as appealing today as it was back in Hollywood’s golden era.
Despite his eventual fame and fortune, Grant had a modest, unhappy upbringing. He was born Archibald Leach in a working-class area of Bristol in 1904. His mother suffered from depression when he was young, and she was committed to a mental institution where she remained throughout his childhood and adolescence. At the age of 16, Grant left home to join a troupe of acrobats before he made the difficult transition to Broadway star, and in 1932 he finally moved to Hollywood. Despite having a minimal education, no money and no connections, in a remarkably short period of time, he created an alluring screen image and signature style that is still admired today.
From a young age, Grant developed a passion for clothing, which influenced his personal wardrobe and on-screen characters. He was inspired by the English, upper-class style and he favoured the clothes of a “well-dressed, sophisticated chap.” The Duke of Windsor was one of his style icons and he learnt that what you wear can give you authority and dignity. Thanks to the Duke of Windsor, he also discovered Jermyn Street; the traditional destination for men’s shirts. The image Cary Grant created through his attire reflected who he aspired to be. He once said, “I spent the greater part of my life fluctuating between Archie Leach and Cary Grant, unsure of either, suspecting each.”
Carry Grant & Jane Fontaine in Hitchcock's Suspicion (1941).
By the mid 1930s, Carry Grant was one of Hollywood’s greatest stars and it was his effortless style that set him apart. He understood the importance of fit and tailoring and he adopted the tailored slim-lapel suit as his signature look. Despite living in America for the majority of his acting career, Grant championed British clothing. He bought shirts and custom-made suits from Savile Row tailors, including Hawes & Curtis, which were cut to accentuate his sleek silhouette and tone down his less flattering features. His clothes always fit perfectly and he was extremely aware of what did and didn’t flatter his physique.
Despite his substantial wealth, Cary Grant's wardrobe remained relatively scarce with only the highest quality suits. His impeccable taste and understated elegance reflected the advice his father had given him before his fame: "Let them see you and not the suit. That should be secondary."
Images from Cary Grant A Celebration of Style by Richard Torregrossa.