Fashion has been kind to actresses from the Golden Age of Hollywood. In addition to their beloved roles, Katharine Hepburn, Audrey Hepburn (no relation) and Marlene Dietrich are also fondly remembered for their distinctive on-screen and off-duty wardrobes. When it comes to the men, though, far fewer names spring to mind as evergreen fashion plates — with the noteworthy exception of Cary Grant.
Grant — born Archibald Leach — could nail roles in anything from screwball comedies (Bringing Up Baby) to thrillers (North by Northwest), capably holding his own against charismatic co-stars including Mae West, Grace Kelly, Doris Day and both Hepburns. He also cultivated a legendary reputation for smart dressing and impeccable taste, which he used to obscure his lack of education and working-class background. We may prefer wholeheartedly owning our roots these days, and are all the better for it, although there’s something to be admired in Grant’s epic travails of self-creation. In tribute, we’ve put together a guide for getting into character as Cary Grant, for those days when you most need fashion’s transformative powers.
1. Flaunt your passion for fashion.
As a rhyming expression, ‘passion for fashion’ may be overenthusiastic anathema to most dress-conscious folk. But what’s the point in all the effort, if the individual putting the work in isn’t brought any joy by it? Such is the dilemma for most men, who, since powdered wigs and hose fell out of style, have had a pretty tormented relationship with wanting to look pretty. Not so Cary Grant. The actor loved dressing up, and wasn’t at all shy about it; there were practical considerations at play, too, for in the days where male stars mostly supplied their own costumes, Grant’s elegant clothing made him the easy choice for leading man roles — dress for success, personified.
2. Know your suppliers, and stick to them.
If it ain’t broke, why fix it? For most of his life, Grant dressed himself at Savile Row and Jermyn Street’s tailors; among his preferred names was Kilgour, who also attired another fastidious fashionista — Fred Astaire.
3. Don’t be afraid to borrow from the girls.
He may have been in full-on screwball mode, but the man looked hot wearing a feathery peignoir. We’re only half-joking on this one.
4. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
A sense of humour is the best accessory, or at least, that’s what we gals are told all the time. So relax, learn to take a joke, and good-naturedly swallow our reverse sexism (which we’re claiming as reparations), please.
5. If you can’t forgo your notorious love of sun-tanning, at least make sure your eyes are well-protected.
Hey, nobody’s perfect.