The Essence of Good Taste from an Icon of Style

For more then three decades, Cary Grant was Hollywood’s most popular leading man, and remains embedded in the public consciousness as one of the definitive film stars of the classic Hollywood era.

He had, in the words of the award-winning costume designer Edith Head—the greatest fashion sense of any actor she had ever known. And that’s how he is remembered, for a tasteful  and elegant style forever associated with the bespoke suits he favoured and was seldom seen without.

Grant was the son of a tailor’s cutter, and took a deep and personal interest in supervising the tailoring of the suits he wore in his films and elsewhere. He was particularly notorious for measuring all of his new suits himself and insisting on alterations to correct even the most minor discrepancies.

After so many years of being hailed as an icon of style, Grant finally submitted to revealing his own approach to the style and purchase of both his bespoke and ready-made suits in an article he wrote for The Week magazine in 1967.

Acknowledging his frequent selection as ‘best-dressed man of the year’ by various groups, Grant states his own bemusement of the fact, claiming

“[firstly], I don’t consider myself especially well dressed, and, secondly, I’ve never, as far as I can compare the efforts of others with my own, gone to any special trouble to acquire clothes that could be regarded as noticeably fashionable or up-to-date.”

Grant says that all of his suits, of which he has many, share one thing in common: “they are in the middle of fashion”, by which he means:

“they’re not self-consciously fashionable or far out, nor are they overly conservative or dated. In other words, the lapels are neither too wide nor too narrow, the trousers neither too tight nor too loose, the coats neither too short nor too long.”

Firmly believing that the most reliant style is in the middle of the road, Grant suggests that men’s clothes should attract attention to the best lines of a man’s figure and distract from the worst. He also recommends dispensing with accessories that do not perform a function, like belts, and always choosing quality over quantity, to the extent that one can afford.

“Unobtrusive good taste” is how the Wall Street Journal summarises Grant’s fashion choices, a description he would have agreed with, writing, “simplicity, to me, has always been the essence of good taste.”

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