The 10 Best Suits On Film

Come movie awards season, all eyes – and camera lenses – are focussed on the red carpet. But as killer as Oscars host Chris Rock’s white Burberry tux was, are we really going to be referencing it 10 years from now? We’d bet the cost of a white Burberry tux not. With that in mind, the FashionBeans academy has assembled a shortlist of the most gong-worthy tailoring ever to grace the silver screen, from unassailable classics to some contemporary flicks we wager will enter the canon in the decades to come. Watch and learn.

American Gigolo (1980)

So groundbreaking was the on-screen work of Giorgio Armani that the most appealing part of the lifestyle enjoyed by Richard Gere’s louche lothario wasn’t getting paid to have sex with attractive women. The then little-known Italian designer turned a whole generation of men onto softer tailoring and made them want to store their shirts and ties neatly folded in drawers. Legend has it that Gere’s endorsement was so good for business that he can still to this day walk into any Armani and take what he wants. Unlike Winona Ryder in Saks.

American Gigolo - Richard Gere Armani Suit

North By Northwest (1959)

Part of the joke of Hitchcock’s classic case of mistaken identity is that Cary Grant’s hapless ad man endures a succession of increasingly absurd ordeals all while wearing the soberest of suits. According to men’s style lore, the subtly checked mid-grey two-piece was made by Grant’s personal tailor – Savile Row’s Kilgour, French & Stanbury (now Kilgour) – but during the film the label of Beverly Hills’ Quintino is clearly visible; one possible explanation is that the latter reproduced some or all of the 16 versions supposedly used.

North By Northwest

The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)

Along with Bullitt, this film immortalised Steve McQueen’s steez to the extent that we’re contractually obliged to namecheck him every second sentence. But where his hard-bitten San Francisco cop was all roll necks and tweed, his playboy art thief swags it up in immaculate three-pieces courtesy of Dougie Hayward (who was apparently the inspiration for The Tailor Of Panama and Alfie). McQueen’s matching of his blue-lensed Persols to his suit, shirt and tie remains one of the strongest style flexes ever committed to celluloid. (Related: Five always-stylish menswear looks, including Steve McQueen’s)

The Thomas Crown Affair - Steve McQueen Three-Piece Suit

Get Carter (1971)

Michael Caine was another customer of Dougie Hayward, and it’s likely that the celebrity tailor was responsible for the other star of this gritty gangster film. From the moment Caine’s metropolitan hardman slips it on like a navy mohair glove to attend his brother’s funeral, through his relentless pursuit of the murderers amid the grime of Newcastle’s underbelly, the suit – refined but not ostentatious – defines and distinguishes him. Yes, the trousers are slightly flared, but hey, it was the seventies.

Get Carter - Michael Caine Suit

Inception (2010)

Maybe it’s because Leonardo DiCaprio implanted them there, but we can’t get the stylised suits in Christopher Nolan’s mind-bending reverse-heist movie out of our heads. Alas, they were all the brainchild of costume designer Jeffrey Kurland, and produced by tailor Dennis Kim and shirtmaker Anto, so you can’t buy them, or not off-the-peg at least: shattered dreams within dreams within dreams. Intended, like the plot, to obscure time’s passing, the clothes are faintly futuristic in a way that still feels now: see Ken Watanabe’s mash-up of traditional Japanese dress and a tux, or Michael Caine’s collarless shirt.

Inception Movie Suits

Ocean’s 11 (1960)

Forget George Clooney, forget Brad Pitt and especially forget Don Cheadle’s gorblimey accent (if you can). The original Ocean’s might be inferior to the Steven Soderbergh reboot in many respects but as a swagfest, it’s unsurpassed. The mohair and sharkskin suits were, by the time of this film’s release, a trademark of the Rat Pack and thus were cut by their go-to tailor, Sy Devore, with low-button stances to make them look taller. The influence of their slim lapels and skinny ties on menswear is still seen today. Unlike the film. (Related: Style tips to make you look taller)

Ocean's 11 (1960) Suits

Dr. No (1962)

Goldfinger is often cited as peak Bond clobber. But it’s also a film in which 007 wears a terrycloth romper suit and a fake duck on his head. It’s Dr. No that really set the template to follow, both for the franchise and the rest of us: smart but understated, as befits an agent who’s supposed to be secret. Sean Connery’s sartorial Q was Anthony Sinclair of Conduit Street, perpendicular to Savile Row; the pared-back style became known as the ‘Conduit Cut’. Connery’s tux shirt in that iconic intro, though, is by Lanvin – as befits a globetrotting assassin.

Dr. No - Sean Connery James Bond Tuxedo/Suit

A Single Man (2009)

Until this film, Colin Firth’s style CV was limited to a damp shirt in Pride & Prejudice and a novelty Christmas jumper in Bridget Jones’ Diary. But in the hands of director and occasional designer Tom Ford, he became an instant fashion icon. As a grief-stricken college professor, Firth is put together almost painfully well; indeed, with its slim 1960s lapels, his ensemble is more muted than Ford’s usual turbo-charged velvet and showy lapelled offering and – dare we say – even slightly more wearable for those of us who aren’t A-Listers. (Related: See what Tom Ford has to say on the topic of men’s style)

A Single Man - Colin Firth Suit

Wall Street (1987)

Michael Douglas’ scenery-chewing, lunch-eschewing turn in this all-American drama dictated how a generation of bankers dressed and intermittently fasted. His Gekko-fabulous look was devised by costume designer Ellen Mirojnick and tailored by menswear authority Alan Flusser. Those who bought into the deliberately brash vibe didn’t twig that Gekko wasn’t supposed to be aspirational, but while his style stock has fallen, the value of his key power-dressing commodities – contrast-collar shirts (by Alexander Kabbaz), red braces, gold Rolex – has not.

Wall Street - Michael Douglas Power Suit and Braces

The Great Gatsby (1974)

“I’ve never seen such beautiful shirts!” And the suits weren’t too shabby either. Ralph Lauren often gets the credit – and is in the end credits – for outfitting Robert Redford in the 1970s film adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Jazz Age novel. But while the great designer undeniably exerted his influence, supplying the aforementioned shirts and tailoring some suits for Redford, it was Theoni V. Aldredge who filled out the rest of the star’s wardrobe – and ultimately had her efforts recognised with the Oscar for Best Costume Design.

The Great Gatsby 1974 - Robert Redford Suits

Final Word

Is our tailoring Netflix queue suitably impeccable? Or have we made the most egregious omission since #oscarssowhite? Give us plaudits – or hurl your Rotten Tomatoes – in the comments below.

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