There are few universally held opinions in fashion or in film, but the claim that Cary Grant’s grey flannel suit from North By Northwest is the greatest in the history of cinema—well, that’s about as close as you can get. Whenever there are lists of the greatest suits on film, the outfit Grant wore as Roger Thornhill (or is it George Kaplan?) ranks at the top of the list. Innumerable blog posts and “buy your own” shopping lists can be found online singing the praises of the suit and doing their best to put together a reasonable facsimile. Writer Todd McEwan once wrote an entire short story retelling North by Northwest from the suit’s perspective. He famously begins the piece, “North by Northwest isn’t a film about what happens to Cary Grant, it’s about what happens to his suit.”
Why has this particular suit endured for decades when other equally stylish fits have been relegated to the cinematic attic? It’s not just the movie the featured it, the man who wore it, or the just itself. There’s not one reason, but rather a confluence of forces that came together to cement the suit’s place in film history.