In 1969, the most stylish British film ever made was released on the silver screen and half a century later it’s still worth more than its weight in gold, shall we say. I am of course talking about The Italian Job, the crime thriller-cum-caper of the century with Michael Caine playing the lead as Charlie Croker, the cocksure heist-man with a master plan.
For the London-born actor, who is a savoured relic of the Golden Age of British cinema and one of the last remaining national treasures, it remains to be his magnum opus. The role of Croker catapulted the working-class lad to beyond super-stardom, won him legions of fans and even more female admirers, and cemented his legacy as a true style icon ne plus ultra. It also provided the swinging sixties with a curtain call to boot - both stylistically and climatically.
There are too many obvious elements and happenings to justify why it’s such a great film. However, did you know that the role of Croker was written specifically for Caine? Well, it was. And that poses another question: would it have worked with one of his peers in his place? Absolutely not. That would be a preposterous presumption.
Throughout much of the film, Caine wears suits crafted by the legendary tailor, Douglas Hayward aka the Buddha of Mount Street. Hayward also made suits for Roger Moore, Terrence Stamp, Sir Jackie Stewart et al, and his name can be found at the end in the credits, which is most unusual for a tailor. Hayward’s role in the film was not the fashionable decision of the costume director, rather, Troy Kennedy Martin, who wrote the screenplay, understood that if Caine were to ace the role of Croker his costume should be his own. Martin knew that, as did Caine, who a few years later said: “I knew exactly who Charlie Croker was when I looked at myself in that suit.” In addition to those hybrid of Anglo and Italian style suits, he also wore shirts from the legendary psychedelic shirtmaker Mr Fish and a very special pair of tortoiseshell sunglasses from Curry & Paxton.