Style / October 2017

Celluloid Style: Get Carter

Nick Scott uncovers why Michael Caine’s wardrobe in Get Carter is as enduringly relevant as the noir thriller’s plot is gritty.

Michael Caine as Jack Carter on the set of Get Carter, 1971.

Even the more sartorially aware among us might assume that Dormeuil Tonik was either a cheap brand of spirit mixer or a forgotten Swansea City left-back. The truth is far, far sexier: Dormeuil Tonik is the mohair-wool fabric from which one of Savile Row’s most wily tog-smiths – probably Douglas Hayward, given the actor’s choice of tailor at the time – created the suit worn by Michael Caine’s eponymous character in the bleakly brilliant 1971 crime flick Get Carter: a blue three-piece that’s up there with Cary Grant's attire in North By Northwest, Steve McQueen’s in The Thomas Crown Affair and Sean Connery’s in Dr No.

Favoured, in particular, by the affluent minority within the mod crowd throughout the late 1950s and 1960s, the Dormeuil Tonik cloth in question, in (let’s presume) Hayward’s hands, was to Caine’s form as… well, a comparison to the effect of Askeys Treat on cold ice cream is a little down-market but, in this case, apposite. It was as if the suit had come into being, organically, around Caine’s form. The details – slanted pockets, high notched lapel, boot cut trousers, five button single-breasted waistcoat – all made their contribution to a truly imperious whole, as did the accessories (blue long-sleeved shirt with double cuff, oversized gold and white cufflinks, dark blue silk tie with diagonal rib, black calfskin full strap loafers, Rolex Oyster Day-Date with brown leather strap). And then of course, there’s the criminally dapper suit’s trio of accomplices, making up a whole which will forever be associated with this and no other movie: the double-barrelled shotgun, the trench coat and a frown scored across Caine’s features that could curdle milk.

But the silhouette of the three-piece is what gives Caine’s actually fairly ordinary physique a measure of Olympian robustness (his line “You’re a big man, but you’re out of shape” to one assailant seems a touch ironic by the time we encounter Caine’s bare upper torso towards the end of the film). Hayward – on whom the character Harry Pendel in John Le Carré's The Tailor of Panama is loosely based, incidentally - was known for being a fully rounded artisan, but any conversation with in-the-know tailoring buffs will not last long before the word “cut” passes someone’s lips.

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