Celebrated Customers: Sir Michael Caine
Michael Caine has been a Turnbull & Asser man on and off screen from Alfie (1966) to Kingsman (2015).
Like many high-profile customers, Caine was a life-long friend of Mount Street tailor Doug Hayward (1934–2008) who had his shirts made at T&A and recommended his circle do likewise. Hayward’s suits and Turnbull & Asser shirts and ties would create some of the greatest tailoring moments on screen in Caine films The Italian Job (1969), Get Carter (1971) and California Suite (1978).
Caine tells the story of his introduction to Turnbull & Asser in his 1992 autobiography What’s It All About? Having broken the £10,000 a week pay grade filming The Ipcress File in 1965 he ‘selected a load of clothes for all occasions from my great friend Doug Hayward and bought shirts to match from Turnbull & Asser. The measurements for the shirts, I was informed, could be taken at home in the evening if I was busy in the daytime. I was busy, I told them and they said that ‘Mr Michael’ would be with me at seven o’clock that evening’.
‘The clock struck seven, the doorbell went and when I opened the door I was astonished to find a thirty-year-old boy scout, complete with short trousers and staff smiling at me. “I’m Mr Michael”, he announced, “and I’m on my way to a scout meeting. I’ve just popped by to measure you for your shirts”. So there I was, able at last to afford shirts made by the most expensive shirtmaker in England, only to have my measurements taken by a boy scout. No matter what you expect, things never turn out quite like they should, do they?’
It is not recorded whether Mr Michael (actually Mr Paul Cuss) received his badge for services to internationally famous Cockney film stars, but Mr Caine has repeatedly requested Turnbull & Asser’s services when a character needs to look sharp. As Charlie Croker in The Italian Job, Caine visits his tailor and shirtmaker having served time at Her Majesty’s Pleasure. Neither of these scenes were filmed at Hayward or Turnbull & Asser who actually made Croker’s wardrobe for the film.
Croker’s most influential and imitated look in The Italian Job was a beige linen single-breasted two-button suit worn while briefing Camp Charlie and the gang on the bullion heist in Turin. For the scene Turnbull & Asser cut Caine a cream shirt with generous milk chocolate tramline pinstripes and French cuffs. The spread collar is tall and proud. The tie, cream silk with a chocolate geometric repeat, is knotted in a neat four-in-hand.
Get Carter is the North by Northwest of the 1970s. In the latter, Cary Grant wears one suit for the entire film. Though Caine’s avenging gangster Jack Carter does change clothes during the film, the difference between his two Douglas Hayward suits and sky-blue Turnbull & Asser shirts is almost imperceptible. Whereas Croker is comedic and flamboyant, Carter is a killing machine clad in a French navy Dormeuil Tonik three-piece and monogrammed blue poplin shirts: one a T&A three-button barrel cuff and another a French cuff locked together with silver and enamel cufflinks. The inky blue, ribbed silk tie tones to the suit and is business-like signifying a more lethal chic suited to the character.
In 1976 Caine went into business with irascible restaurateur Peter Langan when he took over Mayfair institution Le Coq D’Or and christened it Langan’s. Langan was as famous for his Turnbull & Asser polka-dot ties as he was for hurling abuse at famous diners including Princess Margaret, Ronnie Corbett and on occasion Mr Caine. Chris Corbin, who now owns some of London’s finest restaurants, including the Wolseley, The Delaunay as well as their Mayfair hotel, The Beaumont, with partner Jeremy King, was an early manager at Langan’s. Both Corbin and King became bespoke customers at T&A. Mr Cuss remembers an encounter with Michael Caine and Peter Langan at the then Corbin and King owned restaurant Le Caprice. As Mr Caine passed Mr Cuss’s table he said ‘no wonder your bloody shirts are so expensive’.