I’ve yet to see a cufflink that will work with that shirt.
– Elliot Mason.
In episode 125, I speak to Matt Spaiser of Bond Suits and Elliot Mason of Mason & Sons about the style of The Italian Job (1969). Matt offers some insightful commentary on the Doug Hayward suits whilst Elliot Mason talks in depth about the legacy of Mr Fish, shirtmaker for the film. The podcast out now is available to listen in the player below or on iTunes, Stitcher or Spotify. You can also catch our chat on YouTube. Below is a few transcribed moments from our chat.
Elliot do you get a lot of your clientele ask about that 3-piece grey sharkskin that Caine wears after his trip from the tailors?
Out of the three suits that we recreated from the film, that has been the one that is most sought after. Which is no surprise because I think it bears quite a resemblance to our mid-grey sharkskin conduit cut suit. They’re not a million miles apart. If I was a betting man I was going to say that was Matt’s favourite.
I also love the beige linen suit.
BLOWING THE BLOODY LID OFF
One of the most interesting elements to the beige suit is the patch pockets with the slanted flaps on it. The navy double breasted suit that we made and the skarkskin were made to measure, but our made to measure ateliers couldn’t do the patch pockets with the slanted flap. So Henry (Rose) made the bespoke one.
It’s perfect that Henry made that because he worked with Hayward himself.
He certainly did. There are some great photos of him in Doug’s shop many moons ago.
One of the most interesting things about this beige suit is that he wears it in another film. The Italian Job is ’69, but in ’68 he did a film called Deadfall and this suit features very prominently throughout the film. Nobody ever mentions this. I’m not sure if anyone has ever seen Deadfall, it’s quite an enjoyable film. I love the John Barry soundtrack and John Barry is also in the film playing a conductor.
Matt you’ve blown the lid of this thing.
ABOUT MR FISH
Elliot are there any original bolts left of Mr Fish fabric?
No absolutely not. Unfortunately all the vintage Mr Fish that we currently own is things I’ve found after the past few years. The family estate own a few things, they have the prototype for the Rumble in the Jungle Muhammed Ali fight where Mr Fish designed and made his robe. Unfortunately there was a fire at one of the Mr Fish stores so a lot of things went up in smoke. I’ll imagine that the business’ fortunes in the late 60s and 70s meant they would have had to hand over some assets in the 60s and 70s at some point. So there might not have been much to pass on.
How did you get such a close match to recreating the fabrics seen in The Italian Job?
All of the things we’ve made as part of that collection are similar to what we did on a lot of the Bond stuff. We did detective work just like Matt does. We found the movie stills and watched the movie ten times on ultra blu-ray and just researched. AND gut instinct. One of the interesting things about The Italian Job is all of the shirts are double cuffs.
Even the leaf print?
With the leaf print shirt, most customers ask for a button cuff. Because we do them all made to order. I’ve yet to see a cufflink that will work with that shirt maybe because it’s so out there. Maybe a nice mother of pearl cufflink or something. It was all done by photos and movie stills.
Anything else Matt?
That suede peacoat that you see him (Michael) wear is one of the great pieces from that film. You can still wear that today. It’s quite luxurious.
We were looking at that just the other day. Dad said that would be a nice one to recreate. It does have a very round 60s/70s collar which is very much of its time. It’s whether or not to do a modern version of that.
Elliot have you ever tailored for Michael?
No we’ve not looked after him. Just before Sir Roger passed away there was reference to him perhaps bringing in one of his friends and I’m sure it would have been Michael. So no we’ve not done anything for Michael Caine or his estate. Never say Never.
Listen to the Podcast
Additional insight from Matthew Field
Matthew Field is the author of The Self Preservation Society: 50 Years of The Italian Job, available to buy on Amazon. I reached out to Matthew and asked a few more questions around clothes and product placement.
Matt did any clothes survive production?
MF: As far as I’m aware there are no costumes or surviving props. However a number of cars survived but unfortunately none of the Minis. The Lamborghini Miura at the beginning of the movie has been confirmed by Lamborghini’s historical department to still be alive having recently been restored. However, certain collectors disbelieve the discovery/claim. Charlie Croker’s Aston Martin DB4 Convertible belongs to a lovely gentleman in Scotland – we used it in Mason and Sons’ recent Italian Job promo. And the red Jaguar E-Type fixed head has belonged to a Jag collector since the late 70s – coincidentally the proprietor of the company who published my book.
Was the shirt shop a real shop or a set?
MF: The shop you see in the film was a set. It’s interesting that in publicity shots you can see a Mr Fish sign /logo which probably means they supported the film with product.
Any other notable product placement?
The city of Turin and the car giant Fiat were incredibly generous. Here’s an extract from my book which may be helpful:
“However dismissive The Italian Job is in its attitude towards all things Italian, the filmmakers received great generosity in Italy. A city was needed in which to stage the huge traffic jam sequences and the fast-paced getaway, both vital elements of the story.
How about Turin
Rome and Naples proved impossible and Milan was just too chaotic. Producer Michael Deeley happened to relate his difficulties to a close friend who suggested he investigate Turin, the hometown of Fiat, as he knew Gianni Agnelli, the celebrated proprietor. “It was clear that Signor Agnelli could make any number of things happen, were he so inclined.” Agnelli was amused by the script and Michael Caine recalls the industrialist welcomed the production with open arms, “I don’t think we would have been able to pull any of it off without the word from Gianni. Once he said you could drive on top of the [Fiat] factory you are not going to get the mayor of Turin saying you can’t drive down the street! Mr Agnelli might be on the phone and you don’t want that!”
An offer refused
It is well documented that British Motor Cooperation (BMC) who manufactured the Mini at the time were not interested in negotiating a product placement deal and assisted somewhat begrudgingly. As Deeley’s relationship with Agnelli developed, the Italian capitalist hit Deeley with a proposition. “Effectively Fiat told us, ‘Listen, we can be very helpful here if you switch the Minis to become Fiats.’ They were prepared to offer me as many Fiats as I needed to crash and smash, as well as trained stunt drivers to pilot the vehicles, a $50,000 cash bonus and the current top-of-the-range Ferrari as a personal gift. I had to decline.
Us against them
The whole point of the movie was very clear in my mind by this time, it was the theme of ‘us against them.’ It had to be Minis.” Fiat remained unbelievably co-operative, providing the production with three Fiat Dinos for the Mafia to drive in the film and dozens of Fiats for the traffic-jam sequences. At the end of production one of the Dinos was gifted to the director, Peter Collinson but he later wrapped it around a lamppost.”
Mr Fish in the News
From an old clipping in the Gentleman’s Gazette (which I do not own) Mr Fish reportedly found his feet at a shop that supplied garments for students of Eton College. From there he moved on to a salesman at Turnbull & Asser where you can see that infamous photo of him measuring Sean Connery for a shirt for the role of James Bond. In that article Mr Fish is quoted as saying,
I went there as a salesman, but I wanted a little bit more involvement in what I was doing; and I found out that by buying things that I liked – ties, dressing gowns and things – I built up a small clientele of my own, a sort of personal boutique inside a shop.