Book Review: ‘Cary Grant: A Celebration Of Style’

Words by: Andrew Williams

Almost nothing in life happens by chance. Most things have to be worked at, studied and learnt over time. There are experts on every conceivable subject out there, but none was born with their knowledge. It had to be learnt.

While there are plenty of online repositories of wisdom and enlightenment there is something pleasurable about doing it the old fashioned way.


Cary Grant: A Celebration of Style’, by Richard Torregrossa

When you buy a book on Cary Grant you probably have two questions in mind. The first is how did he do it? The second, can I learn anything? Richard Torregrossa’s book delivers answers to both questions.

Part biography and part style guide, Torregrossa has collected and expertly blended lively anecdotes from the course of Grant’s life, such as, how President and Bobby Kennedy would call Grant up simply to hear him speak, to quotes from the man himself:

One pretends to do something, or copy someone or some teacher, until it can be done confidently and easily in what becomes one’s own style”. C G

In addition, there are well chosen quotes from established sartorial luminaries, of past and present, which form a thoughtful backdrop as well as a guide to developing your own style.

Despite being written by a recognised fashionista, there is thankfully no excess verbiage. The author obviously has the greatest affection for his subject matter, but the book is a light (only 184 pages including pictures) elegantly written account of an extraordinary guy.

From impoverished Bristol boy named Archie Leach who joins the circus age 12, to style icon known throughout the world as Cary Grant, the book gives an interesting account of the key stages of Grant’s life. What Torregrossa shows is that throughout Grant’s life clothing played an important role – they were an enabler.

Though he may be the gold standard today, Grants timeless masculine style didn’t materialise overnight. At his first screen test, for example, the director described Grant as “bo-legged and pudgy”, and turned him down. As Terrogrossa reveals, despite his iconic status Cary Grant had many physical irregularities – just like the rest of us. He had a drop shoulder, a 17.5 inch neck and what Grant himself described as an unusually large head. However, with some study, the careful selection of clothes and how to wear them, limitations of background and physical flaws were overcome. It is perhaps these tales running through the book that will make you think afresh about how to dress yourself.

As a side issue the book weighs into the argument regarding the difference between a man of style and a metrosexual. I am happy to say that Grant is placed in the camp of the former. It also shows that style is as much a state of mind as it is a state of being. Clothes don’t make the man, they’re merely a useful tool. What is clear from this book is that the warmth, humanity and humour of the man was as quintessential a part if the icon as the clothes.

For my part, one bonus of this book is that it elegantly puts the manufactured fakers who currently litter our silver screen, TV and newspapers to shame. Those fools need stylists, Cary Grant is style.