Growing up in the new wave scene of the 1980s, fashion had a powerful impact on me as it did with many of that era. It was a time of spiked bleached hair, big shouldered jackets, eye liner and lip stick and I’m just talking about the guys. Thinking upon this now, it’s clear that every decade has its own unique style. Who could forget some of the outfits and styles of the 60’s, 70’s and of course the 1990’s. Yet, there are some styles that seem to have successfully moved through each decade remaining “cool” without being particularly vogue.
Timeless & Classic Style
These are the classic styles. The basic black single breasted suit with a crisp white shirt, dark tie and cap toe shoes, or the blue jeans, white t-shirt, brown leather jacket and boots are just but two examples. While certainly not the height of fashion, they have never gone out of fashion and with some minor tweaks, can easily be updated. What is perhaps most interesting is, if you look at some of the men who are considered the most fashionable and timeless, you will likely find they tend to be the ones that stick to the classics.
Take Cues: Past, Present, Physical, and Professional
As a stone sculptor, I am always examining the works of other artists, both past and present. How did they go about developing the piece? Was there a particular technique they employed that would be of benefit to me? With every new piece, new artist studied, I gain critical knowledge to be put to use in my own efforts. This same effort works just as well when it comes to men’s fashion. Rather than artists, I look to men, usually celebrities, with whom I either share physical traits, or who possess a style I want to emulate. The benefit of this is that many celebrities have professional stylists that help them develop. This is a luxury most of us do not have, yet we can all still benefit from just by noticing.
Everyone needs to search out their own style icons to fit their individual personality and desire. A good starting point is to consider what is your own stylistic preference? What is your build, eye and hair color? How are you required to dress for work and how would you like to dress when on your own time? Finding men similar to this can be of benefit initially in the process. For me, being a man who prefers a classic style, the style icons I have learned the most include Cary Grant, Steve McQueen, Pierce Brosnan, Idris Elba, Daniel Craig and George Clooney.
My “Classic” Style Icons
Cary Grant was arguably one of the most dapper gentlemen to grace the silver screen, but his sense of style went far beyond just his work. It was a part of him. In an interview with GQ magazine not long before his death he discussed his take on men’s fashion. Cary said he never considered himself especially well dressed, but that he made every effort to be as presentable as possible. Not surprisingly, he owned a number of bespoke suits, but freely admitted to owning many readymade, aka “off the rack” suits. The key was that all fell into the middle line of fashion, i.e. “classic.” As a result, he was able to wear his suits for ten to twenty years. Thus his advice was to purchase the best suit you could afford, given the time duration it was expected to lasting adding “think about the practical, functional and long wearing qualities.”
Pierce Brosnan is a man who knows how to wear a suit, whilst pulling off the devil may care attitude. However, what most I appreciate about his style sense is his casual wear. Scan through many of the candid photos and it is clear he loves his jeans, button down shirts and race style loafers (which he later identified as Bottega Veneta’s). Who could argue when one is cruising around in an Aston Martin? In an interview he gave about his style, he stated he tried to keep it simple, while exuding confidence with his head up and shoulders back. He also mentioned dressing for the area, be it in Hawaii, Los Angeles or London. Critically important was his quip to “always make sure your fly is done up before going out the door.” Words to live by, indeed.
Idris Elba is one dapper dude and being of the same height and weight as me is one that I often look too for ideas. He always kills it in a suit, but more importantly, it is clear he loves color and likes to incorporate it into his daily casual wardrobe. While perhaps moving outside of classic lines, he uses the color in moderation in a way that works and is essentially ageless. Of course, it obviously helps that he is in fantastic shape. In a recent interview, he said “I’m no fashion guru” while mentioning that he looks for clothing that will last for a long time. Adding that functionality and a sense of durability were key.
Steve McQueen, aka the “King of Cool,” liked his suits as much as he enjoyed a white t-shirt and jeans. He was equally comfortable in a pair of khaki pants, a shawl collar sweater and a pair of Persol sunglasses, while on a motorcycle or beyond the wheel of a high-end sports car. The benefit of McQueen’s look is that it was simple, clean and fit. All of these looks the average guy could pull off with easy, if they pay attention. McQueen’s clothes fit him. He wore athletic shoes almost exclusively when he worked out (a trait shared among these men), with jeans it was boots, in particular desert boots. Interestingly, when I look at images of McQueen and his sense of fashion, I am reminded of the modern Daniel Craig.
Daniel Craig, aka 007. Whether he learned from McQueen or simply has a similar style, the shared fashion sense is readily apparent. Craig loves his jeans, paired with brogues, or boots of some form. Polo shirts, shawl collar sweaters, sometimes paired with a plain white t-shirt are also in his repertoire. His jeans are often rolled at the ankle and paired with a sweater or leather jacket. He is always put together when “off duty” which just adds to his current ownership of the alias, James Bond.
Without a doubt, George Clooney knows how to wear a suit and can easily be considered a modern incarnation of Cary Grant. When he is seen in casual attire, it runs the gamut of t-shirts and jeans, button down shirt and khakis, but all of it fits him. It is not over sized, nor hanging down past his bum. He is put together, well-groomed and prepared to be in public.
Your Style & Icons Will Evolve
These are but a few style icons, but ones that I have looked upon over the years in order to increase and fine tune my own fashion. Each of these men have incorporated the dapper lifestyle for both professional and personal aspects of their lives, yet many did not consider themselves particular fashionable. Each have in common a shared interest in the classic attire, exuding confidence in their appearance while being comfortable. Perhaps in the end, that is the goal, to not try, but to just do, which makes this quote from Cary Grant all the more apropos, “So wear, not only clothes, but yourself, well, with confidence.”