Risk taking can make or break a man. The objective – to be one step ahead of your fashion rival – can be a challenging one. For the true fashion statesmen, the satisfaction of noticing envious eyes of fellow fashionistas glaring at your latest, most prized outfit is a great feeling. Your friends pour out complement after complement, asking just how you come up with such unique combinations. Women recognise you as the ‘guy with the cool dress sense’, beaming their eyes at every inch of you. Even your boss hands you a casual, slightly envious complement at your latest dinner jacket. You are ahead of the game.
One evening, your attention is easily caught by a man on television. He sports a tweed blazer – with sleeves rolled up, a checked green handkerchief, mint green polo shirt and a pair of suede brown shoes. You are instantly impressed by the quirky and effective combination. He then places a wide brim, fedora hat upon a neat head of hair. As anger pulsates through your body you realise, you have a lot of work to do.
The culprit, André Lauren Benjamin, has few challengers to his mixture of funky and preppy pieces. More commonly known by his stage name, André 3000, the American rapper, actor and record producer works tremendously hard – not just on his appearance. Best known for being one half of the notorious hip-hop collective Outkast, André has celebrated success in both the music and fashion world.
The quirky, fun twist of preppy jackets and polo shirts, put together with southern farm boy straw hats and jeans resulted in Mr. 3000 being dubbed the ‘Best dressed Man in the World’, by Esquire. He was also ranked 10th in GQ’s ‘Most Stylish Musicians of All Time’, and was described as “Perhaps the biggest risk taker on this list”. In interviews the singer has expressed his strong interest in English-inspired vintage clothing, patterns and fabrics.
The Atlanta musician’s high profile and wide recognition within the men’s fashion industry is what has perhaps motivated him to produce his own clothing line, Benjamin Bixby, which is inspired by college football circa in the 1930s. Three Stacks released the brand in 2008, being sold exclusively in Barneys, and it is described as: “a little bit Benjamin Button, a tinge of Willy Wonka, with a touch of collegiate footballer thrown in for good measure.”
Whether or not the trousers and braces are a touch too much for some, the combination of chic preppy designs with urban, hip-hop inspired gear produces the desired individuality within his personal look.
The threads in the lookbook hold a number of different influences – from farm-boy to golfing attire. I cannot express the importance of taking care of the finer details when trying to mix so many different styles as effortlessly as André does. There needs to be cohesion between the influences – whether through choice of colour palette, textures or accessories.
Confidence is key – quite literally. There is no doubt that this particular look has to be constructed carefully, but then it needs to be worn with assured confidence. Anything less will come off as awkward and incongruent.
For those of you looking for a low-key alternative, try replacing the bright, flamboyant colours and patterns with darker, neutral designs. Although, in my opinion, pushing the boundaries is what makes André’s personal style so desirable, unique and instantly recognisable.
André looks completely natural in these two images. Matching the tie, shirt, waistcoat, jacket and trousers is certainly challenging and can easily go wrong when trying to incorporate both colour and pattern combinations. However, the mix of solid block colours with checked designs looks fantastic and should be the inspiration for anyone wanting to do the same.
The big question regarding brightly coloured, patterned suits, is where and when to wear them. This ultimately depends on your personality and confidence. Such attributes determine where you would feel most comfortable wearing such striking, statement items. Personally, I would go for the evening, not the office.
Quirkiness best describes this particular look. The top half of the rapper’s body could be easily mistaken for that of a farmer. Suddenly you notice the jeans – or chinos and Converse – and have to admire the rare combinations in these two outfits.
This look almost holds the personality of a rebel, due to the fact that it mixed two completely different types of clothing – creating a clash of cultures and ‘breaking the rules’ in effortless and considered way.
Accessories are an important part of this look. The traditional, stereotypical pieces – such as necklaces, watches, and the scarf tied round the waist – represent the Hip-Hop vibe in André’s style. The ‘university professor’ style trousers and desert boots add that preppy style which is so popular with men and women alike this summer.
Of course we cannot forget the iconic fedora hat, which gives this final look a true edge.
This spring, Benjamin was announced by shaving giants Gillette as their new spokesmen. I know what you’re thinking: a rapper as a spokesmen for a shaving company? However, it appears that major international brands have not only taken into account the entrepreneur’s popularity within the music world, but his unique ability to push boundaries and come up with genuinely new ideas within the fashion industry.
When asked by journalists about the resurrection of his clothing line, Benjamin Bixby, André responded positively: “It’s going to be real exciting, I can’t say too much about it, but I can say this year and next year there’s going to be a lot of cool things coming from me fashion-wise.” I’m confident that you share the same excitement as I do, when it comes to seeing exactly where ‘Dre takes both his clothing line and personal style next.