If you’d told us a few years ago that certain members of chart-topping manufactured pop sensation One Direction would go on to produce their fair share of style hits as well as pop ones, we’d have sent you straight to Specsavers.
Mostly tight, bright tees, skinny jeans and check shirts worn open, the boy band’s collective look in the early days is probably best described as a Gap Kids campaign. Which is, to be fair, probably not all that surprising considering its members were actual kids.
But time – not to mention a decent stylist – is an amazing thing. And now, some six years later, a couple of the X Factor-born band’s members (like aptly named frontman, and next-level florals master, Harry Styles) are fast earning their fashion chops, proving that – when it comes to their clothes at least – they’re boys no more.
It’s dissenter Zayn Malik, though, that’s really making waves with his wardrobe. Having jumped ship in 2015 to ready himself for a solo career, Malik resurfaced just a few months later with a slick new look that’s seen his fashion stock skyrocket.
Here, we unpick how he’s done it, and show you the tricks worth trying yourself.
Hoodies And Jeans To Louis V
Malik was just 17 years old when the X Factor birthed its first and only globally successful pop group. Which goes some way in explaining why his wardrobe was mostly an adolescent tangle of hoodies, jeans, hi-top trainers and even higher hair.
Just a couple of years later, though, by the release of 1-D’s sophomore album, Malik’s style was already showing signs of maturing, with aviator jackets, sharp tailoring and statement camo pieces taking the place of the jersey varsity jackets and layered hoodie-blazer combos he’d once sported.
It wasn’t until the spring/summer 2016 menswear shows in Paris (and striking up a working relationship with celebrity stylist Jason Rembert), however, that Malik really started bringing the heat.
Sat front row at Louis Vuitton, the newly solo star made his first public appearance since ditching 1-D sporting a Hawaiian-inspired silk baseball shacket and a bleached blonde buzz cut. Which sounds mad but looked unequivocally sick.
Zayn debuts his new look at Louis Vuitton SS16
What’s followed has quickly cemented Malik’s new-found style icon status, lifting his look from teenybopper to FROW boss. Here’s how it’s done:
Black Is Better
Navy works, but black is cooler. It’s navy’s older, edgier brother. The one that bags Gigi Hadid while navy sits at home on its bunk bed abiding by its curfew. And Zayn, keen to reinforce the fact he’s no longer tucked up with milk and cookies by 9pm, takes advantage of the fact.
Whether a black statement piece or a look that’s murdered-out, Malik knows that while trying trends is all well and good, it’s the stripped-back outfits that ensure you won’t put a foot wrong.
That Duster Coat Tho’
“Zayn feels comfortable in longer pieces,” said Jason Rembert, Malik’s stylist, in a recent interview with Billboard. Which goes some way in explaining why the duster coat – a loose, lightweight style without buttons – has fast become the solo star’s signature piece.
Clean-lined and easily layered, it’s the outerwear style that makes making an entrance easy.
Take, for example, Malik’s (mobbed) appearance at the spring/summer 2016 Valentino show in a burgundy-and-white-collared midnight blue style. Or the collarless style that topped off his all-black look for the This Is Us premiere. Both offer all of the impact, but none of the weight, of an overcoat.
Acing The Air Tie
Like bowler hats and polka dot pocket squares, neck ties ain’t what they used to be. Or at least, they’re not contemporary, not trending, not – at the risk of sound like an outtake from Zoolander – ‘now’.
That’s not to say they’re not still de rigueur for certain occasions, but if you really want to edge your evening look forward, then it’s all about the ‘air tie’ (i.e. no tie).
And Zayn (as is his wont with anything current) is all over it, swapping out the formality of a neck tie for statement collared shirts, fine-gauge roll necks and even neckerchiefs that give a more modern feel.
Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow
In true millennial fashion, Malik seemingly can’t stick with a hairstyle for longer than a few weeks at a time. Not that it does his style (or column inches) any harm, mind.
Zayn’s array of hairstyles over the past couple of years has included (but wasn’t limited to) his one-time signature quiff, a man bun, a bleached blonde buzz cut, an undercut with a hot pink quiff up top, a textured blonde quiff, and now a buzz cut with a hard parting. And he’s worn each (yes, even the man bun) so expertly, that we’ve followed suit in our droves – and with varying degrees of success.
Speaking of which, it’s not every man that can pull off a head full of peroxide, so perhaps take inspiration from Malik’s tendency to switch things up rather than copy the styles themselves. (Especially not the green one.)
Clocking in at just 5′ 9″ (1.75m), Malik isn’t the tallest of teen heartthrobs. Which might explain why he’s taken a serious shine to silhouette-extending boots over the course of his solo career.
Described as “key to his look” by stylist Rembert, Zayn’s partial to lace-up styles (particularly if they’re from Tuscan brand Guidi) and their leg-lengthening capabilities. Add a few inches to your own form by pulling on a pair in black or brown leather and either stacking, or rolling up, your jeans or trousers to give your footwear full exposure.
The Little Things
Ironically, style that’s worth stealing isn’t all that easy to emulate. A signature look is individual, multifaceted and works because it suits the person deploying it.
Case in point? Zayn’s approach to accessories. From his vintage jewellery and luxury watches to his piercings and that tattoo on the back of his left hand, each element – whether permanent or not – brings an extra point of interest to whatever he’s wearing.
Take your cue from him by always wearing at least one accessory, but stopping short of piling them on.
Do you think Zayn Malik’s style is headed in the right direction? Or would he have to bow to Aled Jones in the style bout too?
Let us know below.