Long before Bob Marley was immortalised on student bedroom walls, shrouded in smoke and dreadlocks, he embodied Hardy Amies’ proclamation that a man should pick his clothes with care, then look as though he’s forgotten all about them. He was a man who could elevate anything he put on, just because it was draped over Bob Marley.
Marley’s wardrobe came accessorised with same insouciance he brought to his songwriting, as though beauty were just something that happened to him. He never appeared to agonise over it, to have to dig, workmanlike, into his creativity, like Johnny Cash, whose all-black outfits echoed the tenor of his art.
Which is why Marley should be this season’s go-to style icon. As menswear shifts, shakes off all that’s overwrought and emerges streamlined, simpler – just a whole load more relaxed – it’s time to evict Don Draper from your moodboard and get more mellow.
Bob Marley’s drapey fits, his understanding that you can be comfortable and still wear something that slays a room, should be your sartorial inspiration. Four decades ago Marley was already pulling off menswear’s power moves. Now he’s passing the torch.
1. Double Denim
Rocking the same fabric top-to-toe is a time-honoured menswear move. Normally, though, it’s called a suit, the uniform of the establishment stooge come to harsh the good times. Marley’s office demanded a different kind of workwear, so he reached for something as rugged as it was relaxed: denim.
But as Marley knew, steering too matchy undermines precisely that laid-back aesthetic you’re trying to cultivate. To stress the point again, this isn’t about looking ready for the office. Pick your jeans first, in a roomy cut. The artist needs space to breathe. Then grab a shirt a shade or two lighter, to break up the block of blue. To turn the look platinum, opt for a denim button-up with detailing around the shoulders, which drags the eye up and takes you from cattle rustler to rock icon.
Accessorising with the guitar is ideal, but a chocolate leather folio will do the job too.
2. The Roll Neck
As we’ve mentioned more than a couple of times, any look can be elevated by adding a roll neck. Sling one on under a suit and you lend your tailoring a nonconformist edge. Swap out your winter knitwear for something that doesn’t stop at your shoulders and you immediately upgrade to a slimmer silhouette. And as Marley demonstrates, the Beatnik favourite gives any outfit an artistic swagger. Even when it’s paired with flares and Cuban heels.
To lean more towards Marley than the Milk Tray Man you want something that hangs slightly off your body. Figure-hugging cuts are great for espionage, less so for kicking back backstage. And don’t be tempted by the slew of patterned options, which push your look on-piste. A neutral-coloured design in cashmere or merino, with ribbed cuffs and hem, is the easiest way to take everything in your wardrobe from support act to headliner.
3. Track Tops
Long before high fashion rebranded it as ‘athleisure’, Bob Marley proved sportswear deserved promotion from the pitch to every day. When your life is spent on the road, comfort is king. But it’s how you wear it that turns a casual staple iconic.
First, fit. Baggy tracksuits hinder your movement on-field – for someone like Marley, who’d start a pick-up football game anywhere there was a ball, even off-duty outfits needed to be practical. So keep your jacket’s body slim and nipped to the waist.
Next, colour. Bob Marley was no health goth. He knew that repping your team came before being on-trend – and for a card-carrying Rastafari that trio of green, red and gold carries more weight than any club crest.
But to anchor bold hues, you need to dial down what’s around them. Especially when your track jacket is crafted from a fabric with just enough shimmer to make you dazzle even the guys at the back of the stadium. Of course, it helps when you accessorise with a smile that’s just as luminescent.
4. Military Green
Just because you’re a pacifist, it doesn’t mean you can’t take some style cues from the guys in the ranks. But Marley infused his uniform with personality, knowing that it’s better to stand out than appear regimented. Upgrade your olive shirt and leave it open over a quartermaster approved grey crew neck to nail the drapey anti-fit aesthetic that’s all over this season’s runways.
But know that the difference between a laissez-faire look and making people think you dressed out of the roadies’ wardrobe is getting the fit right where it counts. Your shoulders should sit snug against the seams of your shirt, so that the rest of fabric hangs just off your torso, rather than fluttering out whenever the wind blows.
You may be a sartorial hero, but let’s leave the capes to the ones in comic books.
5. Relaxed-Leg Trousers
As the Northern Soul kids discovered a decade earlier, some billow in your lower half ensures your dance moves always make an impression. Whether you’re on stage in front of thousands or owning the floor at your local reggae night, loosen up your legwear to free your movements and give your wining some added energy. Even if you don’t go for Marley’s full flare.
But as with the overshirt, it’s not just about swapping your medium for an XL. Instead, look for pleats, which give you more room in the thigh but can still be tapered below the knee. And unlike the ankle-swingers of recent years, this is a style you want to break on your shoe.
Finally, hone what sits around it. Opt for the oversized elsewhere and you look like you’re playing dress up in dad’s wardrobe. Make like Marley and keep your shirt snug. Then pair with Amies’ lack of concern for everything you’ve got on. You’ll find it’s easy not to stress your look when it affords you so much room to move.