Few men take as many style risks as Jared Leto. Which fits, considering the arc of his career: from heartthrob (and Cameron Diaz beau) to heroin addict and babyfaced fight clubber, then on to Oscar nods and demonic superheros. Via spells fronting a screamo band. The man must get bored easily.
Which perhaps explains the schizophrenic wardrobe. He’s been the skinny-jeaned rocker, the vest-rocking beefcake, worn tie-dye co-ords to Coachella and switched his hair up more times than even David Beckham. But while you can accuse Leto of many things – an over-appreciation of neon; a bullish take on mesh; a shoe collection only a foot fetishist could love – a lack of confidence isn’t one. Menswear rewards playing it safe. Leto always rolls the dice.
Lately, he’s been tossing double sixes. For that we can thank Alessandro Michele, new Gucci boss and Leto wingman, who’s moulded GQ’s one-time ‘worst-dressed man in the world’ into a bona fide style icon – albeit one whose velvet, lion-brocaded, knee-length coats most men would struggle to fill.
Yet even if you don’t adopt his premiere looks wholesale, a Leto shake-up could be just what your tired wardrobe needs.
Rule 1: If In Doubt, Wear A Leather Jacket
In every iteration of Jared Leto, one staple’s endured: the leather jacket. It’s been there through his Kurt Cobain phase, his sad rocker phase, even his high-fashion makeover. It’s simple, timeless and – if you get the fit right – can take you straight from the office to the bar.
The most versatile takes are black with a few biker embellishments: asymmetric zip, yes; gang logo in studs on the back, probably not. “Invest in one or two power jackets that can be thrown on,” says stylist Alexis Knox. “You’ll look like you mean business even if you only had five minutes to get ready.”
Rule 2: Embrace Retro
Odds are Jared Leto came out of the womb with a flannel shirt tied around his waist. The grunge staple is having a moment, part of menswear’s embrace of all things 1990s, but when you’ve also got the slim jeans and rocker hairstyle (plus a platinum record on your wall) it adds a dose of authenticity.
He’s equally au fait with some of the decade’s other lost moves. Tie-dye? Hawaiian prints? Skater belts? Bumbags? It might seem like Leto’s rummaged through the Saved By The Bell wardrobe, but unlike Zac and co, he updates retro statements by grounding them with basics. “It keeps the aesthetic relaxed as well as considered,” says Knox.
Rule 3: Sportswear Is An Easy Wear
Whatever madness goes on up top, down below Leto’s likely got some variant of a slimline jogger. Smart move. Gym-wear is now every-wear, which means if you hit your fits and fabrics – tapered from thigh to ankle and thicker wool or cotton than you’d have worn to PE – they go anywhere you’d wear a chino, dressed up with a bomber or button-down and down with a tee or vest.
But even luxe versions still have athletics at heart, which means they need to end in something sporty. Joggers and boots is a naughties look that should stay there. Instead, Leto uses the monochrome look as a backdrop for statement kicks: everything from classic Onitsuka Tiger mid-tops to those frontman favourite, checkerboard Vans. Which turns a basic look up to 11.
Rule 4: Hair Is A Privilege, Not A Right
He’s bleached it, tied it, slicked it, and shorn it off entirely, but Leto’s signature cut is long and grungy, the follicular foil to everything from plaid shirts to a silk tux.
Counterintuitively, that I-just-woke-up-like-this feel only comes with some serious upkeep. “You can’t be lazy,” says hair stylist Jamie Stevens. “Condition. Men often miss it, but a good moisturising conditioner hydrates your hair and keeps away split ends.”
It’s also Leto’s fault/legacy (delete as applicable) that every long-haired man now sweeps his locks into a bun. But that can’t be a default when you’re late for work. “Don’t tie it up when it’s wet as it can create breakage,” says Stevens. Instead, dry it properly, then use oil to counter flyaways and finish with a light hairspray.
Rule 5: The Devil’s In The Detail
The red carpet rewards mediocrity. Since everyone’s dressed the same, wear a different shade of black, or a diamond-shaped bow tie, and suddenly you’re Steve McQueen. Into which creative wasteland steps Jared Leto, in a flower necktie and serpent slip-ons, a lavender dinner jacket, or even white tails, complete with a cane.
Leto used to break the dress code – scarlet suit with black leather gloves, anyone? Now, he flexes it.
His looks work because they subvert the red carpet rules – tuxedo, tie, slippers – but still nail the key tenets of colour and fit. “Men sometimes complain they don’t have as many styling options as women,” says Knox, “but the fun begins with the accessories. Make a statement with clever details – choose a quirky dress shoe, bow tie or cufflinks to show your individuality.”
Rule 6: Invest In Your Outerwear
The trilby and scarf aren’t advisable after 2007 [below, top left], but there’s a timeless style lesson to be learned here – invest in good outerwear. Over the years Leto has switched between double-breasted dusters, full-length wool overcoats, sporty bombers, even fur-lined parkas. But they work because he teams them with otherwise muted outfits.
It’s the perfect remedy for early mornings after the night before – put whatever you want underneath and head to the coffee shop. If you feel like mixing things up, add a scarf; a chunky knit will easily see you through the British winter, whereas silk adds life to a light trench when it’s warmer.
Rule 7: Pick A Statement, And Stick To It
A printed poncho is a brave move [below, top right]. With pink hair, aviator shades and garish printed trousers, it’s as suicidal as his squad. “Stick to one statement piece so you don’t look clownish,” says Knox. “You wear the clothes – the clothes don’t wear you.” Punchy pieces also need to be worn with attitude; a man who looks embarrassed by his poncho is a sad sight indeed.
The same goes for your hair. If you do dabble in pink locks, commit. Faded shades look like you chickened out. “Apply heat protection creams and sprays when you style with hot tools, as this will prevent evaporation of tone,” says Stevens. “Use a colour-protect shampoo and conditioner regularly too – they’ll ensure longevity.”
Rule 8: Divide And Conquer
The simplest way to make your tailoring pop? Split it up. Leto brings the Pitti-approved move to red carpets, grounding bright jackets – be that gold or more wearable cobalt blue – with black, slim-fit trousers.
Again, it’s hitting your marks that makes the statement piece work. The fits are slim but not skinny, the hems shorter but not cropped, and the embellishments are simple: a contrast pocket square or dusty boutonniere.