The theory goes something like this: Men aren’t like women. We don’t like to experiment with our clothing. We’re happiest in a uniform, blah, blah, blah… For the most part, if we’re honest, it’s a pretty good theory. At FashionBeans, we’re no strangers to the more outré aspects of menswear, and not wanting to look like a complete tosser is an entirely reasonable concern which we very much share.
The downside to playing it safe though is having all the impact of a Nerf gun when you walk into a room. Sure, your navy basics are ridicule-proof, but will they get you noticed in a line-up of identically dressed men? Hint: unless you look like Ryan Reynolds, it’s a nah.
Fighting back against boring menswear are a small squadron of maverick menswear dressers who flip the V at minimalism in favour of outfits which are more running the show than run of the mill. We’re not suggesting that you carbon copy some of the list’s bolder looks for your next supermarket milk run, rather we’re suggesting that you sit up and take notice of the style lessons that each of these sartorial free spirits offers. Be a shepherd not a sheep.
Key Lesson: Confidence Is Key
Alongside the unlikely duo of Lewis Hamilton and Neymar Jr, Jared Leto is pretty much guaranteed to get menswear commentators frothing at the mouth whatever he steps out wearing. In fairness, it’s not hard to see why. Leto seemingly has no concept of sartorial rules, or if he does then he goes out of his way to break them. There is seemingly nothing that this man deems too out-there to put on his back. He is menswear’s answer to Lady Gaga.
However, what Leto does have in spades is confidence – you’ve got to be pretty ballsy to continually disrupt the sea of identikit black tuxedos at awards season in eyebrow-shifting suits. Probably one of the only men brave enough to take Gucci prints off the catwalk and go even bolder IRL, shy and retiring he is not. Leto’s not one for being pigeonholed either: embroidery, a skittles packet full of rainbow colours, rock star vibes, elvin chic and 1970s swag – you’ll find them all in one look if your eyes can dart around quick enough.
It’s not something you’ll want to try verbatim at your local on a Saturday night, but Leto’s assuredness means that no matter what he wears all eyes are on him. Take your cue from him by having the sartorial initiative to draw different inspirations from a variety of places. Try on things you already own that you think clash. Know that sometimes the boldest prints, colours and designs can be carried off by those who have enough conviction in what they’re wearing. In some cases, even the most unpredictable combinations might just draw appreciative glances too. And if they don’t, fuck it. Let the haters hate.
Key Lesson: Mix And Match
Pharrell’s frankly baffling inability to age defies all logic, and so too does his ability to mix-and-match fabric, colour, print and style without looking like a clown. An expert in putting together things that shouldn’t work but do, the Benjamin Button of the music world shows that menswear isn’t a science but an art.
Brand stylist Paul Higgins, who has worked for like likes of Aquascutum, Reiss, Hardy Amies and Kilgour, says: “Pharrell is a master of fusing trends and styles. Mixing avant-garde with streetwear and not scared of a Savile Row suit either, his ability to group together looks is exceptional.”
How can you get a bit of the Pharrell swag for your own wardrobe without looking like you’ve gone on a smash and grab in a charity shop? It’s all about making sure you’re getting inspired by a range of menswear sources. Higgins says: “Pharrell often goes back to his love of military and denim but also puts his mark on key items (such as that Vivienne Westwood hat) and Adidas tracksuits, sometimes worn as one outfit. Cuban collar shirts have been at the forefront of his wardrobe recently but they’re worn with vintage denim and nautical sailor’s caps.” It’s genre-hopping menswear greatness basically.
Key Lesson: Layer Like A Player
If you think you’re a layering pro because you’ve mastered the art of wearing a scarf and coat over a jumper, let us paraphrase Kanye: “I’m really happy for you, I’ma let you finish, but Kanye had one of the best layering games of all time.”
When he’s not busy disrupting acceptance speeches, West is quietly disrupting the menswear status quo and has become the only man you need to consult if you’re thinking of rocking oversized or longline layers. Helpfully, you don’t have to have an ego the size of Mount Kilimanjaro to pull his unorthodox approach to layering off.
On paper, lots of Kanye’s moves sound pretty outlandish. Take, for example, his oversized shorts and T-shirts worn with leggings and lace-up boots. In all black, it actually, seriously works. Forget your torso ending at your, well, torso too. West is all about dropped hems contrasting against hems that are higher than they should be, sleeves over sleeves, and rips revealing (you guessed it) more layers.
Whether it’s (very) boxy jackets or tactical rips in his clothes, everything is grounded by a neutral colour palette. Do try this at home.
Key Lesson: Create A Uniform
Mark Zuckerberg! The epitome of meritless normcore you say? A man who knows his own mind, we say. The Facebook CEO is a man who (at last count) boasts a net worth of $74 billion, so clearly the man’s not short of a bob or two for some new threads or a trendier haircut. He might look like you’re average overgrown college student, but Zuckerberg knows exactly what he’s doing.
Clothes don’t maketh the man, they maketh the man more efficient, says Higgins. “There’s a simple reason why Zuckerberg wears the same items day in day out. He knows what he likes and can focus on making more millions without worrying about what to wear. The signature grey tee, denims, hoodies and Nikes show he doesn’t need that power suit to show power.”
He might not look like a menswear influencer, but consider the way office dress codes are loosening. That’s in no small part down to CEOs like him. If you’ve worn sneakers to work or a tee under your suit, then Zuckerberg has, however indirectly, influenced your wardrobe.
You don’t need to be a hot-shot Silicon Valley CEO to benefit from crafting a uniform though. “I’m slightly jealous of Zuckerberg’s get up and no worries approach, but I adopt it when I travel,” says Higgins. “I pack what I need but my options are massively cut from when normally at home so I have less worries when getting ready.” Ergo if you’re constantly time short, shave a few minutes off your daily routine by finding what works for you and sticking to it.
Zuckerberg’s fall-back trio (T-shirt, trainers, jeans) may leave you face palming every time he steps out on stage, but it only needs a couple of tweaks to be truly stylish. Find a T-shirt that gently follows your shape, go for jeans which stop at your ankles not your heels, and make sure your trainers are more Common Projects than standard issue. You’ll basically be Zuckerberg 2.0 without the massive fortune and tech company. Close enough?
Key Lesson: Play With Proportions
The menswear world’s gone blue in the face from preaching the virtues of giving skinny clothes the swerve. Enough talking, time to bring in the big guns. Enter model and influencer Richard Biedul, whose face has become a familiar fixture at Fashion Week and in campaigns for brands such as Edward Sexton, Reiss and River Island. He’s taken it upon himself to improve the prospects of men’s fashion going wide.
Bucking the widely adopted consensus that skinny = superior, Biedul’s preferred silhouettes riff on 1970s classics and are a world away from the spray-on skinnies that many men refuse to peel themselves out of. Stylist and menswear creative Nas Abraham, who has worked with the likes of Barbour and Gap says: “I admire Richard’s ability to look comfortable in everything he wears, from a vibrantly coloured oversized suit, to wide-leg trousers paired with a vest and red neckerchief. He often sports a cashmere beanie with his tailored outfits, which along with a wider silhouette has become a signature look of his.”
What Biedul does well is to go for relaxed suiting that has been cut to his shape – something you’d do well to emulate. Make sure you get your suit tailored when going wide, as oversized proportions look hopelessly amateur if they’re not bang on the money for your body.
Styling-wise, follow Biedul’s lead: loose tailoring demands a dressing down – think T-shirts, trainers and fine-gauge knits. Avoid excessive formality like the plague, unless you’re auditioning for the inevitable Bugsy Malone remake.
Key Lesson: Experimenting Is Essential
Nobody could accuse Jaden Smith of failing to think outside the box. And while his views on philosophy and theoretical physics (yes, really) may be unwarranted, his less faux-cerebral creativity (i.e. what he wears) is a lot easier to get on board with. Smith experiments, experiments and experiments some more, so you’re never sure which Jaden you’re going to get. This inability to be tied to one style tribe means that Jaden gets to rock more looks than your average man and is never predictable.
Abraham says: “As the child of a man who sported cropped basketball jerseys back in the 1980s, Jaden was born to be a maverick.” Smith is not defined by a look, and he’s not averse to blurring gender boundaries either – so millennial. “His style is often criticised, but you’ve got to at least appreciate the boldness to confidently rock a skirt with a pair of Jordans; it actually ended up landing him a campaign for Louis Vuitton’s womenswear.”
In today’s world of restless consumption, novelty is king-making currency when it comes to personal style. Nobody’s going to get excited by your basic basics anymore. If you want to get some of Smith’s unpredictable swag, don’t put yourself in a box. Break the style rut by experimenting with broad style tribes, find out which handful work for you and flit between them.
You may be a minimalist T-shirt, jeans and boots kind of guy, but that’s not to say you can’t wear penny loafers, chinos and a cable knit the next day. Expand your horizons and you’ll become a shape-shifting menswear enigma.
Key Lesson: Make A Knockout Statement
There are mavericks and then there’s Conor McGregor, who can probably claim to be the least boring man on the planet. The MMA fighter and boxer is now probably just as well known for his outlandish clobber as he is for clobbering his opponents, while his love of fur, bling and labels makes P. Diddy look like Mary Berry. If the phrase I.D.G.A.F could be distilled into one loud-mouthed Irishman’s dress sense, it’d be McGregor’s.
The appeal of The Notorious’ style isn’t obvious: it’s brash and flies in the face of all good logic, but there’s something oddly appealing about McGregor’s ability to not take himself too seriously and make a statement. Celebrity stylist Phill Tarling, who has dressed the likes of Tom Hardy, says: “Conor McGregor has certainly matched his outspoken personality with his personal sense of style. And if you fall in line with the loud and proud ethos, ensure that your fashion credentials follow suit.”
What makes McGregor’s style so maverick is his sartorial mash-up of genres. One-part traditional (he loves a suit, tie and braces) and one-part Mad Hatter (pink and blue plaid is just the tip of a psychedelic iceberg), his ability to turn a style associated with heritage on its head chimes with the gentleman gangster persona he’s going for.
McGregor’s statement-making approach to dressing is the sartorial equivalent of ‘does what it says on the tin’, and his swaggering persona wouldn’t be half as credible if he was trash-talking in a nice tasteful jumper and jeans combo. For your ‘personal brand’ sometimes it pays to make a statement.
Key Lesson: Suits Don’t Have To Be Stiff
Despite the fact he’s pretty much always in a suit, Mark Ronson doesn’t scream suit wearer in the way your average Apprentice candidate does, and that’s the beauty of Ronson’s tailoring. Yes they’re technically still suits, but they’re about as far as possible from boardroom wanker as you’re likely to get.
Higgins says: “This man knows how to wear a suit, but not in your conventional nine-to-five Canary Wharf way, and he’s never scared to play around with silhouettes or shapes.”
Crucially, Ronson knows when a certain style of suit gets stale and quickly hotfoots it on to the new way to wear. Higgins continues: “When everyone else was reaching for skinny suits and small lapels, Ronson was walking the red carpet in 1950s-style, double-breasted designs worn with pristine white T-shirts. He was also one of the first to wear the classic Stan Smith trainer with a suit.”
Ronson doesn’t just get all experimental with his styling though, he’s a master of switching up the suit itself too. No stranger to the charms of a wider-than-average silhouette, Ronson keeps things fresh by ensuring that there’s always at least one thing unexpected about his tailored looks. Follow suit (ahem) by embracing tailoring which explores colour, texture, pattern and oversized shapes.
Key Lesson: Age Is Just A Number
If you’ve logged onto the internet and typed “men’s fashion” into Google, we’d bet everything we own that you’ve seen street style legend Nick Wooster. Like Father Christmas if he got all fashion, Wooster’s flying the flag for men of a certain age who don’t want to retreat into crap fleeces and chinos they’ve had for the best part of a decade.
Tarling says: “Nick Wooster has inspirational style and swagger, he knows what suits him and wears his sense of style with confidence. To tap into your inner dandy the next time you’re buying clothes, think about making a more diverse choice, don’t fall back on the same old choices.”
There is no better example of a man who refuses to fade into beige than Wooster, who’s most likely to be seen in floral print, bomber jackets, cropped trousers and sneakers. It’s hardly your bog-standard mid-life comfortwear.
Sure, when you’re approaching your sixties and you’re one of the best-regarded voices in American menswear, you’ve got more licence to whip out a camo short suit, however Wooster’s refusal to lay down and die a sartorial death is something many men could learn from. Try a bit of colour and pattern once in a while and aim for the sweet centre spot between Nick Wooster and Jeremy Clarkson.