Nobody likes a one-trick pony. But if that one trick happens to be a kick-ass styling move that – no matter how many times it’s rolled out – never fails to impress, we’re willing to make an exception.
When it comes to dressing well, some things just work. Always. But figuring those things out often involves a lot of trial (and a lot of error).
To save you the tedium and embarrassment, and fast-track the development of your personal style in the process, here are 11 surprising lessons from the world’s best-dressed men.
The Master: Jeff Goldblum
The Lesson: Age Means Appropriate, Not Boring
Most overused catchphrases, like most overused style rules, are more often than not complete and utter BS. Jeff Goldblum’s style, however, is proof that age is, indeed, just a number.
The man is knee-deep in his sixth decade of life and yet manages to scrub up better than most guys in their twenties or thirties could ever hope to. Sure, we’re dubious of his improbably thick head of hair, and he no doubt sports made-to-measure gnashers, but what separates Goldblum from his peers is not his combination of good fortune and finances, it’s his understanding of how to remain contemporary without verging on cringe.
Whereas most men post 40 gravitate exclusively towards sensible togs (fleece, thermal underwear and chiropodist-approved shoes), Goldblum still reaches for well-fitting black leather jackets, slim-fit jeans and glasses so stylish they make 20/20 vision seem like a mild inconvenience.
By swerving dressing like he’s given up on life, while also not chasing trends, Goldblum always looks well put-together. When we grow up, we want to be Jeff Goldblum.
The Master: Oliver Cheshire
The Lesson: Casual Can Still Be Sharp
There’s no denying it, Oliver Cheshire can wear the heck out of a suit. But given the fact he’s one of the world’s top male models and a stalwart of London’s menswear scene, that’s hardly brick-through-a-window shocking.
Much more interesting (and useful for us regular folk) is his casual wardrobe, which takes a roster of dressed-down essentials and sharpens them up so much, you’ll barely recognise them.
Be it a louche Cuban collar shirt tucked into neatly-cut trousers, logo sportswear mashed up with tailoring or light wash jeans worn in the least lazy way possible, he has an uncanny ability to force everyone around him to reconsider everything they thought they knew about off-duty dressing.
We could go on, but the point is that just because you’re not suited and booted, it doesn’t follow that you can’t look sharp. With the right checks and balances in place, there’s virtually no item of clothing that can’t be given the upscale treatment, just ask Cheshire.
The Master: Donald Glover
The Lesson: Try Tailoring That’s Not Tiresome
The fact that we’re in permanent slack-jawed awe at Donald Glover’s artistic achievements means it’s hard to be completely impartial when it comes to his style, but on balance nobody sane can argue with the man’s tailoring game.
If you struggle to recall seeing Glover in a run-of-the-mill dinner suit, that’s because you probably haven’t. A quick Google search will confirm that the incriminating evidence barely exists.
Come awards season, on the rare occasions he isn’t decked out in colourful tailoring, it’s almost a given that bold texture will be doing the talking, with velvet and corduroy the most likely culprits.
The only thing we can all be sure of when it comes to the artist formerly known as Childish Gambino is that his tailoring will never be lifeless – something worth keeping in mind before submerging yourself in a borrowed tux for your next black tie event.
The Master: Zayn Malik
The Lesson: Used Judiciously, Print Is Powerful
Zayn Malik is one of life’s one percenters. We mean that in both monetary terms and also in regards to his knack for making the potentially ridiculous look annoyingly cool.
Since none of us are actually Zayn Malik, the ex-Directioner’s more batshit styling moves (robot arms and green hair, anyone?) are best left in the hands of the man himself, but his careful use of pattern is something that’s safe enough for the average Joe.
Contrary to popular belief, not all patterns are on a mission to mercilessly sabotage your look. If anything, when used judiciously, a stripe or floral print can seriously up your style stock.
Follow the Malik method and stick to one attention-seeking item, leaving the rest of your look pared-back. For example, try slotting a patterned shirt under a simple jacket, or wearing a printed bomber over monochrome basics. The result will be hard proof that pattern is a menswear power move, if ever it was needed.
The Master: Timothée Chalamet
The Lesson: Your Younger Years Are For Experimenting
There are two schools of thought on the subject of experimenting with style in your youth. The first assumes that everything you try will be a cringingly bad dumpster fire of a disaster – ergo it’s best to play it safe. The second takes human form in Timothée Chalamet and dictates that you’re more likely to pull off potentially tricky items while young.
It would be easy for Chalamet to spend his time looking good (but unremarkable) in a rotation of different black and navy suits, but that’s simply not his vibe. Just as we’d encourage any man scarcely out of his teens to do, the Call Me by Your Name breakout star puts anything he thinks he can do justice on his back – and most of the time it works.
Colourful tailoring? He’s tried out a whole paint chart’s worth of the stuff. Air tie on the red carpet? Nobody’s neck has ever looked so free. Velvet, suede, corduroy? Done, done and done.
The lesson here is simple: sometimes in life, you’ve got to take a chance.
The Master: Ryan Gosling
The Lesson: Find Something That Suits You (And Stick To It)
Nobody could pull Ryan Gosling up on his eye for style and what works for him. His ear for macabre folk music however (seriously, YouTube ‘Dead Man’s Bones’), well, that’s a very different story entirely.
From season to season, Mr Eva Mendes is never without a sartorial calling card. Whether it’s bombers in every colour and texture imaginable, his obsession with cosy, patterned knitwear, or a pair of Clubmaster sunglasses, each is picked for its ability to slot in seamlessly with an existing rotation.
When selecting a ‘uniform’, be it for a season or a century, the key is to take into account how you like to dress, your lifestyle and your budget.
A Zuckerberg-style selection of grey tees won’t cost the earth, but if most of your business takes place in a boardroom, it’s just not that practical. Similarly, if Tom Ford is #WardrobeGoals and you’re a personal trainer, those fancy suits may rarely see the light of day and will leave you with less money to stock up on an unfeasibly large amount of protein.
The Master: Johannes Huebl
The Lesson: Shop According To Your Shade
There are pros and cons to being one-half of one of the world’s best-dressed couples. On the one hand, you can smile smugly in the satisfaction you’ve got something that hands-down beats a Rolex or Patek on your arm; on the other, your style runs the constant risk of being upstaged.
Luckily, German model Johannes Huebl is more than a match for wife Olivia Palermo. This is because behind that whole effortless shtick is a solid understanding of how subtle variations in clothing colour can make or break a seemingly simple look.
There’s a science to pulling together menswear magic from pared-back pieces. Huebl’s medium/olive skin tone means that colours that sit on the fence run the risk of making him look semi-naked from a distance. Hence why, in addition to a hefty smattering of blue, he often opts for stark whites and dark tobacco shades rather than cream or beige.
The takeaway? Take stock of where your largest organ lies on the colour chart and make sure that you’re stocking your wardrobe accordingly.
The Master: Kanye West
The Lesson: Learn To Love Layering
Kanye West may (still) claim that he’s being intentionally locked out of the fashion game, but Yeezy was welcomed into the menswear fold long ago on account of his unquestionable layering game.
Whereas most mere mortals pile on the clothes to keep warm, West has used the technique to create a style all of his own known as ‘reverse layering’.
Though his oft-papped outfits capitalise on a unique brand of ‘that shouldn’t work, but it does’ styling wizardry, you needn’t be so outré. Start with the basics: focus on simple, lightweight garments and layer your look piece by piece, upping the weight of your fabrics as you go.
The great thing about savvy layering is it allows you to wear the hell out of what’s already in your wardrobe without raising eyebrows (or suspicions around your personal hygiene), and each layered look is a different combination from the next. Just don’t overdo it – even the walking Jesus complex himself couldn’t make some misguided style pairings happen.
The Master: Harry Styles
The Lesson: Take Your Tailoring Downtown
Back when he was best known for a Crufts-winning barnet and a wardrobe of hand-me-downs from the set of Glee, nobody could have predicted that Harry Styles would be schooling the world’s male population on epic suit wearing.
Now out of the clutches of ‘the man’ and doing his own thing, Styles has discovered a whole raft of ways to do more in the tailoring department.
Sure, he’s probably helped out by rails full of freshly steamed suits to choose from, but even at his tender age he knows exactly what he’s doing with all of those fine threads.
Take a leaf out of the crooner’s book by retiring the safe navy and grey two-pieces in favour of something more contemporary in a pastel shade or all-over pattern. Then just slip into some loafers or Chelsea boots, and you’re done.
The Master: David Gandy
The Lesson: Double-Breasted Isn’t Just For Beanpoles
No matter what he wears (or doesn’t wear, as is the case in some of his ads), David Gandy’s style flex is invariably strong. Much like his cheddar-grating facial features. More to the point, he’s a well-built man who knows how to dress for his frame.
Measuring six-foot-three-inches, with a chiselled 40-inch chest, Gandy is best described as athletic, but he doesn’t let that shoehorn him into a series of dressed-down sweats.
We’re going to let you in on a little secret that he no doubt learn from countless hours on set: the double-breasted blazer is a lot more democratic than it’s given credit for.
Forget what you thought you knew about the DB being boxy and unforgiving, and instead acquaint yourself with modern, shorter takes on this suiting stalwart. And then take it to your tailor. Gandy’s good, but – as his suiting proves – he’s never too good for a nip and tuck.
The Master: Tinie Tempah
The Lesson: Tailoring Shouldn’t Be Cut From the Same Cloth
If we had a nickel for every time we’d clocked a celebrity in a navy suit, well, we’d have celebrity bank balances. And while it’s a hard-to-falter look, Tinie Tempah isn’t afraid to switch it up to keep things fresh.
Of course, when the occasion calls for it, he’ll go traditional. But, it’s his willingness to swim against the tide of tiresome tailoring that makes him the yardstick for how to nail the suit in all of its forms.
If the only time you’ve tried your hand at light-coloured tailoring was at a summer wedding, take note of Tinie’s flawless track record of all-white outings.
Given the proper treatment (go for a darker cream colour if your skin tone is lighter, and opt for a pale grey or blue blazer if you don’t want to go the whole hog) suits and separates in lighter hues make headlines for the right reasons.