With so many films today dominated by muscle-bound men (and women) wearing their underwear on the outside, we thought we’d look back at some of the fashion-forward flicks that had the most influence on men’s style, rather than just our fantasies.
The Hollywood machine churns out more movies each year than we could ever hope to watch, but every now and then it puts out a film of truly gargantuan sartorial significance, the kind of film where the male protagonist cuts such a fine figure that he inadvertently sways men’s fashion for year’s to come. Here are some of our favourites fashion-forward flicks.
The Gentlemen (2019)
While the world took a nosedive into the global pandemic, Guy Richie was going what he does best – London gangster films that are as big on sartorial sophistication as they are on bang bang goodness. The Gentlemen, staring, among others, Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam, Henry Golding, Michelle Dockery, Jeremy Strong, Eddie Marsen, Colin Farrell and a surprisingly likeable Huge Grant, is a fashion powerhouse, with wardrobes ranging from McConaughey’s bespoke cashmere suits (which he kept afterward) and Hunnam’s casual-chic housecoats and vests, through to Farrell’s eye-catching yet still appealing leisure suits.
There’s a brilliant balance between old and new worlds so expect plenty of Barbour, Dunhill, and Belstaff, including quilted jackets, knitted ties, tweedy waistcoats, chunky knits and bespoke boots to die for.
Runner Runner (2013)
This film stars Justin Timberlake as Richie Furst, a university student who, swindled out of his tuition by an online gambling scam, heads to Puerto Rico to exact revenge on Ben Affleck’s online casino overlord character. So what did it take to make cheesy dialogue, average acting, and the matronly British Embassy attaché from 2008 Bond flick Quantum of Solace look sexy? A heavy dose of Ermenegildo Zegna with a lashing of Tom Ford – basically, enough fashion pizzaz to drown out Ben Affleck’s tin man-esque performance. You can’t go wrong with hot Latina chicks, smooth Afro-Caribbean beats, and JT cruising around Puerto Rico in some seriously fly suits.
Quantum of Solace (2008)
You could basically pick any of the Bond flicks for a list of the most fashion-forward cinematic outings (well, almost). After all, the whole oeuvre is premised on the idea of a suave, debonair man who looks good in a suit (that’s how he gets all those genetically blessed Bond girls, right?) Though Bond’s wardrobe is usually full of crisp, well-tailored suits from the likes of Turnbull & Asser and Brioni, what makes Quantum of Solace a standout is the fresh touch given to 007’s timeless, classic style by a cutting-edge designer. From the midnight blue tuxedos to rather avant-garde windbreakers and military jackets, Tom Ford has given Her Majesty’s finest a sexy, modern twist that may just be within reach of us mere mortals.
Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels (1998)
The first feature film for Guy Richie (who is rarely seen without his Alfred Dunhill cashmere coat) put British gangster couture on the map. All those heavy overcoats, sharp suits, and swaggering criminals caught male audiences with their mouths open – muppets. While the reality on the mean streets of London is quite different, the film portrayed men who cared how they looked, wanted to be respected, wanted to make their mark, and was subsequently emulated through several homage spins offs.
Slow-moving and thoughtful, this stylish sci-fi broke the genre’s conventions with a mono-tone movement that captured the essence of an era. By employing timeless space race-era formality, audiences could not only identify with the characters of Ethan Hawke and Jude Law, one a would-be astronaut, the other a broken alcoholic, but also allowed the film’s narrative to be less about the future, rockets and little green men, and more about yearning and passion. A who done it-space race hybrid, the film is packed with crisp white shirts, fitted black suits, and the elegant minimalism that made shows like Mad Men instant hits among savvy gents. Just because you’re going to outer space doesn’t mean you can’t look good in the process.
The cinema has never seen a better rendering of the sartorial statement that is ‘heroin chic’ than in Danny Boyle’s landmark film. Six skinny, Scottish guys carousing about in fake black leather, cheap polyester, and torn jeans is certainly a look, albeit not one we necessarily recommend emulating – unless you happen to be a skinny Scottish guy in 1980s Edinburgh. Ewan McGregor and his merry band of “neds” (which apparently is a contraction of the phrase ‘non-educated delinquent’) certainly cut a strong silhouette, but let’s be very clear about one thing – the clothes here speak to a style, not fashion, so tread carefully.
Ocean’s 11 (1960)
At some point in the 2001 version of the film, we all took a moment to appreciate its sartorial elegance and the dapper figures cut by George Clooney, Brad Pitt and their smooth criminal cohorts. But to really appreciate the fashion of this heist flick, you have to go back to the original. Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and the rest of the Rat Pack already had serious fashion cred by the time Ocean’s 11 came out, and the film riffed their iconic style, which was heavy on mohair and sharkskin. Note to all the less-than-statuesque gents out there: the narrow lapels, high-banded shirts, one-inch ties, and low-button stances (many of which came from LA tailor Sy Devore) were all designed to make Ol’ Blue Eyes and his cronies look a little taller.
North by Northwest (1959)
Hitchcock was known for dressing his icy blonde leading ladies in costumes that added subtext to on-screen happenings, but watch enough of his films and it becomes clear that his leading men weren’t shafted by the wardrobe department either. To wit, Cary Grant’s impeccably cut grey suit in this flick, which some argue is the most legendary in American cinema (it’s certainly been reprised in films like Collateral and Paycheck). Crafted by Kilgour, a storied Savile Row tailor with 124 years experience, the three-button suit with roll-over laps and no vents in the back is given a workout through the whole frenetic film, and has left an indelible mark in cinematic costumery.
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