Classic Style Icons: 20th-Century Men

Some men just never go out of style and these 20th-century sartorial role models are still inspiring us in 2013.

Rudolph Valentino starred in hit silent films such as The Sheik and cemented his ‘Latin Lover’ persona with slicked back hair and crisp white shirts. One of pop culture’s earliest icons, the Italian actor’s dandyish clothes and effeminate allure were such a hit with the ladies that his death in 1926 at the age of 31 sparked mass hysteria.

Though considered one of the all-time Hollywood greats, Cary Grant was English born and bred. His style merged the tailoring of his homeland with the debonair glossiness of his new American surroundings. Though he flitted between frothy comedy and intense drama in his work, Grant remained loyal to his look: suits, shirts and ties for every occasion; chinos at an absolute push.

Jack Kerouac exuded macho intellect and dressed as if he had better things to worry about. Despite this, as the Beat Generation hero and author of On the Road partied his way across America, his look of simple sweatshirt, jeans, T-shirt and denim jacket exuded nothing less than laid-back, effortless cool.

An early blueprint for ‘geek chic’, Buddy Holly’s unassuming wardrobe of skinny ties, narrow tweed suits and chunky knitwear was always overshadowed by his blinding rock‘n’roll. When his plane went down in 1959 it was dubbed ‘the day the music died’ but his style has proven timeless. Accessories are key to the Holly look, notably his signature glasses.

The louche, moodily elegant musician who gave the world Je T’aime...Moi Non Plus had an enigmatic appeal that attracted such iconically beautiful women as Brigitte Bardot and Jane Birkin, above. His style had a rumpled charm - muted shirts and Parisian-standard trench coats - but his perennially present cigarette is perhaps best left in the past.

The undisputed greatest guitarist of all time only lived to see the first year of the decade but that was enough to set the sartorial benchmark. Like his playing, his attire was flamboyant, uninhibited and bohemian, mixing army jackets with paisley scarves, floppy hats and jewellery. Jimi Hendrix proved that testosterone and vivid colours aren’t mutually exclusive.

When Richard Gere kick-started the decade in an array of Armani suits and luxurious knits in a tasteful palette of beige and taupe in American Gigolo, you would never have predicted that society would shortly descend into a bleached-denim mess. Still, the actor soldiered on, eschewing pastels and pinstripes in favour of buttoned-up, immaculate tailoring.

While most stars spent the Nineties in ill-fitting suits or leather jackets, the rap world came into its own, both in popularity and style. Biggie Smalls and Tupac flew the flag for bling, but it was N.W.A.’s Eazy-E, with his Carhartt jeans, short-sleeved Dickies shirts and black Raiders cap, who quietly created a pared-back, wearable alternative to grunge.

by Hollie Moat