WORDS BY STEPHEN YU
Ask anyone for their list of the greatest men's style icons of all time and it’s likely you’ll hear names like Steve McQueen, Miles Davis, David Bowie and Jimi Hendrix come up more than once. And deservedly so. Many of the male fashion icons from the 20th century still look timeless and relevant today, whether we’re talking Cary Grant’s suiting, JFK’s preppy styling or David Hockney’s mismatched socks. But what can they teach us the era that gave us Japanese streetwear, limited-edition sneakers, and sans serif high-fashion brands? Nada.
In the same way we’ve swapped penny loafers and blazers for dad sneakers and bomber jackets, or how tailored trousers have made way for wide-legged track pants, we update our male style icons for the modern era. As we venture into the third decade of the 21st century, it’s time to take a look back at the sartorial role models who’ve influenced our style the most since the early noughties.
Tyler The Creator
From angst-ridden head honcho of OFWGKTA to award-winning musician, Tyler The Creator’s style is every bit as outspoken as his lyrics or his Grammy acceptance speeches. Though his style evolution has taken him from sidewalk surfing in Supreme to wearing Comme des Garçons on the front cover of magazines, Tyler’s very own Golf Le Fleur clothing takes on a distinct pastel preppy aesthetic. His most iconic looks of all time include rugby shirts, Teva’s and socks, loud camp collar shirts and vibrant suiting as his alter-ego Igor.
Easily the world’s best-dressed rockstar, John Mayer knows how to navigate the world of fashion just as well as he knows his way around the pentatonic guitar scale. Mayer deftly pieces together looks from the worlds of techwear, streetwear and Ura-Harajuku as swiftly as he plucks strings on his Fender strat, and it’s no wonder why when he counts Errolson Hugh of Acronym and Virgil Abloh among his closest friends. What defines Mayer’s style is his genre-fluid approach which sees him pulling off full Stone Island tracksuits just as easily as head-to-toe Visvim, or wearing vintage tie-dye Grateful Dead tees with camo pants. One thing is for sure though, he’s never without his bling whether it’s a custom Ben Baller piece around his neck or a #veryrare Audemars Piguet or Bamford Watch Department on his wrist.
Motofumi ‘Poggy’ Kogi
Motofumi Kogi or ‘POGGYTHEMAN’ as he’s known in the industry is the buyer and co-director of Japan’s legendary retailer United Arrows & sons, but gained notoriety after becoming a fashion week favourite of every street style photographer on the planet. Known for championing and breaking lesser-known Western brands in Japan, it’s clear in his dress sense that Poggy is a man who knows everything about fashion. His looks combine the best of Italian tailoring with British heritage brands and classic Americana. Those seeking to emulate his style should pair loafers or trainers with unstructured blazers and embrace loud patterns like florals, checks and camos. The finishing Poggyesque touch is a bold headwear piece like a beret or fedora from Lock & Co.
It’s impossible to define hip-hop’s enfant terrible Kanye West’s contribution to the world of fashion. What’s easier is to capture West’s style as a series of snapshots in time. First came the preppy ‘it ain’t Ralph though’ Polo bear addiction. Then there was the Alain Mikli shutter glasses, Lanvin suit, Moncler gilet and Common Projects stage. Collaborating with Louis Vuitton when Virgil couldn’t even get into the fashion shows, let alone produce them? Yeh, Yeezy did that. Ricardo Tisci designed sets on the ‘Watch The Throne’ tour. That Margiela mask. Wearing Celine on stage at Coachella. Designing the leather joggers when interning at Fendi. Rebranding Kim Kardashian. Launching Yeezy. Kanye is the GOAT. Nuff said.
When Alessandro Michele became creative director at Gucci in 2015, he altered the course of 21st-century fashion forever. After a decade of Phoebe Philo-inspired minimalism, Michele’s appointment at Gucci ushered in an era of maximalism. His approach is typified by his romantic sensibilities and love for textural richness, loud colour and glamour. Nowhere is this more evident than in the designer’s own flamboyant style. Self-described as ‘attic chic’, Alessandro and his army of followers are often seen in fake vintage style garments made with grandma-friendly velvets or embroidery. Challenging the very notions of masculinity with his gender-fluid aesthetic, Michele has made it not just okay, but totally cool for men to be seen wearing a babushka, jewels or pussy bowed shirting.
Dispelling the notion that all footballers are terribly dressed, Hector Bellerin is a shining light in a sea of tacky distressed denim and naff hair do’s. Not content to just be crunching into tackles as a right back for Arsenal, Hector has been volleying fire fits straight into the goal for Men’s Fashion Icons F.C. for some time now. First noticed wearing pyjamas and Gucci loafers to London Fashion Week, Bellerin’s style keeps getting better and better. Whether it’s tartan trousers and Balenciaga Triple S’s, or a JW Anderson designed plaid jacket, Hector knows how to pull off a trend. When he’s not in shin pads and shorts, Hector loves to wear a statement jacket and loosely tailored trousers or track pants, and we respect any man who has the balls to wear a bucket hat and tiny sunglasses on the stands at a football match too. Did we mention he walked for Louis Vuitton SS20?
From the nineties to the noughties, the world’s greatest beatmaker has also been one of its biggest male style icons too. Yes, best known as one half of the Neptunes or a vampire that doesn’t age (seriously Pharrell, what is your skincare regime?), Pharell Williams is a certified OG when it comes to the past decade’s most stylish males. As if wearing a trucker hat and growing a pornstar tash wasn’t cool enough already, Pharrell would go on to be one of the first Westerners to ever collaborate with Japanese streetwear legend NIGO (yes, that Nigo) to create his own brands - Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream. To this day, he still moves in the world of fashion as co-owner of G-Star Raw and one of Chanel’s only male muses. Pharrell’s signature look? That Vivienne Westwood hat and Adidas track top, but you can just as often see him in a short suit with brogues or Timbs.