Photographs from IMDb
Style Style Profile

Essential style notes from 4 iconoclasts of cool

With their innate sense of swag, they have hollowed out a venerable niche in the world of popular culture. We break down the little details that made them paragons of contemporary style
Barry Viloria | Oct 09 2018

Steve McQueen

McQueen was the King of Cool, an actor and racing enthusiast who lived in his jeans and was known for doing his own stunts in thrillers like The Great Escape and Bullitt. He also starred in the original version of The Getaway, where he met his second wife, the actress Ali McGraw. Lean, crease-faced, and frequently photographed with a cigarette dangling between his lips, McQueen epitomized the Hollywood outlier. He was also well known for the women he dated and married. His first wife Neile Adams spoke openly about his philandering while they were married. Ten months before he died of lung cancer at the age of 50, he married model Barbara Minty.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

Style notes: It wasn’t just his long and lean physique that made dressing up or down look easy for McQueen. His lifestyle as a race car driver and an overall hot property in Hollywood helped patent different looks that spanned a wide fashion spectrum and stood the test of time. He donned the traditional gray three-piece suit, American style and with a pocket watch dangling for his “executive” look. He covered his turtleneck sweaters with tweed blazers, made iconic via Bullitt and something modern men like John Travolta, Tom Cruise, and Daniel Craig would emulate many decades later. He wore denim on denim before it became popular again from 2014 onwards. The trick: wearing a classic Levi’s 501 one shade lighter than his denim shirt or jacket and rolling the hem of his pants before slipping them into boots. He wore the shirt and pants with sneakers or boots, the motorcycle driver’s casual combo that would resurface when normcore fashion became popular in recent years. McQueen had simple accessories that were statements in themselves. Such is his popularity that, even though he wore a Rolex Submariner, the Rolex

Explorer II ref. 1655 came to be known as the “Steve McQueen watch,” which was mistakenly identified as his, perhaps because of its racer style flair. Nonetheless, the name has stuck and the watch has become a collectible item. Barbour paid tribute to McQueen’s rider fashion through a collection of shirts and jackets, and Persol still carries the 714, the foldable glasses the actor wore in The Thomas Crown Affair.


David Bowie

Ziggy Stardust. The Thin White Duke. Major Tom. They were three of David Bowie’s defining personas, each coinciding with key points in an incredible music career that spanned five decades. They also sealed his reputation as a style shape-shifter; a move Madonna would later co-opt with her many reinventions. Bowie defined entire musical genres like glam rock, influenced industrial rock, and provided a touchstone for grunge. He was just as fluid in his personal life; his rumored dalliances included Mick Jagger and Susan Sarandon. Bowie was married twice, the first to Angie Barnett for 10 years, and then to model Iman for 24 years until his death of liver cancer in January 2016.

Style notes: Pick an era, any era and David Bowie would have a look to represent that time. Bowie’s eccentric looks follow a very Brit tradition, albeit more out there than usual to attract a good chunk of the feminine market and a slice of the art industry. His 1970s Ziggy Stardust persona saw Bowie in spiky flaming hair, flamboyant colors and patterns, and tight and revealing silhouettes. The Freddie Burretticrafted suits he wore for that image would inspire Gucci and Balmain in some of their catwalk shows in recent years. Even storied fashion magazine Vogue paid tribute to this image, with supermodel Kate Moss sporting a lightning mark on her face on the May 2003 cover. As the Thin White Duke, which coincided with his 1976 album Station to Station, Bowie ditched color for crisp white shirts, high-waisted pants, and slicked back hair. Saint Laurent and Dries Van Noten used this style as a reference for some of their runway shows, long before his death. In the 1990s, he mixed up his look, with shoulder-padded jackets, shirts in striking colors and patterns, and loose trousers.

The age-old Victoria and Albert Museum even held “David Bowie is” in mid-2013, an exhibit in honor of his contributions to fashion, art, and music. Upon Bowie’s death, fashion brands and designers like Marc Jacobs, Vera Wang, Diesel, and Superdry mourned the death of their “inspiration” on their social media accounts. His outrageous character and mystique helped mold a fashion statement never to be copied by any (male) musician.


Pete Doherty

It feels like a nasty cosmic giggle – Kate Moss, purveyor of the look that screamed heroin chic in the 1990s, dating Pete Doherty, an actual heroin addict. The Libertines’ charismatic frontman was in a troubled relationship with the model from 2005 to 2007. It was a shame that his shenanigans—trips to the rehab, imprisonment, and complaints of theft—took more headline space than the band he was in. The New Musical Express called the Libertines “one of the most exciting, chaotic rock’n’roll groups of the past 20 years,” adding that they remain as relevant as ever today. When Doherty left the band in 2004, he formed Baby shambles. He has since released solo albums and formed a new band the Puta Madres in November 2016.

Style notes: A master of layering, debauched angel looking Doherty keeps a rather formulaic style. On one hand, he likes to keep his British sensibilities intact: slim jackets, decent dress shirts, tailor-fit slacks or dark denim, and loafers or suede boots. On the other, he communicates his rock star persona through casual injections: a fedora, a scarf, some bling, and, of course, his perfectly disheveled hair. A tortured poet, Doherty can also pull off a three-piece suit that he wears to black-tie events. It’s only recently that brands and fashion personalities have tapped his fashion expertise—like how Topshop previously recruited Moss. British street wear brand Gio-Goi launched a collection in his name; French company The Kooples unveiled another, catering to both men and women; photographer and former Yves Saint Laurent and Dior Homme creative director Hedi Slimane even put up a photo gallery of his “muses,” including the musician.


Brad Pitt

Brad Pitt is better known these days for his split with Angelina Jolie, a move that shocked the world. Brangelina was seen as Hollywood’s Golden Couple, do-gooders raising a multiethnic family, a mix of six adopted and biological children. Pitt and Jolie, who were first romantically linked in 2004 following their movie Mr. & Mrs. Smith, married in 2014. Two years later, the couple parted ways. As an actor, Pitt is known for his versatility, likeability, good looks, and his bro banter with George Clooney. He has been nominated multiple times by every award-giving body on the planet. His new movie, Allied, also stars Marion Cotillard.

Eva Rinaldi

Style notes: With a quintessential matinee idol face and an athletic build, Pitt found no difficulty in pulling off various style statements—and haircuts— across evolving times. Always an anticipated scene stealer at the red carpet, the actor wore American or British suits in gray, blue, or navy, with or without a waistcoat. He shut his shirts with a tie or left it with the first few holes unbuttoned or with a scarf wrapped around. He also surprised people at formal events with informal injections including his signature aviators, leather jackets, and dirtied boots. Next to his suits and tux, however, The Fight Club star is also remembered for his off-duty, airport look that encapsulates boho chic at its best. He would wear thin, body-fitting shirts in Japanese designer silhouettes and earth tones (he had modeling and ambassadorship stints with Japanese jeans brand EDWIN.). He has effortlessly sported a beard, gone clean-shaven, went long-locked, and pulled off a buzz cut. The world has witnessed his generally scruffy style in various magazine covers for GQ, Vanity Fair, and Rolling Stone.


This story first appeared in Vault Magazine Issue No. 21 2016-2017