Considering their day job is to keep guys’ wardrobes up to date with stylish must-have pieces, it’s peculiar how many menswear designers default to a jeans-and-sweats uniform that seems more suited to reinvigorating the garage than the zeitgeist. Of course, you could argue that when you’re helming a worldwide label, the creativity exerted on your wardrobe is better spent reinventing everyone else’s. But as the men below prove, you can boss your own swag without lessening what you send down the runway.
It’s arguably an unfair advantage in the style stakes when a) your dad is one of British menswear’s most decorated names; b) you run one of menswear’s most innovative fashion labels with him; oh, and c) he blessed you with the kind of genetics that also landed you a modelling contract. Still, kudos to Charlie Casely-Hayford for turning his dealt hand into a style that embodies what his eponymous brand does best: sportswear reimagined by some liquored-up Savile Row exile. Think cropped slim-fit suits worn with military boots, roomy colour-blocked outerwear and, sure, just good old sweats and sneakers. Regularly featuring in our annual world’s best-dressed men list and moonlighting as a stylist who has dressed the likes of Sam Smith, Nas and The XX, he’s a lesson in the benefits of knowing your body and its best fit, then understanding the power of less.
You don’t get seated next to Kanye at fashion week without making some serious heat. And Virgil Abloh’s label Off-White is hot enough to scald. The American designer’s high-end streetwear is collecting famous fans like football stickers, courtesy of pieces that are both distinctive and wearable. Abloh’s own look is like a living mood board of where streetwear’s at now – think box-logo hoodies and T-shirts, and the latest must-cop kicks. Ideally finished with his own signature outerwear. Though his own designs are part of the breathless hype cycle, his look is streetwear as it once was: comfortable, distinctive, but without being ostentatious.
It’s easy to wonder if Paul Smith had followed his original career path and become a cyclist whether he would have made any sort of best-dressed list. But having swerved a life donned in head-to-toe Lycra, he is more than deserving of his spot. For close to half a century, the Nottinghamshire-born designer has peddled classic menswear pieces with a twist, usually updated with his signature multi-coloured stripes. Though he is a fan of the bold and the brilliant in his collections, Smith’s personal style is increasingly stripped-back, more fitting of a man in his 70s, but one that’s still youthful enough to give the everyman something to aspire to. Think staple dark suits, spruced up with white sneakers and a flash of colour via his shirt or his accessories.
Since Alexandre Mattiussi founded Ami in 2011 (well, re-founded – he shuttered its first incarnation as a T-shirt business), it’s been an extension of the Frenchman’s own, unfussy style: classic menswear made just different enough to be unique. It’s a Parisian take on streetwear, where single pieces can be used to dress up or down an entire look, and the same rolled chinos are as comfortable with lace-ups and a blazer as sneakers and a sweatshirt. In an industry obsessed with thinness, Mattiussi is an example of how simple pieces, cut right, are gold dust to the type of guy who hits the gym (and happy hour). His suits are slim, but not skinny, creating shape, but not constricting what’s inside. He knows that a denim shirt takes tailoring somewhere unexpected. And his layering game is world-class – proof that a loose-fitting overcoat completes any look.
For any man who has ever littered the floor with rejected clothes, it’s easy to resent Patrick Grant’s ability to make whatever he wears look like it was stitched especially for him. But then, it probably was – he’s got London-based fashion brand E. Tautz in his stable, as well as storied tailor Norton & Sons, both of which have struck sartorial gold reworking their archive in modern ways. And like his labels, Grant transitions effortlessly between the off-duty comfort of wide-leg chinos with a safari shirt and the kind of bespoke suiting you’d expect from someone with an address on Savile Row. What really sets Grant apart is the details. Inspect his tailoring and you’ll spot a thicker lapel, which creates a more masculine silhouette; or a heavy turn-up on a wide-leg jean to stop the fabric billowing. Of course, the fact that he also looks like he could be walking his runways, not just dressing them, doesn’t hurt.
A man who once declared dressing well to be a form of good manners, Tom Ford has something of a responsibility to set an example with his own wardrobe. The well-turned-out Texan doesn’t disappoint, likely because he leans on his label’s own impeccably-cut black suits, topped off with a spritz of Neroli Portofino or Oud Wood from his best-selling fragrance line-up. His secret weapon – oh, did we mention he dressed Daniel Craig for Bond? – is always showing at least one inch of shirt cuff, a move that works in harmony with trousers that just about hit his narrow-profile shoes to create a streamlined, enviable silhouette.
Italian-born Mr Tisci somewhat undermines the idea of expressing creativity in personal as well as commercial wardrobes. But if you’re going to have a uniform, then expertly fitted basics are never a bad idea. Givenchy’s former head of design, Tisci’s fascination with Gothic touches isn’t just apparent in his work (though his rottweiler print has been synonymous with the label since 2011), but also his own all-black-everything look, which is almost always bookended by a pair of white sneakers. Far from lazy, having a signature look also cuts down on time spent picking clothes in the morning. Helpful if, like Tisci, you need to fit collaborations with Nike, Kanye West and Jay-Z into your daily schedule. But it also makes you more memorable, the clothes becoming an extension of your personality.
On-stage rants and walking Jesus complex aside, it’s hard not to admire what Kanye West has achieved in the world of fashion in the space of a few albums. Having graduated from tacky shutter shades and a children’s entertainer colour palette, Yeezy has proved he’s got a natural eye for killer looks with a personal style comprising a mix of high-end designer pieces and easy, sportswear-inspired silhouettes. Need more proof of his credentials in the style arena? The man practically invented reverse layering. Case closed.
Ralph Lauren may have stepped down in 2015 from his role as chief executive of the eponymous company he founded more than half a century ago, but his stylish hoof-print is likely to be around for decades to come. Whether it’s old-school Ralph mixing and matching patterns like a pro, or present-day Ralph managing to make jeans and tailoring look, well, not Jeremy Clarkson, the Bronx-born-kid-turned-billionaire has long given us something to aim for. The 91st richest man in the world, Ralph Lauren has more than just dollar bills to take to the bank, he’s got an eye for preppy style that’s worth its weight in gold.