Men’s fashion may not get the same attention as women’s fashion, but there is no doubt that there are a number of actors, rock stars, artists, athletes, and writers whose styles have become literal representations of a generation. The outfits evoke certain moods and feelings; they talk a lot about what the generation wants, how it sees the world and what it values.
The men on this list did more than listen to the right designer or have an innate sense of style. So, in a way, these people are not just men’s style icons, but just icons. And so it is not only the clothes they wear (although that also matters), but the image they create, the feelings they evoke, and the way they wear their clothes. They embody the spirit of that era, inspiring our wardrobes.
They say that a man is made by his clothes, but it also happens vice versa. During the 20th century, icons lived a select few men whose charisma and natural flair were so strong that they helped shape and find your style icon.
Of course, there have been many women who have been historical fashion icons. Women like Cleopatra, Marie Antoinette, and Jacqueline Kennedy were real fashionistas, helping to change the way other women look and dress. But there were also a lot of men’s fashion icons. In fact, here are some of the men who were true-style icons of their time.
A style icon is a celebrity with a distinctive personality and a role model. Such a personality often becomes the muse of designers and the standard of style for the rest.
Boundaries once rigidly drawn between the sexes are fading faster than ever, and the ambiguity arising from the folding and fusion of wardrobes has become something to strive for in male fashion icons and beyond. But there are certain bold icons that have made and continue to make big strides towards this idyllic fashion future where everyone can wear whatever they like and no one blinks an eye.
Bold-rimmed glasses, round necks, discreet cut, and muted color palette; Michael Caine’s 60s style icons wardrobe was a real masterclass in stylish minimalism, and even the most well-dressed men could teach a thing or two about restraint. He was also a fan of the double-breasted suit and knew how to take it off without any of its inherent stuffiness.
The actor is considered one of the main characters in the Golden Age of the 1950s fashion icons, starring in 72 films between 1932 and 1966, including Charade, North by Northwest, raising a Child, and Friday for His Girl. Over the course of his thirty-year career, Grant has become known for his affable demeanor, somber appearance, and transatlantic accent. The New Yorker described him as “the greatest sex puppet the screen has ever known.”
Widely regarded as one of the greatest actors of all time, but often overlooked as male style icons. Sidney Poitier’s classic understated style has remained unchanged throughout his career. A simple single-breasted suit with a striped tie was often all he needed to look the part, and his ability to rock a tuxedo put him in the ranks of Hollywood’s most well-dressed men.
Any Hollywood celebrity known for their brooding looks – like James Franco and Robert Pattinson – owes James Dean, a fashion icon of the 70s. He was a master of the art of looking good without caring for him at all. For the actor, this was expressed in simple gestures, such as throwing a jacket over his shoulder or throwing a cigarette out of his mouth. Onscreen and off-screen, his muttering and stooped shoulders testified to his recklessness – the recklessness that led to his death at the young age of 24.
Alain Delon gave up a career in Hollywood because he didn’t want to learn English. This testified to the non-interference, which extended not only to his work but also to his wardrobe. It’s almost as if Delon sincerely didn’t care what he wears, which somehow made what he wears gorgeous and was considered a 70s icon’s male. The sleeves were rolled up loosely, the shirts were open wide, and everything was done in complete negligence. In other words, he embodied the essence of coolness and looked better in an open shirt and short shorts than most of us look in a tuxedo and freshly polished Oxford shoes.
The Rat Pack was the epitome of Hollywood glamor; Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop, and public relations specialist Humphrey Bogart were all in the crowd. Their films, including the original Ocean’s 11 films, are taking an elephantine place in cinematic history. And although they can be easily reduced to a group of womanizers drinking martinis and smoking cigarettes, their hard work had a huge impact on society of their time.
Sinatra might be the most recognizable face of the rat pack and its de facto leader, but Davis was indeed the hero of black style icons.
In the 1930s and 40s, film actors wore their own clothes. Let’s just say the manufacturing companies of the time really paid off by hiring icon man Clark Gable. The Hollywood heartthrob has always looked flawless in wide-shoulder jackets, high-waisted pants, his signature pencil mustache, and side-parted hairstyles. His austere masculinity was perfectly offset by the elegance of his neatly cut clothing.
As his career took off in the early 1960s, Bob Dylan became both a chronicler of the nascent counterculture and a reluctant frontman for the growing social unrest, and thus 50s fashion icons. Unsurprisingly, the way he dressed was incredibly important to his public image and part of his unprecedented impact on the 60s and American culture.
People wishing to stick to icons man have used the word “troubadour” and this is not imprecise. His dress was often simple, seemingly capable of withstanding several days on the road. But if a particular object is most associated with him, then it is his pair of wanderers. They were important to his character, as was James Dean’s red jacket to him. They shaded his eyes, giving him the aura of mysticism that he cultivated throughout his career.
Double denim, sporty retro clothing, unbuttoned shirts, and even casual leather pants. Bob Marley’s style was a patchwork mix of things that really shouldn’t work together on paper, but still do. Why did they work? Because they all depended on Bob Marley, a man whose confidence and relaxed demeanor ensured that whatever he wears looks like it was made by hand especially for him. So it became known as men’s style icons.
As is the case with many rock stars, the band’s musical legacy cannot be separated from the way the band members presented themselves. But just as their catalog defines the genre, their style, especially the style of Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Charlie Watts, is in their own class of masculine icons.
Although the Stones initially dressed rather conservatively, “by 1967 there was a lot of competition to outsmart each other,” rock photographer Gered Mankowitz told The Wall Street Journal. “The group’s appearance became increasingly outrageous in line with their growing success, confidence, and wealth. As soon as the fashion of that time changed to androgynous, they began to wear their girlfriend’s clothes and their makeup. “
From the moment Yves Saint Laurent entered historical fashion icons, he started a revolution in it. He took over Dior at the age of 21 and saved the house from financial ruin before starting his own namesake label and changing the way women dress forever. He also knew how to present himself, and became famous for his bold horn-rimmed glasses and razor-sharp tailoring.
Thanks to his chosen roles and, of course, the vintage style icons he wore, Steve McQueen – star of The Blob, The Thomas Crown Affair, and The Bullitt – became the anti-hero of Hollywood during the heyday of Vietnam’s counterculture. It’s easy to say that he took advantage of the time to turn his tough-guy image into a box office success.
The idea of presidential composure may be dead today, but there was a time when the leader of the free world could teach us a thing or two about the masculine icon. John’s elegant, conservative, conservative look has taken the world by storm and has inspired many style-conscious people, including designers Tom Brown and Ralph Lauren. Not that it’s particularly eye-catching, but then it shouldn’t be necessary. He was clean, thoughtful, and humble. Always stylish, never flashy.
Travolta, with his charismatic smile and flared pants, almost single-handedly kicked off the disco era. His Oscar-nominated role in the 1977 film Saturday Night Fever, with a B Gees-dominated soundtrack, not only turned Travolta into a lucrative star but also represents a pivotal moment in the history of American fashion icons.
The cover of Time magazine in 1978, dubbed “Travolta Fever,” is a free-frame shot of an actor in mid-dance stride wearing a white three-piece suit similar to the one he wore in Saturday Night Fever as Tony Manero.
Swim like a butterfly, sting like a bee, and dress like you are meeting your girlfriend’s conservative grandparents for the first time. Muhammad Ali may have been known for his flamboyant fighting style in the ring, but when it came to clothing, he preferred it to be understated and classic. Ali was one of the last male icon athletes of the time when wrestling and elegant formal wear went hand in hand. God knows that some of today’s best fighters can take a leaf or two out of his book.
Often referred to as the “Riviera Rake” for his love of fast cars, boats, women, and luxury clothing, Gianni Agnelli has had a huge impact on modern fashion icons. Designer Nino Cerruti named him one of his greatest fashion icons, along with James Bond and John F. Kennedy, and he even served as inspiration for top fashion icons The Rake magazine.
Few men can get us to view wraparound ponchos as a viable outerwear option, but Clint Eastwood is one of the 60s male icons. The American actor has brought to life some of the biggest blockbusters in the Western genre and has become something of a fashion icon in the process. He, like no one else, personified a rough, masculine style, owned rough textures, and rough fabrics.
These are the guys who taught the world how a tailor should look, how to dress individually, and the importance of a good haircut. They set fashion trends, not follow them, and in the process are revolutionizing the contents of wardrobes around the world.
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