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LOS ANGELES — There are a few givens in Hollywood: There is no shortage of handsome actors around, and most everyone cleans up well in a suit. But the ability to transcend mere movie-star looks and become a true star, whether on the big screen or the red carpet, is more elusive. That takes talent and a great stylist, plus that innate knack for owning it, not just wearing it.
For years on Oscar night, men cut dashing but traditional figures in their classic black tuxedos, one year’s photo interchangeable with the next. But lately, several actors have been stepping outside of what was once a clearly defined box and establishing a new red-carpet code.
This story first appeared in the May 22, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Among them: Ryan Gosling, Adrien Brody and Chris Pine, the male equivalents of Cate Blanchett, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kate Hudson for their sartorial derring-do. Some even have significant others with equal fashion clout: Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively, Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, and erstwhile “Twilight” couple Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart.
Notable sample-size up-and-comers include Eddie Redmayne, Theo James, Douglas Booth and Michael B. Jordan. And proving that all-American manly men (cue the Marvel Comics summer blockbusters) can still wear trends with panache are Bradley Cooper, Chris Evans, Armie Hammer and James Marsden.
“What’s great is that men are now able to get as much fashion press as women,” said stylist Jeff K. Kim, who works with Jordan. “It’s a way for men to express themselves. Once Michael began gaining more knowledge about fashion, he started to respect it and become a bit more forward and willing to stand out.”
Said Tom Julian, men’s fashion director for retail consultancy The Doneger Group, “Thanks to many of the actors and musicians who have made the tuxedo their own, we have seen how individuality can allow for a new formal expression. The tuxedo became a new focal point on red carpets as well as in many specialty shops around the country.”
The sea change in red-carpet dressing was never more apparent than at this year’s Academy Awards, where winners Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto received as many kudos for their white jackets and chic accessories as for their performances.
“I think you should always push the boundaries as far as you can, while still being respectful to the event,” said McConaughey’s stylist, Simon Robins. “Also, making looks more modern means that certain rules should be broken. For me, it’s about stepping out of the box with fabrics, textures and color, but remaining classic in terms of cut. With Matthew’s Oscar tuxedo, we wanted something different that would stand out in the sea of black tuxedos but was still very appropriate. The white dinner jacket struck that balance — super chic and classic, standing out for the right reasons.”
“Color is the easiest way for a guy to break out of the mold suitingwise. The trick to getting away with it is to keep a classic shape with great tailoring,” said stylist Ilaria Urbinati, who put Hammer in a cream tuxedo jacket for last year’s Met ball and a bright red Gucci suit for “The Lone Ranger” London premiere last year (both helped to land him on Vanity Fair’s International Best-Dressed List). Urbinati’s other clients include the aforementioned Cooper, Evans, James, Marsden and Reynolds, as well as Will Forte and Ian Somerhalder.
“In regards to trends in black tie right now, I would say blues, whites, even burgundy. Male talents are becoming more fashion-forward and daring in their choices. The default black tux just doesn’t define you in a crowd,” said Catherine Kim of MassMore Agency, which represents Hugo Boss for VIP dressing in Hollywood. She added, “We want to dress men who show the most poise and intelligence, and those who exhibit true talent. A few of those include Michael Fassbender, Adrien Brody, Theo James, Bradley Cooper and Jared Leto.”
Said stylist Jeanne Yang, who works with Henry Cavill, Tobey Maguire and Christian Bale, among others, “I love oxblood. That midnight burgundy color makes you look tanner. And midnight navy looks a lot better on camera than black.”
Heading into summer, expect to see a lot of lighter fabrics and whimsical colors on the red carpet. “I really get into seasonal fabrics,” said Urbinati, who dressed Australian actor Joel Edgerton in a khaki Salvatore Ferragamo suit for the premiere of “The Great Gatsby” at Cannes last year; Bruce Willis and Cooper in white linen, and Hammer in pale pink linen Tom Ford.
Silhouettes remain slimmer for both pants and jackets, with leaner lapels and flat-front trousers. Details like tie bars, tie pins, pocket squares, socks and shoes are also not to be ignored.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is another actor frequently cited for his natty style, whether it’s Prada, Thom Browne, Band of Outsiders or Calvin Klein Collection, which he wore to the Oscars. His stylist, Jenny Ricker, said he likes to pay tribute to Old Hollywood and plays with subtle pattern-mixing and accessories like two-tone wing tips. Her other client, Zac Efron, tends to veer toward the more classic.
Kim is also a fan of mixing it up. “It’s not just a plain suit anymore, it’s how you mix and match different prints with your underpinnings and colors. The way I do it is to find a hodgepodge of things that together work cohesively,” he said.
In addition to powerhouses like Gucci, Salvatore Ferragamo, Louis Vuitton, Burberry and Prada; rebooted luxury brands such as Saint Laurent and Givenchy, and designers Tom Ford, Neil Barrett, Brunello Cucinelli and Todd Snyder, stylists also name-checked E. Tautz, Kurt & Curwen by Simon Spurr, Thom Sweeney, Ovadia & Sons, Devon Scott, Joe Casely-Hayford and A. Sauvage.
Looks from such brands can trickle into the mainstream, as evidenced by Topman’s version of a maroon suit that looked very similar to the Gucci suit that Pattinson sported at the “Twilight Saga: Eclipse” premiere in 2010.
“Today’s contemporaries, from Adam Levine to Pharrell Williams to Ryan Reynolds, have all validated tailored clothing as an important part of the wardrobe for many of today’s modern dressers, and classic Hollywood men, from Brad Pitt to George Clooney to Will Smith, continue to be cited for their sense of style. So, the mix of these groups has reinforced fashion and style for big events, formals and even proms,” said Julian.
With that, tailored clothing goes beyond the red carpet into the realm of normal consumers. “There is definitely a comeback of the idea of dressing well every day. Nowadays, suits can be worn for many occasions — to work or to school, to a dinner party or red carpet event,” said Brunello Cucinelli, who maintains a showroom for VIP dressing in Beverly Hills.
For all the colors, textures and embellishments out there, stylists agree that the most important element for pulling together a red-carpet look is a good tailor. “It goes without saying in men’s wear that if you are trying a suit on you are going to pull the tailor in,” said Yang. “A suit can hide a multitude of flaws. I add a shoulder pad or two on one side to even it out, or hide a bit of a stomach with a longer drop or a single button. A three-button suit in a boxy cut can make a guy look fuller when he may be a little thin.”
Kim said that a tapered pegged pant lengthens a man’s line and makes him look slimmer, and that a chic two-button suit is perfect for keeping the chest open to show off a shirt and tie.
Said Yang, “It gives men confidence to walk the red carpet in a perfectly fitted suit. They stand up straighter and the head and neck go up a little bit, like peacocks who shake their rumps when they have their feathers unfurled.”