Who hasn't wished they could dress like they stepped off a movie screen?
When it comes to fashion, some of the most influential people are the costume designers and auteurs who dress the actors. Behind every big-screen star we celebrate for his sartorial flair, there's an artist whose style choices shaped fashion and inspired clothing designers for decades.
Inception, The Great Gatsby and Skyfall come straight to mind when we think of stylish films from the last decade. But we're reaching back over 60 years to celebrate films that influenced men's fashion.
Let the past inspire your present and guide your future. Grab some popcorn, sit back, and let's show some gratitude to the most fashionable films of all time.
North by Northwest (1959)
Every decade has its male style icons. The highwater mark for men's fashion was undoubtedly the late 1950s and early 1960s. Contemporary menswear designers, including luminaries like Tom Ford, continue to look to this period for inspiration.
Alfred Hitchcock's "North By Northwest" uses a case of mistaken identity to throw the impeccably dressed Madison Avenue ad man Roger Thornhill across the United States. Pursued by the police and a criminal organization, Cary Grant escapes from his captors, seduces a femme fatale, and eludes a nefarious crop duster while looking flawless in his ventless gray suit, crisp white shirt, and grey tie.
Complete your Cary Grant-inspired ensemble with an exquisite grey grenadine tie.
Kilgour, a Savile Row institution, crafted six identical suits for the film. Hitchcock wanted to dress his actors in a classic style, so his movie would never look out of date. With Grant, he had the perfect canvas to feature the classic aesthetic that we celebrate today. Like the film, we can enjoy the clean lines and fine tailoring today as others did more than sixty years ago.
While the English-speaking world had Cary Grant, continental men could always count on Italian actor Marcello Mastroianni to represent them well. He was the embodiment of the Italian philosophy: "la bella figura." A philosophy to life that demands that one always look his best.
In Federico Fellini's black and white masterpiece "8 1/2", Mastroianni plays Guido Anselmi, a director amid a nervous breakdown. The film itself was a thinly veiled take on the career and life of Federico Fellini. Mastroianni modelled his look on Fellini himself, who was known to direct his films in a suit and tie.
Mastroianni wears a simple black suit, black tie, and white shirt. A pair of oversized black-framed glasses and wrap-around sunglasses complete the ensemble.
Here's a black grenadine tie to channel your inner Guido Anselmi.
Like Hitchcock and Grant, Fellini and Mastroianni championed the classic and timeless quality in men's fashion that endures today.
The late 1960s and 1970s rejected gender stereotypes and redefined masculinity. No character in film exemplified that more than Warren Beatty in "Shampoo."
Hal Ashby's satirical skewering of the late 1960s free-love culture sees Warren Beatty's George, a Beverly Hills hairdresser, riding from one sexcapade to another atop a Triumph motorcycle.
Beatty's look in "Shampoo" was all about dispensing with the sartorial commandments about how men should dress and creating a unique look that lionized individuality.
Beatty's George wore a soft, tan leather jacket over a deep blue open-neck shirt, layered with a burgundy tank top. His accessories included what looked like a woman's scarf tied around his neck and turquoise-encrusted silver rings and wrist bands.
The eclectic arrangement somehow works. (Although, I'm sure it helps to be Warren Beatty.)
Despite the motley mixture of accessories, Beatty still adhered to one key pillar of style: fit. Every item, including the jeans Beatty wore in "Shampoo," was tailored to fit him perfectly. On another person, this ensemble would look ridiculous, but on Beatty, it works because everything fits and speaks to his character: a pleasure-seeking man living by his own rules.
American Gigolo (1980)
Paul Schrader's film, "American Gigolo," launched the Giorgio Armani brand. The film chronicles the vapid existence of Richard Gere's high-class male prostitute character and introduces the concept of designer clothes and accessories in the 1980s.
The film turned the world onto the idea that luxurious needn't be ostentatious. "American Gigolo" introduced a variety of looks that are considered mainstays today, including the unstructured linen jacket, the sports jacket worn with jeans, the cardigan-tie-collar shirt combination, and of course, the black Armani suit that became a male status symbol in the 1980s.
Barry Levinson's semi-autobiographical film about the loves and lives of friends living in Baltimore in 1959 made stars of Mickey Rourke, Steve Guttenberg, Kevin Bacon, Paul Reiser, Daniel Stern, and Ellen Barkin.
The circle of male friends who meet at a local late-night diner are working-class men in their twenties. There is nothing glamorous about this fraternity, but they sure know how to honour "la bella figura."
Gloria Gresham, the film's costume designer, assembled the preppy looks the young stars sported by scouring thrift shops for quintessential preppy elements like Jack Purcell sneakers, Bass Weejun loafers, racket jackets, and rep ties.
Reservoir Dogs (1992)
In "Reservoir Dogs," Quentin Tarantino transports Fellini and Mastroianni's black suit, white shirt, black tie and sunglasses to modern-day Los Angeles.
Tarantino's postmodern take on the heist flick chronicles events before and after a botched diamond robbery. The group of thieves wear black suits with notched lapels, a white shirt with a narrow spread collar, and an ultra-skinny tie.
The look is as clean and timeless as it was in Fellini's 8 ½, but in Nice Guy Eddie's crew, it emits cold and dangerous professionalism.
When dressing the no-name criminals, costume designer Betsy Heimann kept it black and white, simple, and cheap. Heimann went bargain-bin diving to dress the cast. The costume design may have been simple, but the striking look helped make the film an instant classic.
In the Mood for Love (2000)
Next time you have the opportunity, feast your eyes on the thing of beauty that is Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-wai’s "In the Mood for Love." Set in 1960s Hong Kong, the film tells the story of a man and a woman who long for each other despite their marriage to other people.
The film is memorable for its highly stylized look achieved through consummate attention to set dressing, costume detail, and hair design.
If "Shampoo" was about throwing off the bonds of conformity, then "In the Mood for Love" ratchets up the erotic tension between the two unrequited lovers by dressing them in clothing that clearly defines their gender roles.
Maggie Leung smulders cooly in high-collared traditional "qipaos" (tight-fitting, one-piece Chinese dresses), while Tony Leung Chiu-Wia wears a masculine uniform of a black suit, crisp white shirt, and thin black tie.
American Psycho (2000)
Watch "American Gigolo" and "American Psycho" back to back, and Mary Harron's cinematic adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis's vicious takedown of yuppiedom in the 1980s makes more sense.
The scene where Patrick Bateman puts himself together in the morning mirrors a similar scene in "American Gigolo," where Gere's high-class male escort starts pulling Armani suits from his wardrobe to put together a look for the day.
Although it only goes back a few decades, at its core, "American Psycho" is a period costume drama. The cutaway collars, pinstripe suits, striped shirts and suspenders typified the Wall Street look of the mid-1980s.
The film and the book it's based on painfully lists every stitch of clothing and every label that Bateman and other characters wear, right down to the personal care products Bateman uses.
While the consummate tailoring and obsessive attention to detail hide Bateman's madness in Harron's film, for style-conscious men, the film showed how one's visual presentation can make an impact. Although satirical in nature, the film helped bring acceptance for men to pay attention to their appearance.
This is just a small slice of the overlap between film and fashion. What other films would you add to this list? Do you have any personal favourites?
For more "film study" check out our post: Groom Style Inspiration from the Most Stylish Films.