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Mar 7, 2011

GUY-CONS, or "10 Famous Men with Style for the Ages"

Today on MPB Guy Week we're looking at male style icons or guy-cons.  I dread the banal, and I fear this topic has a little of the in-flight magazine about it but what can you do?  We will make it interesting and can I offer you a beverage?

Coming up with the names of ten people I wouldn't mind dressing/looking like wasn't hard.  I'll be honest though: I added some of them not because they've influenced me so much, but because I think they've achieved guy-conic status in the wider world.

I think many men aspire to elegance and if there's one thing I'm not, it's elegant.  I'm too lazy to think about details like pocket squares, matching socks, shining my shoes (when I wear them), or wearing a belt.  We're very casual here in the offices of Male Pattern Boldness -- sometimes we don't get out of our pajamas -- plus we're always working: sewing, writing, and walking dogs.  It doesn't lend itself to much fuss.

Anyway, here's my list -- with an admittedly Anglo-American bent.

In no particular order:

1) Fred Astaire (up top)

2. James Dean

3.  The Beatles (We'll count them as one for convenience's sake)

4. Kurt Cobain

 5.  David Bowie

 6. David Beckham

7.  Cary Grant

8. Sean John

9.   Sean Connery (as 007)

10.  Steve McQueen

Does this list have a bit of the "same old, same old" about it?  That's where you guys come in.  Who's missing?

Personally, I take more of my styling cues from my Ken doll than I do from Cary Grant (though I think Cary undoubtedly influenced Ken) but I'm unusual that way.  When I was a kid I was very influenced by David Cassidy on The Partridge Family, but I don' t think too many people would consider him a guy-con.

There are a few questions I can't answer.

1) Who are the guy-cons for the contemporary urban lumberjack look?

2) Are we simply so fragmented into our narrow subgroups that nobody has the influence that someone like a Steve McQueen had fifty years ago?

3) Can we expect that a fifteen-year-old from Bed Sty and a fifty year old from Scarsdale are going to look to the same people for inspiration?  How many fifteen-year-olds even know who Steve McQueen was -- or care?   Is the topic simply too broad?

4) Are we more influenced by the people we actually see in our lives -- even if we're talking the aisles of Walmart -- than some distant celebrity? 

Folks, I leave it up to you.

Guys: who -- if anyone -- has influenced your way of dressing?  Is there anyone you model your style after?  Women: Do you think the men in your lives look up to any of the aforementioned guy-cons?  If not, whom do they look up to? 

Lastly, how do you earn guy-conic status nowadays?  Is it enough to have a band or do you have to show up to a lot of red-carpet events too?  Can you blog your way there?

Enquiring minds want to know!


  1. I would include the Rat Pack (counted as 1 like the Beatles) as Guy-cons for their time.

    Today? I don't know. Maybe you're missing some Xtreme sporters like Shaun White (he wears plaid BTW), Tony Hawk and his minions, and the moto guys. There is definitely a large group of young men/boys who dress just like them.

  2. Oh but we must add:

    11. George Clooney
    12. Jon Hamm

  3. I'm not sure if my guy has any strong feelings on the subject, but when we were plotting out what he'd wear when we got married, he was definitely drawn to pictures of the rat pack. So, for the un-fashion-thinking, slightly jockish accountant types nearing 40, the 'classic' look is stuck in his head as what looks good... worked out well as I was able to convince him to get a custom made suit cut very slim, indeed. He thought the pants were practically indecent! I thought they were perfect :-)

  4. Interesting...

    Isn't George Clooney just a Cary Grant clone?

  5. My husband looks up to Steve McQueen, but only because he drove fast cars and motorcycles. He probably couldn't tell you a thing about what McQueen, or anybody else on your list, wore. I think the average guy thinks about fashion for about 5 minutes a year. They wear clothes strictly for comfort and presentability in the most functional sense. They shop for new stuff only when absolutely necessary (which is why they pass off purchases like underwear to the wife) and they choose new things out of habit; it needs to look like the old one.

  6. Henry Fonda in Twelve Angry Men. x

  7. Hoosiermama, I wonder if that's true. I mean, I know it's true for many many, but certainly not all. Anyway, SOMETHING must influence their choices. How do they know what's presentable?

  8. i think you need to add in don draper and fellow ad men from madmen. those boys know how to dress in that show.

    also... i think michael jackson had some major influence on people.

  9. If James Dean had ever gotten a chance to grow up he'd be Steve McQueen.
    Jon Hamm is famous for his character who dresses up, not himself. And the posted incarnation of David Bowie speaks to the suit.
    George Clooney, James Bond, Hamm- all about dressing UP, not so much about a specific style per se, no?

  10. I think you're on to something, Dre: the dressing up vs. dressing down thing. That IS a big difference regardless of the era.

    Debbie mentioned the Rat Pack. They dressed up. Kurt Cobain -- he dressed down (I mean, he had holes in his pants).

    My sense of the Mad Men show -- I've never seen it -- is that they dress like early 60s Rat Packers, which is to say, they dress UP, in suits, which reflects the formality of the era.

  11. For a long time I really thought my boyfriend didn't have any style icons or give any thought to what he wore but he is actually quite particular about what he will and won't wear. He won't ever (and I mean ever) wear blue jeans, for example, because he says they've become a uniform. He's definitely drawn to the traditional 'English chap' look of around the 1930s (which I highly approve of!) and he actually really drools over the clothes Captain Hastings wears in the ITV Poirot, even though he usually just wears trousers and a shirt in the winter and shorts and a t-shirt in the summer. I think he's most influenced by what his friends wear, if he considers them stylish. He's asked me to make him a few flamboyant things, like a turquoise chinese brocade waistcoat, after seeing them on some of our more eccentrically-styled friends.

    My point(s) being - 1)men do think about clothes even if women don't realise it and 2)friends can be just as much, if not even more of an influence on how someone dresses than celebrities.

  12. My hubby's a Jimmy Dean man all the way. Oh, and Kiefer Sutherland from Lost Boys. Yeah, that about sums him up... ;)

  13. In response to question 3: I do think that different age groups and other style subcultures have different style icons, and also that an individual's daily dress is more influenced by those around them and the self-image they want to project than by the desire to emulate a celebrity. In my life there are big style differences between the 15-year-old (high school student who wants to fit in with her peers), the 21-year-old (college student wanting to be a little more mature but also express her individuality), the 32-year-old (graduate student, professional), and the 68-year-old (recently retired school principal).

  14. Very tough question. My husband was voted 'best dressed' in his high school yearbook..but alas, has no fashion sense. His clothes were bought by his mother, who, had good taste. Today he will put two green colored pieces of clothing together, which have no right to be on the same person at the same time, but because they are both shades of green, he thinks they match or are ok to wear together. Ugh!

    The only clothes he buys are from the salvation army.

    My brother and father on the other hand are both business people and very sharp dressers. They care about what they wear and for them it is a more silk tie and hand made suit look.

    From one end of the spectrum to the other.

    I think you have forgotten someone very important: Mr. Rogers!!

  15. Definitely, add the Rat Pack!

    I don't know how you'd present this influence, but the military definitely has a huge impact on how men dress. Maybe that's a separate post of its own vs. an icon, though.

  16. The people we actually see can strongly influence what we believe is acceptable to wear in our social environments, even though we may be inspired by styles that stand apart from our peers. I lack the confidence to cross those social boundaries fully. I find I'm conflicted between my style asperations vs. what I actually feel comfortable / brave enough to wear -- so I end up distilling my aspirations to something less than I imagine so that I don't feel like I stand out too much.

  17. "Debbie mentioned the Rat Pack. They dressed up."

    Not always. Many (all?) of them were also in movies wearing much more casual clothes. And for the day, that *was* dressing down.

    I texted my son and asked him "Random question: Who famous would you want to dress like?" His answer: "Slash" ... lol This is the Marine son BTW, who is currently heavily influenced in wardrobe choices by the uniform of the day. ;-)

  18. George Clooney <3... The Bond men <3... Sean Connery, even today ;)

  19. George Clooney is smoove... Also Russell Crowe did the whole "plumber by day, movie star by night" thing pretty well.

  20. My husband notices guys on the street, or in bands and will point out his likes. He is drawn to the bold dresser, tight red pants, maybe 70's shirt with a fedora. bit of hipster flare I guess, but I'm into it. We are both also into to facial hair, always have been. I love it's a trend now, my daddy has had a full beard his whole life so clean shaven is kinda weird to me sometimes. The thing I love about fashion is you can try on so many looks and personalities, and change it as quickly as you can change your clothes.

  21. I think George Clooney mught be more William Powell than Cary Grant. Jon Hamm is the actor who plays Don Draper.

  22. I will say as someone who was running in those circles when the urban lumberjack thing first broke out, it did seem to spread, shall we say, socially: one guy would come back from a hiking trip with a full and luscious beard and by the next month everyone was sprouting various beard-attempts and flannel. I will say that while there are lots of pictures of women wearing things, there are as many pictures of men doing things - my brother had a very firm idea of what he wanted to wear for a long time that was firmly based on news photos of men from the 1930s, and because menswear really does not change that much, he was able to hew pretty close to that standard by shopping at mid-level department stores. Just because news pictures of men aren't primarily sartorial doesn't mean that they don't influence how people dress, I suppose.

  23. Gregory Peck, Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Daniel Craig....

  24. My guy likes the way Daniel Craig dressed in Casino Royale...fitted suits and casuals

  25. Kanye West is also known for his style and is more current than most of these.

    I feel like I should be able to think of someone for the "contemporary urban lumberjack look" or at least hipster look in general, but I can't. I can think of some guys who dress the way I like, but aren't really "guy-cons."

  26. Anon, living as I do in a self-enclosed blogger's bubble,I am a little behind the times. I don't even own a gramophone!

  27. I meant that as a response to question 3, not as a criticism of your list.

  28. I just learned this week who Justin Beiber is and now I know the source of the floppy haircuts I see everywhere that I have been calling 'wally haircuts'. Give me Cary Grant any day. It's too hot for urban lumberjack where I live, even if I knew what it was. Here everyone dresses like a surfer, even in the supermarket. The world has forgotten how to dress, at least in Byron Bay.

  29. For the living, breathing NOW -- let's see: James Franco. Barack Obama. Rufus Wainwright. Alber Elbaz. Chris Colfer. Nicholas Sarkozy. Prince William. Javier Bardem. Keith Richards. Jay-Z.
    I love the black and white shots of the once upon a times, but these guys up the ante style wise -- even if they are obviously concerned with much more important things.

  30. I don't know if De Niro in Casino can be of any influence, but I love the outrageous style.
    Recently I was in awe with Boardwalk Empire costumes and tailoring.
    John Steed in the Avengers is definitely unique and Patrick Mac Goohan in The Prisoner desereves to be mentioned IMO.
    I love the casual coolness of Robert REdford in Three Days of the Condor.
    I am vey partial to Jude LAW in the Dior Add perfume(don't know if you can see it in the US)
    I must forget somebody, this post is very inspiring.

  31. Peter: I can't believe you've not seen Mad Men! You simply must! Have I used enough exclamation points yet?! Seriously, you won't believe the sartorial treasures in every frame.

    I thought that Colin Friels (dressed and directed by Tom Ford) in 'A Single Man' looked absolutely superb. Even my husband(who normally notices nothing if it's clothing related) agreed with me on how beautifully his shirts fitted.

  32. I knew I was forgetting somebody, Marcello Mastroianni and not only in LA DOLCE VITA

  33. Among my rabble-rousing young dude friends, the Ramones and Bruce Springsteen were certainly guy-cons for their blue collar rock and roller look.

  34. How about what's-his-name from Miami Vice, once upon a time I remember white jackets and t-shirts being blamed upon him.

    I think people dress like those around them, even men. Though one look that I like on all men are tuxes, from beanpoles through my decidedly stout hubby, they all look good. Would count as dressing up, for certain sure.

  35. I would add Bryan Ferry from Roxy Music and Elvis in his early days. For me it is about an innate sense of style - more than good looks and an ability to wear both dinner suit or cargo pants (like Daniel Craig). Johnny Depp has an amazing sense of style perhaps he sould be on the list too??

  36. Cary Grant (reincarnated as George Clooney). Paul Newman. I have nothing to add, really. Just like thinking about them.

  37. I don't feel Beckham belongs on your list, I feel he is just a breathing mannequin that can afford expensive clothes and a stylist to tell him what to wear. He is attractive and dresses well, but still seems kind of bland to me. Just my humble opinion.

    I agree with many previous commenters add the Rat Pack and George Clooney.

  38. My husband (like me) is an engineer. He will wear whatever I put in his closet, provided that the colors are the usual blues, greys, browns, and blacks that men wear. I don't know that I can contribute to a modern list, but I concur with the other Gene Kelly fans. I also have warm thoughts for George Sanders, Paul Henried and Claude Rains.

  39. George Clooney for sure...hell, we have the same hair style and color. He knows how to wear clothes. Don't hate me but John Galliano always looks so bloody cool- even if his mouth needs some packing tape.
    Kids don't care so much for the older celebrities (dead ones)like older folk do.

    I think people like to style themselves on celebrities know, successful people.

    Guy-conic status? If you can blog your way there let me know- in spite of my last paragraph it is a shame the most famous guys are actors.

  40. Much to my dismay, my husband thinks that Keith Richard, ragamuffin-rebel that he is, is the greatest. Not that DH cant clean up- he does to a fine degree, and he would LOVE to march down to Armani and pick up a new suit- were they not so expensive!
    However, casual is the order of the day, here in sunny California, so I suffer ripped jeans and scruffy hair a lot of the time.
    When we go someplace nice, a party or restaurant etc. I usually have to resort to, " that what you're wearing?", followed by the chilly non-committal silence. He usually heads back to the closet to reconsider his choices.
    I wish his guy-con had been Brian Ferry- now there was a dapper fellow!

  41. Sean John? The shell suit look? Come on, no one here goes for that, do they?

    I don't know if you know the British telly stars Ant and Dec, and Phillip Schofield, but they rock the Mad Men look very well indeed.

    If I had the body, Daniel Craig, definitely - suits (love the lapelled waistcoats) and beachwear!

  42. Hello? Where were you during the 80s? Richard Gere! With his roles in American Gigalo and Breathless he was THE male style icon of the '80s and made the Armani suit a must-have wardrobe staple. He was famously photographed by Herb Ritts and graced countless magazine covers. And to this day he is always dressed flawlessly.

    A few more to add to the list…

    Elvis Costello (dapper meets rock n' roll)
    Tom Jones
    Brian Setzer (where would rockabilly style be without him?)
    Johnny Cash (close your eyes and you can picture him—that’s how you know he’s a style icon)
    Leonard Cohen

    Sports guys:
    Michael Jordan
    Pat Riley
    Bjorn Borg (oh yeah baby he even has his own line of underwear
    Mohammed Ali

    Television personalities:

    Peter Jennings
    Charlie Rose
    Tom Brokaw
    Brian Williams
    Dick Cavett
    Stephen Colbert

    TV Characters:
    Dr. Niles Crane
    Thurston Howell

    Fashion dudes:

    Tom Ford (#1 gay crush for women who love fashion)
    Mark Wahlberg (former model)
    Ralph Lauren
    Georgio Armani
    Taye Diggs (former model)
    Yves Saint Laurent
    Halston (that turtleneck)
    Andy Spade

    (don’t laugh, all these guys have their own unique style)
    Woody Allen
    Richard Belzer
    Jamie Foxx
    Richard Lewis
    Denis Leary

    Artists, architects and designers:
    Andy Warhol
    Phillip Johnson
    Charles Eames
    Pablo Picasso
    Isamu Noguchi
    Gio Ponti

    Richard Bransen
    Russell Simmons
    Larry Ellison
    Hugh Hefner (this guy made smoking jacket and pjs cool to wear outside the bedroom)

    Andrew Sullivan (there’s your bearded urban lumberjack)
    Bernard Henri Levy
    Tom Wolfe
    Bill Buckley
    Martin Amis

    Politicos & DC types :
    JFK Jr.
    Ronald Reagan
    Jerry Brown
    Rahm Emanuel
    Reggie Love
    Gavin Newsom

    (Seriously, how could you forget Clooney?)

    Jeff Bridges (there’s another sexy lumberjack)
    Leonardo DiCaprio
    Samuel L Jackson
    Morgan Freeman
    Denzel Washington
    Marcello Mastrioanni

    Pope John Paul II
    Prince Edward VIII

  43. I prefer Rosemary Clooney, personally...

    Pope John Paul II -- fashion icon???

  44. I saw Jon Hamm somewhere in a comment above as a guy-con and I totally disagree...Don Draper, certainly, but Jon Hamm pretty much looks like a creepy grease-monkey in real life.
    That said, how in the world could you ever forget Gene Kelly! Geez.

  45. Regarding John Paul II: Dude could work a sash! You don't think all fashion icons have to be thin do you?

  46. I believe the "Urban Lumberjack" look is one part Ernest Hemingway, one part Brawny Man, and just a dash of Herman Melville... for the lumberjack that also waxes romantic for the sea...

  47. What about the Marlboro Man???

  48. Did anyone notice that on all the names mentioned, as far as I know, not ONE of them is known to run around in pants hanging off their behinds, T-shirts with vulgarities, flip-flops, or Crocks? Even the young ones metioned. At least not on a regular basis out in public. If I'm wrong, please let me continue this with this wrong thought.

    Maybe there's hope for the world's style after all. Or maybe the coffee's just extra strong this morning.

  49. Some of my queer/genderqueer friends have named the following men as inspirations:

    -Chuck Bass from Gossip Girl (
    -Johnny Weir
    -Peewee Herman

  50. Cary Grant has always been a great fashion guy-con for me. Another good one, often overlooked, is Humphrey Bogart. Beyond the classic (and always perfect) trench-coat, he was almost without doubt in a good suit. A gentleman should be properly dressed, and I think that means a suit, a hat when you are out, and a coat, either a trench like Bogey, or a heavy overcoat if the weather is poor. And a tie is not a sin.

  51. I will have to give it to the Bond men, and a couple of eccentric rock band vocalists. Their fashion statements, ranging from the modernist to the most extremes, have really captivated the most of us. Think of the 80s pop culture icons and the guys who portrayed the coolest detective.


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