There’s something about Great British style that captivates and fascinates the world. Whether it’s the custom-made Savile Row suits, the hint of pattern inside a Burberry trench or the perfectly polished Oxfords, English gentlemen tend to have a reputation for being some of the best suited and booted men out there. So, who are the biggest style icons of the last century, and how can they inspire contemporary – and stylish – men all over the world?
Terence Stamp embodied all that was ravishing and iconic about the swinging sixties. Today, the Silver Fox is still one of the best-dressed men in London. He was an early client of renowned Mayfair tailor Doug Hayward, who revolutionised suiting for Britain’s finest gentlemen. He is most famous for starring in hit films Billy Budd, The Limey, and Far From the Madding Crowd, for which he became an iconic muse for countless designers. During the 60s he was relatable, and this made the replication of his style seem doable to many British gentlemen. Without a doubt, he and fellow style icon Michael Caine owned the spotlight back then and were even roommates, proving impeccable style does run in the most exclusive of circles.
Caine developed his career with quality acting and dressing that was far from the Bond craze at the time, creating a niche for himself that would quickly make millions worldwide to idolise him and everything he stood for. His acting career spans 5 decades, with countless Academy Award nominations under his belt, however his genius goes well beyond the screen. He revolutionised the gentlemanly appearance to look comfortable yet sharp, without any hint of pretentiousness.His accessible “no frills” style transcended the sixties and is still very much sought after by gentlemen today.
British actor Cary Grant epitomised an Old Hollywood sophistication that men still emulate today. At the height of his acting career during the 1940s and 50s, he was the heartthrob among women and a style icon among men. His irresistible good looks and charm made him the ideal cinematic love interest, paired with the likes of Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn. He looked impeccable regardless of what he wore, however, we do believe he looked absolutely invincible in a well tailored dark wool suit and polished shoes. That’s why for many in the fashion industry and beyond, the name Cary Grant is synonymous with a well-dressed man. Quoted from Grant himself, he once said, “it isn’t only money that determines how well a man dresses—it’s personal taste.” He couldn’t have been more right.
The world knows Sean Connery’s blend of cruelty and charm landed him the role of 007 on six occasions, making him Hollywood’s most bankable leading actor. Inevitably, the name ‘Bond, James Bond’ made the Scottish actor synonymous with bespoke British fashion, and a style icon for men everywhere. The suit and shoes are what characterised Bond as smooth in persona and style. Connery tailored his look to accentuate one of his best features—his height. At six foot three, he was one of few during his time to effortlessly pull off the ambitious three-piece suit. His appearance as the most famous spy made him a style icon off screen just as much as he was in real time. Inarguably, he is still the same sharp, sophisticated gentleman winning the game in his eighties. As he once said, “Some age, some mature.”
World renowned British designer Paul Smith has shown he also deserves a spot among the greats of British style. Not only does he design revolutionary men’s fashion, he also embodies it himself through his personal style. Smith had a prominent role in changing the perception of the suit in the 1980s. He called this process, “relaxing the suit” by making them appear softer. He and fellow designer Giorgio Armani were both intent on convincing people the suit was not only relegated to funerals, interviews, or weddings, but capable of being worn informally and for the everyday. On another interesting note, Smith was credited for reviving boxer shorts as men’s undergarments of choice, proving Smith’s multi-faceted genius behind his vision. This element of surprise is notably seen in the splashes of colour and print that he boldly wears, from his multicolored scarves down to his socks.