Style Icon: How to dress like James Dean

There are few movie stars as iconic as James Byron Dean. It’s a word that gets thrown about far too much, but in this case it’s entirely true. Maybe it’s because he was shaping up to be one of the finest actors of the century, or maybe it’s because his life was taken far too young – in a car accident at the age of 24 to be exact. Another fact that adds to the legend of James Dean is that there doesn’t appear to be a single image of him where he doesn’t exude an inimitable cool. He was of course incredibly stylish too, boasting the rare ability to make the simplest of outfits look like a million dollars. His was a timeless way of dressing and one that you can easy replicate. Should you want to, here’s how to dress like James Dean. 

 

THE POLO SHIRT

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If you needed proof that the polo shirt is a gentleman’s essential, then look no further. Dean wore his with a louche nonchalance that is matched only by the angle he managed to dangle that cigarette out of his mouth. Dark, solid colours are the order of the day, and worn tucked or untucked, depending on your preference.

Given the time period in which he lived, Dean’s trousers had a fuller cut than what you might be used to today. Opt for something with a high rise also to replicate that ’50s aesthetic, and pair with classic loafers and a braided belt for an element of Americana that James Dean is synonymous with.

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Kingsley Polo Shirt, £49 from Reiss // Lemaire Straight-Leg Trousers, £330 from Mr Porter // Mesh Belt, £14.90 from Uniqlo // Classic Penny Loafers, £149.99 from Sebago // Falke Firenze Socks, £11.95 from Harrods // Stainless Steel Cut Throat Razor, £65 from Murdock London

 

THE T-SHIRT

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No man, other than Brando, has ever done as much for the white t-shirt as James Dean. A definitive menswear garment that will never fall out of flavour, the humble tee can be worn with practically anything. Dean wore his with Levi’s 501 denim, featuring a straight leg cut and a high rise, as well as tough leather boots with minimal detailing.

The cut of the t-shirt is key here; you’ll want something that’s slim through the body yet not restricting so as to remain comfortable. Finish off the look with simple accessories such as a black leather-strapped timepiece and tortoiseshell sunglasses and you can’t go wrong.

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Crew Neck T-Shirt, £55 from Sunspel // Levi’s 501 Straight Jeans, £75 from John Lewis // 1032 Green Turtle Sunglasses, £310 from Cutler and Gross // Portobello Toe-Cap Boots, £195 from Russell & Bromley // Jazzmaster Day Date, £POA from Hamilton

 

THE JACKET

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Other than the white t-shirt, Dean was particularly noted for his lightweight jackets. He donned a red Harrington in Rebel Without a Cause (pictured left), yet it was his off-screen attire that impressed most, including this tasty suede number. He often paired his jackets over the familiar t-shirt/jeans uniform, but it’s the way he wore them that made him a boss.

Look through a few pictures of Dean, and it’s his confidence that shines through. There’s something about the way he holds himself that really elevates his clothing, and it’s almost as if he knows he looks good, so he can’t fail to look good. If you can channel even an ounce of this impenetrable self-assurance, you’re on to a winner.

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Isaia Suede Bomber Jacket, £1,790 from Mr Porter // Crew Neck T-Shirt, £9.90 from Uniqlo // Levi’s 501 Straight Jeans, £75 from John Lewis // Bass Weejuns, £140 from Stuarts London // Walsh Glasses, £175 from Archibald Optics

Further Reading