As I was watching the 43rd NAACP Image Awards I was swept away as the legendary Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte approached the stage. There was something so impeccable and completely dynamic about their appearance that I felt like there needed to be a "Best Dressed Male" category on the program and they could've just remained on stage and helped themselves to it! For certain they weren't the only men gracing the Shrine auditorium that evening in a tuxedo and yet for me and the many folks I've conversed with about them, they were the well-dressed standouts. Beyond the timeless elegance they each possess, theirs is a defining style that has everything to do with presentation, fit and a keen sense of self-awareness. It made me realize that the old adage "trends come and go, but style remains" is ever more true today.
Without question, fashion is an ever changing arena and I must say, I'm not always amused or info-tained. I tend to think the most aspirational trends come from the visionaries who are passionate about their own personal style anyway, and thus make fashion work for them as opposed to the other way around. Take for example best-dressed men like President Barack Obama, Denzel Washington, Idris Elba, Mos Def, Eddie Murphy and Boris Kodjoe, all of whom I've had the joy of working with on photo shoots. These style setters turn it out when it comes to fashion - and it was thrilling for me to have a "fashion say so" about them simply because the path to fabulous was utterly clear! I can also tell you shamelessly that I would jump at the chance to work with such "next-men" as Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Andre 3000 and Jay-Z. Why? Because they're not only well-dressed, but ever evolving in their individual lanes when it comes to fashion and I'd love a little style-play with these visionaries as well.
As an editor, I enter the studio, to dream a world. There's no designer or accessory resource that can't be had when it comes to interpreting the vision. From the best bespoke suits, slacks and shirting's to the most polished accessories or relaxed-wear, depending on the soul of the shoot, the inspiration is there and it's well-thought out and reality-checked, with the subject in mind.
For example, I love the "dinner at 8" look and I've reinterpreted it many times for various shoots on such personalities as actor/comedienne Sinbad, who for the November 1992 cover of Essence Magazine I reinterpreted the traditional bow tie with kente cloth and brass; on a shoot with film director Tyler Perry for the February 2009 cover the look was translated as a white dinner jacket with a black shirt. Again, it's all about the subject and a well-thought out, individualistic approach.
Perhaps that's what's missing by and large today from men's closets -- too much sameness, very little individuality when it comes to fashion. When you couple that with the casualization of America, which has had a damaging, trickledown effect that keeps many from making the effort, you tend to sit up and take notice like I did in watching the Image Awards when a well-dressed man enters the room. Now don't get me wrong, how many men live red-carpet lives or have to stay-ready for a photo-opt? Very few. However, I will tell you this, I saw Mr. Poitier as I was heading into the Regent Beverly Wilshire hotel for breakfast one morning and there he was in his relaxed-wear looking just as polished as he did on stage and trust me, it had everything to do with who he is "on" or "off-duty."
So what say I? If I were seeking to be a modern, well dressed man, I'd establish "my look" or at least work with a personal shopper (who's services are free) to do so. And regardless of whether my budget was large or small, I'd strike the balance between investment pieces and well-designed accessories. Like any great collector, I wouldn't shop le look all at once or at a single location, rather I'd shop around, collecting the real "finds" as I go. I'd incorporate into my life, a great tailor, so that everything fits like a dream, keeps pace with evolving changes and who I could trust to make any and all repairs, seamless. I'd also locate a good dry-cleaner that wouldn't damage my clothing and one that's earth-friendly at that. Finally, I'd make it a point to dress the man in the mirror, him alone and be fierce!