This week, GQ's readers are voting for their Most Stylish Man of the Decade—which you can do on our Instagram. Here, GQ friends and family make their own personal—and deeply idiosyncratic—cases for the contenders.
At the beginning of the decade, the good money had Shia LaBeouf—fresh off a run of three Transformers movies and the latest installment of Indiana Jones—becoming Hollywood’s next great leading man. Then, just as he was expected to take the on-ramp into the stratosphere, he made a left turn off a cliff, publicly criticizing the Transformers movies and, later, even Steven Spielberg. He took on meaty independent projects from directors like Lars Von Trier and went through what seemed to be a public existential crisis—racking up arrests and conceptual-art projects in equal measure. A major part of detonating his movie-star image? Untethered by expectations, he also shed his clean-cut fashion choices. Suddenly his looks consisted not of stylist-selected suits or trim-fitting cardigans, but blue-collar, working-class staples like vintage T-shirts, distressed jeans, and beat-up hats. And then he’d mix in something totally out there, like the military boots he got on the set of his 2014 WWII movie Fury. LaBeouf’s style was marked by 110 percent commitment—most often to dressing like he had rolled out of bed and through a Salvation Army.
Pre-distressed grunge is often an affectation practiced by well-off celebrities, but LaBeouf’s version felt somehow more honest, like he was embracing a kind of inner truth. He’d always been a scrapper, living in a motel while making the happy-go-lucky Disney show Even Stevens and then indulging his gnarlier side while making blockbuster movies. While we would later learn that his style choices were carefully calculated—“This outfit took a lot of time,” he said in a 2016 radio interview—he seemed at the time to have hit on something novel. He rejected precious, expensive clothes in favor of hard-wearing, generic goods. Around this time, of course, the term “normcore” was born, and LaBeouf’s style immediately made a new kind of sense. And even if we never quite knew what it meant, he was one of the idea's greatest (if silent) missionaries.
But as normcore came to mean everything from regular Adidas Stan Smiths to the dad-favored style of ball caps, and Vetements turned ill-fitting hoodies into avant-garde statements on class, LaBeouf kept doing his thing. He’d show up in paparazzi shots wearing surplus-store basics, scribbled-on sneakers, and inside-out hoodies. He wore Ugg boots. He wore Crocs! While brands like Gosha Rubchinskiy seemed to pull directly from LaBeouf’s fit pics for runway inspiration, Shia kept diving deeper into his own end of the pool.
Don’t believe me? Ask Yeezy. For much of this decade, Kanye West was without question the King Midas of menswear, with anything he touched becoming a must-have for his disciples. But by the middle of the 2010s, even West couldn’t ignore LaBeouf. The influence dripped slowly: First, West started rocking the same military boots as the actor. (Those boots seemed to at least partially influence the design of West’s first ever Adidas sneaker, the Yeezy Boost 750.) Then military motifs in general started working their way into his Yeezy collections. Eventually, it was revealed that West had even gone to LaBeouf’s house and raided his closet. (West later was spotted wearing one of LaBeouf’s hats.) Fashion’s outsider artist had become the influencer’s influencer.
LaBeouf hasn’t slowed down. He continues to opt for nondescript pieces like cropped gray jeans, Nike Cortez sneakers, and a hat that only employees of New York’s Angelika Film Center can obtain. But in something of a twist, his most interesting style choices of the past year have come on red carpets, and with the help of stylists. Even there, though, he’s evolved, opting for off-kilter suits in interesting fits and colors that signal he’s ready to play the Hollywood game again, but on his own terms. It doesn’t seem like a coincidence that the movies he’s promoting in those suits, instead of being flops he disowns, are serious, purposeful works that are also drawing rave reviews. The Peanut Butter Falcon was actually filmed at the site of one of his run-ins with the law, and eventually led to him writing the script for another movie: Honey Boy, which finds LaBeouf playing his own father in a re-enactment of his troubled childhood. It may have taken the better part of a decade, and required a detour into a closet of absolutely depraved clothing, but Shia LaBeouf seems set to finally become—and dress like—the leading man he was always meant to be.
Originally Appeared on GQ