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Once upon a time in Hollywood (haha), to be an actor was to be an artist—which meant dressing like one, too. At least, that’s the impression I got from obsessively following the Twitter account @NightOpening for several months last year, which shared photographs from film premieres past, particularly the ’90s and early ’00s. (The account was suspended late last summer—can the Fearless Dark Fashion Overlord Jack Dorsey do something about this???) Amid all the bizarro images from misguided sequels, you could observe that actors just looked different—the standards of photoshop had yet to seep into, and dominate, real life, and wearing a particular designer in a deal brokered by a power stylist—perhaps our era’s most successful commercial artist—was a mere glimmer in the eye. Actors looked like people who thought about craft, and method, and taking risks. That they risked seeming a little self-serious in doing so only added to their sense of style. Sure, they looked rich, and famous, and incredibly handsome—but their edges were rough and real, and their clothing, which was often a little strange, showed the kind of personality that they were taught to put aside while making films.
I’m thinking in particular of Daniel Day-Lewis, who was a clothes horse with theatre-nerd energy long before his Anderson & Sheppard obsession was revealed in the making of Phantom Thread. At the 1994 Golden Globes, he wore a black frock coat with a crumpled ribbon bow tie—the poet, not the leading hunk. British people just know how to do this kind of thing, you might say, but the next year, Brad Pitt, who at that point was at the opposite end of the Day-Lewis spectrum of fame—dating Gwyneth Paltrow and embracing his place as the most famous movie star in the world with zeal—did something similar: a long tuxedo coat, with a vest underneath, his pants are baggy, and are those Doc Martens? He had just injured his hand while filming Seven, so a gleaming white cast provides a strange complement to his spearpoint collar shirt; if you look closely, one of his vest buttons is left undone, like he got dressed in a hurry.
There’s also something slightly unhinged but revelatory about Leonardo DiCaprio’s first Globes look, also from 1994: a silk vest with a suburban dad-at-the-wedding print, a mandarin collar shirt, and a too-long tuxedo jacket with jumbo lapels. The gold standard of this entire revolution was the beautiful River Phoenix, in 1989, wearing a pinstripe sharkskin suit and round wireframe glasses like he was there to give a lecture. (It wasn’t just the young dudes. In 1994, Al Pacino wore a giant shawl collar and a butterfly-sized satin ribbon bow tie.) Maybe there was a stylist involved, and certainly a tailor, but mostly it seems to be these creative men expressing themselves, wearing what made them feel like the vain eccentrics they were. It wasn’t about looking “right” or looking “handsome”—it was about feeling like yourself. In a small way, it was about refusing to compromise. It is what we now call personal style, Tinseltown’s most endangered beast.
Because men’s style in Hollywood has become a homogenized thing over the past decade, even as the gospels of Bode and Craig Green and Gucci have permeated and shifted the worlds of music and art. We know something about who our musicians and artists “are”—or feel we do—through the way they tie their scarf, tailor their trousers, or cock their brim. Their clothing speaks to us. Television and film produce occasional auteurs like Billy Porter, but the menswear revolution has been slow to come to Hollywood, even though you might argue that it began there: Leonardo DiCaprio was doing instinctively in 1994 what Shia LaBeouf is doing like a method actor now. But last night’s Golden Globes suggests that this spirit is returning. Brad Pitt, in his three-piece suit, the trousers a little skater-baggy. His eyes look like he’s never seen a dermatologist needle plunge towards his face—the coolest possible thing. Andrew Scott in his creampuff-colored butterfly bowtie, and Brett Gelman in his houndstooth suit. (Of course, Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s tweed Ralph & Russo suit was the coolest women’s look of the night—if they’re not going to do another season of the show, can the cast of Fleabag launch a fashion podcast?)
Even the night’s defining micro-trend was a reassertion of Hollywood’s personal style golden age attitude: “old male entertainers and their proclivity for tinted glasses,” as Vogue Business’s Hilary Milnes put it on Twitter. Back before plastic surgeons used a mortician’s touch to prick up the lines around your eyes and shellac your face into a juicy orb, sunglasses—and their indoor cousins, tinted lenses—were a glamorous relaxant for the tolls of aging. You look untouchably cool, and borderline unapproachable—a reassertion of your O.G. status among all the new kids who might want to come and kiss the ring. I mean, no one’s going to tell Tony Shalloub to get Botox. He’s warm-but-frosty enough behind his round clip-on sunglasses. They are the best-kept secret to aging gracefully.
The two best looks of the night were the most subtle and the least: Parasite director Bong Joon-Ho in a black jacket with layered peak lapels (and who knows who the heck made it because they don’t ask men this sort of question on the carpet, but his sister is a fashion designer, so it perhaps came from her hand), and Wesley Snipes in a wild, deep purple three-piece suit with a pink ruffled tuxedo shirt. Both of those are the kind of looks that will appear on nostalgia Instagram accounts in years to come, if we’re still doing that sort of thing. (Sacha Baron Cohen's Yves Klein Crayola suit is a runner-up.) Perhaps it’s the line in the sand—drawn by Martin Scorsese and articulated by films like Parasite, The Souvenir, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and The Irishman—between action hero films and real cinema. The red carpet suit doesn’t need to fit like a superhero costume anymore. There’s a new way to look the part.
Originally Appeared on GQ