Why Lenny Kravitz Is Still a Menswear Icon
I love Lenny Kravitz. I love his attitude. I love his look. Ever since he made his debut with Let Love Rule in 1989, the singer has cultivated the same love-worn, pheromone-soaked and unbuttoned style. And it still looks fresh, too. Last night on the VMAs red carpet, a place crawling with teenage YouTubers and Insta-celebs, Kravitz stood out once again. The 55-year-old rock star (and father!) stood there with his hands holstered into his pockets, wearing a pair of faded jeans paired with a vintage Levi’s vest from What Goes Around Comes Around with shorn-off arms and a distressed, fraying collar. Call it a Canadian tuxedo à la Kravitz.
And there’s more: On his torso was a delicate golden halter top that appeared as if it was spun by gilded spiders from heaven. (Zoom in, and you can see that the threadlike, ready-to-snap strap was connected by a large safety pin!) His footwear was the ultimate signifier of male confidence: pointy-toe white boots. His hands were laden with kingly Southwestern jewelry that included a massive turquoise ring and a glittering pinky ring so big that it was reminiscent of a miniature pavé disco ball. Around his neck hung an abstract fist-size gold medallion that appeared to be handmade.
Every detail merely amplified the singer’s style legacy. Kravitz has been a seemingly ageless heartthrob with an unapologetic oft-shredded style to match since before some of last night’s nominees were born. He is the purveyor of the flare! The mesh tank top! He has always shown off his sculpted biceps and Zeus-like pectorals, and why not? Kravitz has it; he should flaunt it, and he has, memorably, in his everyday style and in his own videos.
Take his “I Belong To You” (1998), specifically the moment when Kravitz biblically emerges from the sea like a ripped, saltwater-drenched Moses, sporting a soaking white shirt and a chain choker with a bone carving dangling from it. He’s also wearing sunglasses. It’s as ridiculous as it is blindingly hot. Who wears clothes or sunglasses when submerged into saltwater? Who cares! He sports a similar look on the cover of his Greatest Hits album from 2000, but in that instance, it is a pair of low-slung, partially unzipped jeans with the waist torn off. Like I said, Kravitz loves his wardrobe to be slightly beat-up, as if he’s been walking through the desert and his wares have been organically wind-blasted for 40 years.
But there’s far more to Kravitz’s style, and I’m not just talking about the multiple ear piercings, stacked like beautiful, tiny wedding bands on his lobes. Or his double nose ring: a hoop and stud. Nor the nipple piercings. And that other newsworthy piercing. There is depth to his look—a natural laidback appeal that is so far from try-hard. Go back to the music video “Again” from 2000. In it, he plays himself, a rock star who at the time was dating actress Gina Gershon. Then he becomes enamored with a waitress at a diner. We can see that Lenny is struggling with fame: He doesn’t need the glitz and the glamor of a penthouse apartment! That’s not Lenny! Instead, we see that he’s the type of guy who can pluck out a white ribbed tank from his underwear drawer and simply get on with his day. And that’s just what he does: The penultimate scene when Kravitz runs out of that sterile apartment to pursue his love interest, he wears a plain tank and regular jeans. It’s smoldering. Lenny doesn’t need the clothing labels to make a statement. Come to think of it, it’s hard to recall any designers that he wears on the regular, except for the occasional Saint Laurent. What’s more elevated rock ’n’ roll than that brand?
This is not to say that Lenny doesn’t do excess well. He’s always had a knack for reviving that wild and groovy ’70s rocker style and making it his own. He showed up to the Betsey Johnson Fall 1998 show wearing a Western-type jacket made from fur and leather that was only fastened by one button along with a pair of happy trail-baring red leather pants. (He also wore the same aforementioned bone-carved necklace!) Way back when, he donned a corset contraption and skin-tight paisley print. He even memorably wore a blue-tinged Global Coffee House art-style crop top. In one undated image from a concert presumably in the early ’90s, Kravitz is pictured in a suit of the palest blue with a scooping fur-trimmed collar, not unlike a look that David Bowie or Prince might have worn. And remember that humongous brown knit scarf Kravitz wrapped himself in while braving a chilly day in New York in 2018? It was crazy, bizarre, and also so Lenny.
Men’s looks in music have always been changing. There are boy bands who shoot to fame, and then the members assume other styles off-stage and as the time goes on. There are standard rock bands with unremarkable wardrobes. But just as Iggy Pop performs shirtless in a pair of jeans threatening to fall off, or Bono is never without his trademark sunglasses, Lenny’s style is iconic and seamless. He wears these looks off-stage and on-stage. He is the precursor to the millennial sartorial powerhouses that we know now, like Post Malone with his honky-tonk garb or Bad Bunny with his hyped-about dorktastic get-ups. Kravitz knows himself, feels good, and looks phenomenal in his clothes. What’s to change? For Lenny, nothing.
Originally Appeared on Vogue