As everybody knows, if you cut open the brain of any man between the ages of 23 and 40, you will find tens of thousands of paparazzi photos of Shia LaBeouf. I exaggerate, but for the menswear literate, and even the menswear curious, LaBeouf’s street style has become legendary: a template for the man who loves fashion, and maybe even self-expression, but doesn’t subscribe to the Big European Label Lifestyle. Here is a man who’s usually wearing jeans or shorts and a T-shirt or sweatshirt, but the proportions are pristine, the fabrics look ludicrously soft, and the feet are often clad in Uggs. He has inspired the Instagram account @shiasoutfits, which is updated with more tender diligence than an influencer’s fitspo journey, and the Twitter obsession #ShiaFitWatch, whose length and fervor approach a Victorian romance. Kanye West once stole all of his clothing. There’s something kind of, well, sludgy about LaBeouf’s look, with its repetition of denim, terry cloth, and canvas, but it never seems like he doesn’t care. This isn’t Balenciaga nonchalance, but a down-in-the-trenches, post-Helmut Lang use of workwear as the highest expression of industriousness—and perhaps even his inner attitudes. His id is his stylist.
But when it came time to put on a suit over the past few years, LaBeouf largely left his exalted and highly developed sense of personal style on the street. Promoting American Honey in 2016, or Borg/McEnroe in 2017, he wore navy suits and once, a tasteful white tie, fitted in the dutiful, normal way that still made sense during and right after the dutiful, normal Obama administration. Maybe something floral or dotted would poke out from underneath, but on the carpet, he was all business—almost to the point of corporate. A mercurial man who was playing an analog movie star game (one that he’d come of age playing, in films like Transformers and Indiana Jones, however reluctantly).
Until—spoiler alert—now. LaBeouf is currently promoting Honey Boy, an autobiographical film he wrote and stars in, and suddenly, his own wardrobe seems to have merged with the standards required of the red carpet appearance. Sure, “he looks great” in by-the-book tailoring, allowed his stylists, Wendi and Nicole Ferreira, who have worked with LaBeouf since the halcyon days of 2007, when he voiced a teen penguin with professional surfing dreams in Surf’s Up. But in Nicole’s words, “We did not think that classic suiting was right for Shia in this moment.”
So he’s pursued a new direction. Earlier this month, he looked like some kind of sign from an ’80s-era God in a church-white Givenchy suit with an oversized double-breasted jacket, and a pair of chunky-heeled Gucci loafers the color of the inside of a Boston cream donut. At the London premiere of Peanut Butter Falcon, he wore a brown Gucci suit, also double-breasted, the pants tucked into huge combat boots, like G.I. Joe being honored at a gala.
“As stylists, we just really wanted to play into his personal style,” Wendi added. “I don’t think it would make sense to have traditional suiting in this moment for someone like Shi.”
“This moment,” of course, involves promoting LaBeouf’s most personal film to date, in which he explores his childhood and his troubled relationship with his father, whom LaBeouf portrays. The actor has had a conflicted relationship with public attention and fame; he attended the premiere of 2013’s Nymphomaniac wearing a paper bag that read, “I AM NOT FAMOUS ANYMORE.” (His suit, it should be noted, was quite conservative.) Now, it seems, he wants to be the person his wardrobe of Carhartt and vintage hoodies suggests—everywhere. “It just feels like in this movie and this moment, he can go for it,” said Wendi. “We want to see him be himself.”
But it’s not just a change in LaBeouf. “I think [we] have to give credit to menswear, at the moment,” said Nicole, “because menswear is so interesting right now. There a lot more options to push the limits of menswear and with suiting.” He wore his blue Givenchy suit, for an appearance in early August, with a skintight shirt the color of a gym pool. “Givenchy is just unique,” Wendi said. “If they do have a traditional black suit, then it’s got a bright yellow scuba shirt under it.”
“And I think there’s a lot to be said about Shia and the confidence he has in being himself and being comfortable,” she added. To the premiere of Honey Boy at the Toronto Film Festival, he wrote a Gucci suit with a rugby shirt, and had the pants tailored to show off Gucci logo-print socks. By “shortening the pant and allowing the socks to show—that’s Shia. That’s Shia.”
Even as streetwear continues its dubious dominion over the hearts and wallets of men, it’s tailoring that has become the star of menswear’s big fashion boom, with brands from Louis Vuitton to Dior to Givenchy making it a centerpiece of their new eras. Still, Hollywood stylists have largely resisted the capital-f Fashion seen on the runways, with its couture-inspired suiting, almost billowing silhouettes, and daring colorways. Suits at award shows are still largely navy or black and fitted snugly, to put it gently. LaBeouf—along with Timothée Chalamet, who allegedly doesn’t use a stylist, and texts friends like Virgil Abloh to whip up sequin hoodies for film premieres—represents a new era for Hollywood menswear, perhaps the last demographic for high fashion to conquer, one in which red carpet suits are suddenly an expression of personal style rather than a formality.
As for whether LaBeouf is dressing with a new awareness of his fashion god status, Nicole said, “We can’t speak for Shia because he’s unique in his own thoughts. I would say it’s important for us for him to stand out.” Wendi added, “We are keeping up with Shia.” So seamless is his new formalwear, or his newfound confidence in himself, or both, is that when they showed up with a rack of clothes for him to try for Sundance in January, he went with a fringe jacket “out of his closet,” Wendi said. The styling has to respond to LaBeouf’s moods and energy, she said: “It happens in the moment.” It feels a bit like a protocol-bound veneer has disappeared—ultimately, Shia is always going to Shia.
Originally Appeared on GQ