American Idol

Emulating the Essence of American Icons

There’ve been many American heroes whose relationships with style have helped make them who they were to us. They changed the way we look at masculinity, refining and expanding the parameters of what menswear can do. It can be helpful to identify our own North Star when we’re selecting our threads. Clothes make the man, after all, and we’ve got looks based on four of the country’s most legendary men to serve as your guide.

THE PREP: JOHN F. KENNEDY 

Let’s start with someone whose name summons classic dapper imagery: JFK. His New England preppy good looks buoyed his pervasive charisma and helped him become one of the country’s most talked about presidents. To make this look yours, check out the lived- in R.Redford nautical sweater from Kiel James Patrick. It’s lightweight but will provide coverage for those windy days out on the water. Then set yourself up with a pair of chino shorts from Bonobos in khaki. There’s something about a relaxed long sleeve top and a pair of well-made and structured shorts on bottom that is, at once, masculine and refined.

Naturally, you’ll want a pair of topsiders to go with this, but if you want to bring in some dignified flavor, Sperry’s Authentic Original Leather Boat Shoes are a cut above. The deep brown leather detailing is utterly dashing and a great change up from the typical canvas uppers on boat shoes. A pair of Cary Grant (speaking of debonair) tortoise wayfarers from Oliver Peoples will infuse the look with some authenticity. These glasses are the centerpiece of their new collection, and their spirited shape makes it plain to see why.

THE MOVIE STAR: STEVE MCQUEEN

Steve McQueen’s devil- may-care brand of cool has gone unmatched, even by today’s standards. Somehow, combining a breezy ease with a bad boy edge, his antihero persona paved the way for the likes of Tom Hardy and Ryan Gosling. The image of a vintage Hollywood movie star is, sooner or later, one to which we all aspire, and we’re here to help you get there. Start with the knit Blocked Collar Polo from Club Monaco. It’s lightweight, and the black and white collar will offset the olive green backdrop on the body.

We’re aiming for some fun details in this look, so Club Monaco’s regular-fit cotton linen trousers are perfect. The small, single-buttoned hip pocket, creased front, and cuffed hem will set them apart from typical chinos. White sneakers are the way to go here, and there’s nothing like a standard pair of Chuck Taylor low tops. Lastly, you’ll kill it with a vibrant and eye- catching pair of wraparound sunglasses (which are sure to make a big splash this summer) from Mr Porter. The Gucci Square-Frame Tortoiseshell Acetate Sunglasses are fun with vintage references to the 1980s.

THE ROCKSTAR: JOHNNY CASH

Recently, rock legend Johnny Cash had an explosive resurgence into headlines when his vocals were utilized for a posthumous duet with Sheryl Crow on an updated version of her song, “Redemption Day.” The Man in Black’s sense of style is incredibly iconic and completely accessible. Black is perhaps the most universally flattering to all body types and skin tones, so ol’ Johnny’s threads are a slam dunk for anyone.

Pair up some 1040 Athletic- fit Broken-in chino pants from J.Crew with a v-neck tee from Everlane for a handsome yet relaxed base for this look. Slip on a custom pair of exquisite shoes from Undandy (you can build these incredible kicks from the ground up) and a powerful Notch Lapel blazer from John Varvatos, letting the intrigue and texture sit on the topmost layer.

THE ATHLETE: MUHAMMAD ALI

Aside from being one of the most venerated athletes in American history, Muhammad Ali was also a style icon. His fierce determination in the ring was matched by a profound synthesis of brawny power and profound humanity. This was evident in his threads outside the ring. Something indelible to Ali’s wardrobe was a bespoke suit. With his athletic build, the tailoring was an absolute must. Let this serve as an important piece of advice to any man looking for a suit: tailoring is everything. It’s rare to buy a perfectly fitting suit right off the rack. We suggest having a look at Alan David’s shop. Their commitment to excellence is evident in their knockout suits.

A crisp white shirt complements this kind of investment beautifully. Look no further than Paul Smith’s Slim-Fit White Poplin Cotton Shirt With ‘Artist Stripe’ Cuff Lining. It’s stark, is sleek, and will last you for years. Last but not least, two accessories will put you ahead of the other guys out East. The first is a narrow tie like the slim wedding tie in black from ASOS. The second is a pair of Benson Sun wayfarers from Brooklyn Spectacles.