Unlikely Style Icons: Mr Steven Spielberg
Mr Steven Spielberg on the set of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, 1988. Photograph by Mr Murray Close/ Sygma via Getty Images
Why you should channel the director’s laid-back style.
Mr Steven Spielberg is the undisputed titan of American commercial cinema, credited with inventing the summer blockbuster, pushing the boundaries of special effects (from Jaws’ animatronics to Jurassic Park’s CGI dinosaurs) and shooting some of the most enduring cinematic images of the past four decades. Most people would agree he has given us the defining pop cultural icons of the era, from E.T. to Indiana Jones, and, in his spare time, knocked out the script for The Goonies. Fewer people would accept that he is also a progenitor of killer outfits.
From left: Messrs Christian Bale, Steven Spielberg and John Malkovich on the set of Empire of the Sun, 1988. Photograph by Photoshot
But now, in our fondly 1980s-obsessed era, perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate. Because, in the same way that Mr Spielberg captured the zeitgeist of the decade on screen, he encapsulated its sartorial mood in his wardrobe. In the early 1980s, he would turn up for work in wholesome Americana like Billy Peltzer from Gremlins (a film Mr Spielberg exec-produced) before he got Gizmoed. It’s a look you’ll recognise on Marty McFly in the Mr Spielberg-produced Back To The Future. Striped cotton button-down Oxford shirts, marble-washed denim and vintage leather sneakers were a perennial favourite for Mr Spielberg just as much as they were for his on-screen avatars. He wore baseball shirts, sports socks and neutral chinos – exactly the preppy style worn by young middle Americans in exactly the kind of places he liked to set his stories: the ’burbs.
This mood in storytelling and wardrobe could be attributed to the fact that Mr Spielberg, a product of suburbia, was still so young himself. He was just 28 when Jaws made anyone who saw it afraid to run a bath. Fresh, inventive and clean cut, his movies were rollercoasters built for multiplexes. He was, as his Close Encounters Of The Third Kind producer Mr Michael Phillips puts it, “a lovable nerd. But he was a nerd”.
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Messrs Steven Spielberg and Richard Attenborough on the set of Jurassic Park, 1993. Photograph by Albam/Amblin/Universal/akg-images
In this respect, Mr Spielberg was unabashed. He prefigured Comic Con dress code in one simple, self-referential way: the baseball cap, usually branded with a previous Mr Spielberg movie logo. (Incidentally, such corporate/merch-like branding is very much what the current incarnation of Balenciaga is all about.) The confidence he won in becoming one of the youngest American multi-millionaires showed in the somewhat gung-ho approach he had to work. He was said to be at his most creative when his films were in jeopardy, and this was mirrored in his ultra-relaxed look – a retro Americana floral print shirt here, a lightweight canvas parka there and always a pair of Ray-Ban aviators. It all said “downtime” rather than “ set of a multi-million-dollar project”. It is a style, like Mr Spielberg’s movies, that has endured.
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Mr Steven Spielberg on the set of Always, 1989. Photograph by Albam/akg-images
As Mr Spielberg and his work matured, so did the dress code. He wore a suit every day to the set of his 2012 film Lincoln, going as method as his leading man, Sir Daniel Day-Lewis. These days, he is more recognisable in a classic tuxedo, given the frequency with which he troubles the awards podium. He is likely to do so again in 2018 for Oscar dead cert The Post, a film about press freedom in President Richard Nixon-era Washington. But at 71, his capacity for serious fun remains. There’s a new Indiana Jones in the works, with Mr Harrison Ford dusting down his fedora once again. High time, then, for Mr Spielberg to reprise his _Raiders Of The Lost Ark _baseball cap.
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The Post is in cinemas from 19 January