Style Icons

The Directors Cut

Telluride, Toronto, New York – as film festival season wraps up, MR PORTER looks at eight men who challenged the cinematic and style conventions of their eras

  • Clockwise from left: Mr Jean-Luc Godard shooting Pierrot Le Fou, 1965 Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images; Mr Sam Peckinpah on the set of The Wild Bunch, 1969 Photoshot; Mr Francis Ford Coppola on the set of Finian's Rainbow, 1968 Sunset Boulevard/ Corbis

We want you to steal from us and put it in your own voice and that’s how you will find your voice,” Mr Francis Ford Coppola once declared. He was of course talking about movies, and many have attempted to ape the operatic scale and pulp-into-cinematic-gold of the director of The Godfather and Apocalypse Now, with variously diminishing returns. But he could equally have been referencing his dress sense, which combines the audacious sprezzatura of his Italian heritage with the counter-culture vibe of San Francisco’s independent film scene in the 1970s. 

The conversation between directors and style is both a rich and long-running one. Would 1990s heroin chic have gone as mainstream as it did if not for Mr Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting? Would a generation of men have embraced a Miami Beach, rococo style of dressing without Mr Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet? Does “ghetto fabulous” owe a small debt to Mr Spike Lee’s Nike ads?

So regardless of your personal style, there’s inspiration to be picked up from these directors – the latest inductees into our compendium of Style Icons.


  • Mr Peckinpah on the set of The Getaway, 1972 Photo Rex Features

They called him “Bloody Sam,” and not just because of his slo-mo gore epics such as The Wild Bunch, but also because he was a badass drunk  (“I couldn’t direct sober”) who picked fights with stuntmen. Mr Peckinpah’s look was uncompromising and all-terrain: shirts open to the waist, bandannas, Native American jewellery and weather-beaten beards – shorthand for loner-rebel chic – and it’s proved more deathless (see Messrs Bruce Weber, Mickey Rourke and Axl Rose) than his corpse-strewn meditations on honour and masculinity.


  • Ms Mia Farrow and Mr Cassavetes on the set of Rosemary’s Baby, 1968 Paul Slade/ Paris Match via Getty Images

In adhering to his integrity-at-all-costs vision – “I hate entertainment”, he once declared – Mr Cassavetes broke the cardinal Hollywood rule of never using one’s own money, mortgaging his home and taking acting paydays (Rosemary’s Baby) to fund his insurgent productions (Faces, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie). Unsurprisingly, Mr Cassavetes adopted a pared-down, sweatshirted style to complement the probity of his oeuvre. Ironically, his daughter Zoe went on to become a muse for Mr Marc Jacobs – perhaps an acknowledgement that the Cassavetes name continues to stand for an outsider sensibility.


  • Mr Anderson at the 64th Berlinale International Film Festival, Berlin, 2014 Chad Buchanan/ Getty Images

From Rushmore to The Grand Budapest Hotel, the vintage garb of his characters – Fila tennis togs, a scoutmaster’s uniform, a fringed buckskin jacket – is often crucial to unlocking their personalities. What, then, can Mr Anderson’s own tailored corduroy or tweed suits and knit ties tell us? That, as with his films, he is a man who values skewed precision, and that, beneath an impeccably mannered veneer, there lurks a sophisticated schoolboy’s heart.


  • Mr Sturges on set, location unknown, 1940s John Springer Collection/ Corbis

The father of the screwball comedy presented an outward appearance that, like the best of his films – The Lady Eve, Sullivan’s Travels, Christmas in July – combined the delicate with the explosive, sophistication with slapstick, effervescence with feverishness, wit with slang, and the slicker with the hick, to achieve a state of worldly zaniness. He had the build of a boxer, a high lock of hair and favoured rumpled suits and denim workwear. As with his writing style, he could switch between lowbrow aristocrat and melancholy wise guy with ease. His bon vivant life matched his art punch for punch: he invented a kissproof lipstick (called Red Red Rouge) for his mother’s cosmetics company; he eloped with Ms Eleanor Hutton, the breakfast cereal heiress (one of his quartet of wives); and he celebrated wrapping The Great McGinty – for which he won an Oscar – by opening The Players, a three-storey restaurant on Sunset Boulevard with a drive-in at the bottom and a tony French restaurant on top.


  • Mr Jonze at the Writers Guild Annual Beyond Words event, LA, 2014 Rob Latour/ Rex Features

You've seen him as the polo-shirted leader of the Torrance Community Dance Group in the video for Fatboy Slim’s “Praise You”. He's performed a nollie heelflip – in loafers! – in one of his skateboarding films. So clearly, Mr Jonze retains a childlike penchant for playing dress-up and exploring the nature of idenity (Being John Malkovich, anyone?). Off-screen he favours a geeky straight-guy look with details – shirt collars poking out of sweat tops, corduroys with turn-ups – that match his worldview in being winningly “off”.

Mr Jean-Luc Godard

  • From left: Messrs Godard, Sami Frey and Ms Brigitte Bardot, Capri, Italy, 1963 Gamma Rapho

The Nouvelle Vague director said that every story needs a beginning, a middle and an end, but not necessarily in that order. Similarly, in his dress, he combined respect for the rules with a blithe disregard for formality. The result, a subversive panache comprising snug blazers, slim chinos and skinny ties, could be described as agit-prep. “He was always a little more ‘dressed’ than the rest of us,” said a colleague in the New Wave journal, Cahiers du Cinéma. “Not Saint Laurent, but a certain class... he wasn’t just anybody, he was a character.”

Mr Derek Jarman

  • Mr Jarman in his studio at a friend’s house, London, 1968 © Raymond Dean

It might be apt to describe Mr Jarman as a conjurer, taking everything that came his way – a Super 8 camera, Aids hysteria, tabloid headlines, an unpromising patch of dirt at Dungeness in England – and fashioning it, via a sensibility equal parts radical and romantic into a gesamkunstwerk of set designs, films, paintings, diaries and a justly celebrated garden. His influences and passions – ancient Egypt, alchemy, punk, Elizabethan drama, the English pastoral tradition – blend together in his work; his 1978 film Jubilee remains unique in featuring both Queen Elizabeth I and Mr Adam Ant. The clothes he favoured – worn-in cashmere jumpers, unbuttoned knit polo shirts, corduroy jackets, paint-splattered boots and indigo workman’s overalls – were the ultimate artisan’s wardrobe, ready to facilitate the tackling of a canvas, the marshalling of a movie set, or the pottering among a bed of mallow or sea kale. And this was long before Brooklyn craft types sparked a worldwide fetish for an haute-Boho version of the same.


  • Mr Lee at the Cannes Film Festival, Cannes, 1991 Jim Duxbury/ Rex Features

Mr Lee is peerless in disseminating African-American style into the mainstream. His unparalleled sneaker game and baseball cap fixation has, since 1989’s Do the Right Thing, influenced everyone from Mr Barack Obama to Jay-Z. Mr Lee was an early progenitor of the “no-tie” black-tie look (buttoned-up white shirt, man jewellery) and he has lately adopted a game-of-two-halves approach – blazer above, flamboyant Nikes below – to show that, although he now resides in a Manhattan brownstone, he’s still got one foot in Bed-Stuy.