Throughout the 20th Century (and into the 21st Century), there have been many men who have become influential – both in terms of fashion and in their general lifestyle.
These are the men that people want to follow, they define a generation and provide someone for men to follow. This isn’t about politics, but about fashion, style, and attitude, shifting mindsets by creating an emotional connection.
Influential male fashion icons are not necessarily as common as female icons – whether that is because many men do not put themselves in the position to become fashion leaders, or whether being a follower of fashion is more of a female pursuit is unclear – but those that are on this list have made it because they have left a lasting legacy on the style scene.
The well-known and beloved American actor Steve McQueen was known just as much for his antihero persona as he was for his movies – and that earned him the nickname ‘The King of Cool’.
In 1974, McQueen was the highest paid actor in the world despite being notoriously hard for directors to work with.
His style was all about the battered leather jacket, the chunky knit cardigan, and the chukka boots, but he also wore elegant suits with silk printed ties or a pinstripe blazer really well too.
The King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley has often been described as one of the most influential characters of the 20th Century. While more modern depictions may have shown him as an overweight shell of the man he once was, in his heyday he was considered to be the epitome of sex appeal.
His early gospel and country influences were part of his rockabilly persona, and when it came to personal style he was all about the performance. His early fashion included Cuban-collared shirts with wide-leg pleated trousers; he did not enjoy wearing jeans as he found them to be too constricting. This is what led to him favoring the sparkly jumpsuits when performing – not only to be center of attention, but for the freedom of movement.
The biggest style decision for Elvis was always that shiny, black pompadour hair though.
Born Laurence Tureaud, Mr. T shot to fame after starring as BA Baracus in the A-Team. His signature men’s denim shorts and copious amounts of big, chunky gold jewelry was something that followed him from his BA Baracus persona into his real life.
Aside from acting in movies and TV shows, Mr. T also worked alongside Hulk Hogan on the then-named WWF, later being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
While Mr. T may have dropped all the gold and reinvented himself as a born-again Christian, his look is something that has been copied again and again.
Bowie was a true pioneer of music, choosing to make art with both sound and the way he looked. Whether it was the androgynous style of the dress he wore on the cover of the album The Man Who Sold the World or the kimonos he favored when he was in his Ziggy Stardust phase, Bowie always wore really interesting clothes.
One of his signature looks as ‘The Thin White Duke’ included oversize suits in Monochrome, although later he worked with designer Alexander McQueen who created the iconic Union Jack coat he wore on one of his later albums.
A more modern entry on this list, Harry Styles shot to fame as part of the supergroup One Direction. While in the band, he was recognized as a bit of a ‘cheeky chappy’, and favored skinny jeans and sheer blouses or floral prints to portray his flamboyant nature.
After 1D went on hiatus, Harry has been known to wear custom pink suits, sequined tops, and satin flares, as well as pairing pearls and a sweater vest – but perhaps his most controversial outfit choice was a Vogue cover shoot in 2020 where he wore a beautiful blue Gucci dress.
He might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but he is definitely a style icon.