Josh Sims

According to Domenico Dolce of Dolce & Gabbana: “Women are into fashion. Men are into style. Style is forever.” That quote prefaces the latest title from Josh Sims, one of the UK’s most reputed fashion writers, who’s previously mused on men’s style everywhere from GQ to Esquire to the BBC.

In Icons of Men’s Style (Laurence King Publishing, 2011), Sims celebrates the key pieces that have earned a place in our collective hearts and wardrobes…and the innovators who brought them into international consciousness. He doesn’t stop at easy fashion touchpoints like Steve McQueen and Bogey; when he delves into the field jacket’s “outsider” status, he goes everywhere from Robert De Niro to Osama bin Laden.

In this exclusive, Sims reveals how his book came together – and what it takes to make an icon today. He says, “Casual or formal, the real lure of menswear is the details.”

How did you curate the selection of clothing and brands to feature in your book?

The items were self-selecting: There are only so many building blocks to the male wardrobe (unlike womenswear, which is far more accepting of adventurous design—and even demanding of it), and most of the pieces has a fairly clear, linear history in terms of development, and where and when the piece started to take off. The writing was quite a quick job.

Did you work with any moodboards or outlines when culling images and inspiration? Tell us about your creative process.

The best approach was simply to push the brands involved to dig deep into their archives for the best imagery. It’s remarkable, at least in the context of the current obsession with heritage, how little some of these great names had done to look after their archives. Some had to piece together their own history and clear up a few of their own doubts for the book. I guess they’re in the business of staying in business season-on-season, and looking back is not a priority.

What makes a man a style icon?

It certainly has nothing to do with following fashion. In fact, that pretty much rules you out.

I think, inevitably, it is dressing for yourself in some way that expresses who you are. That might not be to everyone's taste, but it’s individualistic, at least. There are many great dressers who, because they're not in the public eye, cannot be iconic…but they deserve to be.

What’s the most important wardrobe staple in your own closet?

Jeans are hard to beat, which is why they’re so ubiquitous. That said, I lean more toward khakis. They have something of a tricky image and are often associated with middle-aged dads, at least here in the UK…but, like jeans, they're one of the few garments that age well.

Is society today more casual than in decades past?

I don’t think so. In fact, I think men have been freed to dress up (in a sharp suit, for example) precisely because they’re less likely to be forced to dress so formally. They can enjoy dressing up again.

Casual or formal, the real lure of menswear is the details: why a button is here and not there … why a certain stitch has been used. It's anal, really. In contrast, I think women are oblivious to these little things and are much more concerned with whether their style chimes with the times or not. Men beyond their late 20s really couldn't care less what's on the catwalks.

Do hair and fashion work together?

As someone whose hair isn't what it used to be, I'm bound to say no...but a good head of hair and a good style are certainly advantages to looking great.

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