Kings of style

By Jeremy Langmead

The new editor of MrPorter.com lists his favourite male fashion icons of all time.

His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie

The Emperor of Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974's full title was His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah and Elect of God. He was also, at the time of his reign, the most bemedalled ruler in the world. Befitting for someone who could trace his ancestry back to King Solomon, Selassie could certainly rock up a regal look or two. My obsession with him began at the age of 12 when I would spend maths classes designing uniforms for him and his bodyguards. Sad, but true.

Cristobal Balenciaga

The Spanish designer who, in 1937, founded the world-famous eponymous fashion house in Paris. He was responsible for dressing some of the most powerful women of his generation (the Queen of Spain, the Queen of Belgium, the Duchess of Windsor and Princess Grace of Monaco) and regarded as "the master" by many including Christian Dior and Coco Chanel. A devotee of monochrome tailoring, Balenciaga became synonymous with the sharp, double-breasted suit, an item that has happily come back into fashion (less happily if you're a tad tubby, I'm afraid).

Gianni Agnelli

Italian industrialist, president of Fiat and, according to many, the true "king of Italy". While he ruled over the Italian economy and European high society for the 1960s, 70s and 80s, he was admired as much for his dress sense as his business expertise.

He mastered the art of sprezzatura - making the difficult look easy. His style trademarks included wearing a watch over his shirt sleeve (saves time) and leaving his tie slightly askew or hanging over his sweater. It may have looked accidental, but Agnelli wasn't a man to leave anything to chance.

Steve McQueen

A style icon regular, I know. And, to avoid being predictable, I really did try to leave him out of this list. But it just felt wrong. Come on, the guy starred in The Great Escape, Bullitt and The Thomas Crown Affair, loved racing motorbikes, married Ali MacGraw and wore chinos and Persols like no one else. Even when he donned something as classic as a blue blazer, he managed to give it a certain edge. Looking through images of him, it's hard to find fault with anything he put together and yet he never looks as if he made the slightest effort whatsoever. True talent.

Terence Stamp

One of the best-dressed men in London. He was an early client of renowned Mayfair tailor Doug Hayward, lives at Albany, the prestigious bachelor apartments in Piccadilly (never call it the Albany) and starred in genius movies such as Billy Budd, Far From the Madding Crowd and The Limey. Along with his former girlfriends Julie Christie, Brigitte Bardot and Jean Shrimpton, he embodied all that was good about the swinging 1960s. He still dresses impeccably and refuses to be styled for photoshoots as he prefers his own clothes, yet manages to turn down requests to do so with the utmost charm.

Lord Glenconner

Colin Tennant, the third Baron Glenconner, was famous for having fun. And who can criticise a guy for that? He bought the Caribbean island of Mustique - most of us make do with just booking a hotel - in the late 1950s and transformed it into a multimillionaires' playground. Glenconner dressed like the quintessential tropical patriarch: bright colours, tunics and wide-brimmed hats. And it somehow worked. When, in the 1980s, things got a little bumpy and he had to sell his interest in the island, he took it in his stride. "We weren't brought up to throw in the towel," he said. "We were brought up to bite bullets and to fold towels neatly."

Bob Dylan

Dylan has undergone many musical and aesthetic changes during his 50-year career. But there is no denying his genius and the way he can carry a tune and, more impressively, a lyric. Even the way he describes his former girlfriends is poetic. Of one of those, Suze Rotolo, who died earlier this year, Dylan said: "She had a smile that could light up a street full of people ... a Rodin sculpture come to life." Although he's one of the most influential cultural figures of the 20th century, I'm going to be very superficial and just point out how good a man can look when he finds the right black jacket and the perfect shades.

Jean-Michel Basquiat

Jean-Michel Basquiat was a graffiti artist on the 1980s New York art scene. In his short 27-year life, he modelled for Japanese label Comme des Garcons, starred in a Blondie video, dated Madonna and collaborated with Andy Warhol. He was also noted for wearing high-priced designer suits to paint in. To be able to create paintings that are still highly sought after today and look damn smart while making them is quite an achievement. He just pipped Lucian Freud to the post for me. I've often spotted Freud dining in the Wolseley in London and there's something strangely appealing about the frayed collars on his shirts.

Jean-Paul Belmondo

A leading light in French New Wave cinema, acclaimed for his roles in Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless and Alain Resnais' 1974 film Stavisky. His good looks (he was known as the French Bogart) and penchant for playing characters every man secretly wanted to be has assured him of lifetime hero status. After marrying twice and having a well-publicised affair with Ursula Andress, the 78-year-old Belmondo now dates a Belgian ex-Playboy model. His top 10 style icon placing was helped by a strong set of props: a good collection of hats, obligatory cigarette dangling from lips and, of course, Jean Seberg.

Johnny Depp

It seems harder to pick style icons who are in their prime. I think that might be because men feel happier acknowledging someone else's talents, or looks, if they're dead - or past their prime at least. Depp, however, exhibits a distinctive and eclectic style that's not easy to find among his generation of actors. His love of worn-in clothing, oversize dress shirts and heavy accessorising gives him a look that's part grunge, part bohemian and part eccentric millionaire. Hats off to him for going his own way.

* Jeremy Langmead is editor-in-chief of new online menswear store MrPorter.com

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