From boating blazers to cable knit vests, the inspirational styling of Russell Crowe's Max Skinner
Which is precisely why it often rings true that — from the dawn of the moving picture — many men have turned their creative gaze upon the icons of the silver-screen for sartorial inspiration in an attempt to become more polished, refined and better dressed individuals.
And yet, for every 007 and Frank Bullitt there is a hidden gem of a character awaiting discovery, laying dormant until he is called into action in due course of influencing the never-ending fashion cycle as well as our ever-evolving definitions of what true style and proper wardrobing entail.
Case in point: A Good Year (2006) and Russell Crowe’s Maximillian Skinner.
While not a box office hit nor an award winning classic, it is nevertheless an underrated film that just so happens to be representative of one of Russell Crowe’s finest sartorial turns on screen (and that is with all due respect to Gladiator, as we all know that tunics can be hard to transition to modern dress codes).
It is a pure spectacle of utter charm and romanticized escapism, a casual (ie. not too deep or life-altering) laid-back visual tour de force that is equal parts aesthetically intoxicating and sartorially tactful. And it just so happens to be an ideal candidate if you are of the gentlemanly ilk who is looking for a breezy summer film that will inspirationally satiate any creative wardrobing (and travel) wanderlust you may be harbouring.
A Londoner at heart (and in heritage), before being summoned to the estate due to the French law system regarding the handling of wills, Max's sense of style slowly transitions throughout the film from initially being dominated by classic (and stiff) English business and formalwear to that of a more loosened up, dressed down casual tailoring aesthetic that he carries off with panache and a level of nonchalance that is envious on one hand and more studied (and softer) on the other.
Subsequently, his wardrobe expands from a strict reliance upon a near faultless daily rotation of banker (i.e. power) pinstripe and timeless navy suits into that of something reminiscent of the retro sporting attire one would find in the ‘60s/‘70s — vintage cuffed Fred Perry pique polos, boating blazers, cable-knit tennis vests, and classic white canvas sneakers/trainers.
Creatively speaking, his look becomes softer (unlined and deconstructed blazers and linen trousers replace fully canvassed, lined suits) as he fastidiously delves into the pillar remnants of his Uncle Henry’s wardrobe for items to wear whilst reluctantly acquiescing and adjusting his style habits to better suit the warm-weather (in comfort) of the region (Provence, France), its picturesque beauty, and its easy-going lifestyle.
Featuring a tasteful array of textures (from mid-weight worsted wools through soft linens) and structures that are universally defined by a streamlined choice colour palette (navy + neutral muted hues), Max’s (and many of the male characters within the film) wardrobe ultimately becomes a timely ode to a more sensible and studied era of personal style.
Collectively, it is a coalescent mixture of the relaxed insouciance of Mediterranean resort wear, retro tennis aesthetics, timeless British business suiting, and (eventually) deconstructed Italian tailoring.
By all accounts, his wardrobe is well-studied and practical, luxurious yet comfortable, a creative mixture of fine perennial summer (and business) staples that will always be enticingly coveted for their timeless styling merits alone — whilst being a visual feast for the eyes all the same.
In that vein, here are three inspirational looks torn from the back of Crowe’s Maximilian Skinner.
Ranging from power business suiting and retro tennis garb through soft, casual date night tailoring, Max’s signature pieces (particularly his rectangular tortoiseshell glass) will have you looking the proper gentlemanly part in no time whatsoever…
Precisly cut to perfection and with a timeless formal vitality, his suits are tastefully conservative yet a calculated power statement that ably carries him through thick-and-thin, from the trading floor through a night out on the town.
And the reason it all works is that it is a well-studied game of streamlined layering and exquisite orchestration: a navy pinstripe suit accentuated by polished black oxfords, a white cotton (Egyptian?) dress shirt, micro-dot silk navy tie, a black attache case, and navy silk/cashmere socks.
Simple, clean, streamlined, classically elegant, and deliberately assured.
Max's Uncle Henry could not have said it better: "The importance of a good blue suit cannot be overstated as it is the most versatile of accoutrements at a man’s disposal…
And that is why, whether getting his hands dirty whilst renovating the estate or in comical fashion (during a match of tennis with an old acquaintance) channeling his youthful days of athletic prowess on the tennis court, this easy-wearing ensemble is a casual (weekend) look worth taking note of .
What works about this outfit is the muted palette and its reliance upon staple casual essentials: rather then suppression shorts or statement making colours like orange, red, or neons, Max opts for a classic Fred Perry cuffed polo in black and gold/yellow that is anchored and harmonized nicely by tan/sand (linen) shorts and white sneakers. Tack on — should you get cold — a v-neck tennis sweater (vest) that looks as good with trousers as it does with shorts and what you have is an ensemble that can be suitable worn on the court or while relaxing/renovating your home (in the same manner as Max) .
And, much like everything else Max wears throughout the film, what makes the look complete is his signature tortoiseshell glasses.
Intelligent yet sporting, these pieces are (collectively or individually) an effortless cinch to sport and as wearable today as they were in their sartorial heyday.
Game, set, and match!
In just such matters, nothing speaks of his characteristic (style) transformation more so then that of his willingness (and desire) to sport his uncle’s traditional deconstructed boating (or cricket) blazer during his evening courtship — or as he put it "obligatory cultural activity" — with the apple of his carnal eye, Ms. Fanny Shenal (Cotillard).
In this instance Max is acutely aware that dressing for your surroundings and the weather is of upmost importance. Which is why he dropped the structured banker pinstripes for something more tastefully tangible, something a touch more casual and comfortable for dressing down whilst still appearing to be dressed up. For just such an occasion the heritage-tinged charm offered by the boating (or cricket) stripe blazer , in conjunction with some (regionally) appropriate sand linen trousers and a repp tie (matching the blazer in colour) creatively worn as a belt, was the perfect ensemble to pull together for the evenings events.
Now, as for footwear Max opts for his go-to white canvas trainers (sneakers) whereas I have (for diversity purposes) chosen to include a pair of sophisticated (yet still casual) leather brown tassel loafers instead to add a touch of contemporary flair for a casual summer date night in the city (or on the coast). Whether you opt for the loafers or sneakers is a matter in which I would leave to your creative styling discretion.
And rounding out the look are his signature tortoiseshell glasses in addition to a white linen dress shirt and a cotton ribbed a-shirt (vest).
Very chic, classic, and casually sophisticated.
A Good Year is a highly stylized, picturesque, purposefully fleeting, lighthearted tale that is tastefully packaged as charming escapist fare.
The performances are well delivered, the locales intoxicating, and the redemption/self realization story an endearing (despite being something you’ve likely seen on numerous occasions before) romp that will leave you utterly satisfied upon its conclusion.
That said, Albert Finney (Uncle Henry) portrays (in flashbacks) that uncle we all wish we had whilst Crowe anchors the entire picture admirably alongside a gorgeously defiant Cotillard. And the supporting cast are no pushovers either, with both Archie Punjabi (Max’s Assistant Gemma) and Didier Bourdon (Francis Duflot) stealing scenes whenever they cross our paths.
It is a film in which tortoiseshell glasses, cashmere tennis sweaters, bespoke boating blazers, pique polos, warm-weather linens and classic heritage (British & Italian) tailoring reign supreme.
And much like the a fine vintage wine, A Good Year is a hidden gem (albeit not a life-altering masterpiece by any means) that is tastefully exquisite yet easy to sip, offering up a stylishly inspirational foundation that is properly accentuated by an age old tale whose ultimate success is defined by the successful melding of all its moving parts — from the (quite evident) chemistry of its performers to the picturesque draw of its setting and the style of its characters, it is something that must be experienced firsthand to truly enjoy.
And the cinematic trailer…