“I’m putting on my top hat,
Tying up my white tie,
Brushing off my tails.
I’m duding up my shirtfront,
Putting in the shirt studs,
Polishing my nails…”
Ah, for the days when a man could sing those words loud and proud, and then do the happy tap dance to celebrate. Fred Astaire was steppin’ out. Proper accessories were required.
Of course, it was all a big fantasy. When Astaire sang Irving Berlin’s lyrics in Top Hat, the second of his ten films with Ginger Rogers, the Depression was in full swing. Seventy-five years later, in the midst of what’s been called the “second Great Depression,” it’s impossible to watch him without feeling your spirits lift.
Stepping out Astaire-style required just about every accessory known to man – top hat in the evening, straw boater by day, studs, cufflinks, collar pin, you name it. His characters had great jewelry to choose from. Deco was probably the best era for men’s jewelry in the past century, and cuff links from that period work as well today as they did then.
These days, it takes a confident man – or at least, one who works in the arts – to wear jewelry with that kind of panache. Astaire personified the dandy, more a product of Broadway than serious Hollywood heartthrob. After all, he inhabited the world of musical theater: over the top.
Johnny Depp is probably his closest successor style-wise, a man who loves costume and views fashion as a chance to play with personas. Is there any man in show biz today who has more fun getting dressed?
Cary Grant toyed with a goofier persona in movies like Bringing Up Baby, but by 1950, he was projecting that debonair, cosmopolitan look we associate with him. While his fashion sense was more subdued, he always wore great cufflinks and the best watch, which he was known to pair with a thin gold bracelet and, sometimes, a discreet necklace.
Adrian Brody follows Grant’s footsteps in terms of style, a confident and adventurous dresser but always tasteful and elegant. Brad Pitt is another who fits this category. Both have been known to sport bracelets and pendants instead of ties, and they’re handsome and self-assured enough to pull it off.