Dylan Jones: The making of a male style icon

Story highlights

  • The term "style icon" is pervasive in womenswear, but rarely applied to men almost to the point of cliché
  • GQ Editor Dylan Jones believes men aren't as quick to use the word because they don't like being told how to dress
  • Those most likely to earn the title appear effortlessly, and admired for their chosen careers

Dylan Jones is the Editor-in-Chief of British GQ and the Chairman of London Collections Men. The views expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

GQ Editor-in-Chief Dylan Jones

(CNN)Perhaps it's still safe to assume that men might need a little more help than women when it comes to looking good, but we are a lot less keen on admitting it. Simply put, men don't like being told how to dress, and as someone who has spent the last quarter of a century attempting to do that, I know how carefully one needs to tread.

One thing we're not keen on at all is being told someone is a style icon. In womenswear, the term is pervasive almost to the point of cliche. From Jane Birkin and Audrey Hepburn to Kendall Jenner and Alexa Chung, these women wield considerable influence over how other women dress and, sometimes, what designers choose to show each season.
    With men it's slightly trickier because we like to think we know how to dress without being overly influenced by anyone else. Consequently, calling someone a style icon is tempting fate.
    However there are various qualities that a man needs to have to not only qualify as a bonafide style icon, but also to be accepted by men as one. Firstly you need to look effortlessly cool, as though you haven't tried too hard. This is why we still revere men such as Steve McQueen and Hunter S. Thompson, men who are admired for their chosen careers as well as the cavalier way in which they dress (often just jeans and T-shirts).
    Conversely, it helps if you are a true sartorial maverick, someone like David Bowie -- not that there is anyone remotely like David Bowie -- who goes against the grain, and genuinely leads fashion as opposed to following it or interpreting it.
    Then again you have one-offs like David Beckham, an everyman who has spent the best part of his post-football career turning himself into a successful brand, and doing it in a way that appeals to men who may not have liked him when he was a Manchester United player.
    When we thought about who to appoint as ambassadors of London Collections Men, the bi-annual British men's fashion week organized by myself and the British Fashion Council, we actively sought out popular figures who represent a wide variety of disciplines, as well as a wide variety of demographics: Tinie Tempah succeeds in the music business, while Dermot O'Leary and Nick Grimshaw triumph on TV and radio; Lewis Hamilton inspires with his sporting prowess, while David Gandy and Hu Bing are genuine male supermodels.
    Frankly we have been lucky that all these men agreed to get involved with LCM, but then they are all a natural fit, because not only are they all famous, but each and every one of them has a keen fashion sense, and an ability to articulate that to a wide audience.
    In that sense they are all genuine style icons, all men who resonate with the Great British male.
    So these days I think it's fair to say that while there will always be style icons from the past who continue to influence us -- and here we could mention everyone from Cary Grant and Paul Weller to George Best and Jarvis Cocker -- there's still a very real place for contemporary figures, new style icons who have real cut-through with the modern man.
    London Collections Men runs from January 8 to 11, 2016.