Yesterday, GQ unveiled its list of “The Most Stylish Men Alive.” The publication writes that it purposefully omitted heavy hitters like “Kanye and Clooney,” in favor of people who just recently started dressing well and going out more.
The inclusion of Drake was particularly head scratching, especially when pitted against the likes of those aforementioned names. Ditto that, to a certain extent, for Future. It raises the question: Has our definition of a style icon changed?
The blurb supporting Future’s placement on the list is almost completely concerned with the rapper’s ability to sell wide brim hats. GQ even anoints him “Lord of the Brim” and cites a shop owner who gets calls from people now looking for the “Future hat.” It’s debatable whether or not selling hats qualifies someone as a style icon (besides those who believe that Pharrell wearing that Vivienne Westwood hat to the VMAs is still the peak of style), but even we noted, back in December, that Future is at least trying to get noticed for stepping up his fashion game. Convincing people to buy your signature style piece is one way to do so.
The ability to move products seems especially important to GQ this year. Drake is many things, but a style icon is not one of them; the rapper is better known for flexing his popularity to move T-shirts, hoodies, and sweatshirts from his OVOline. And, as GQ notes, these are the same types of things Drake wears. While his popularity may allow him to impact the way men dress, that boils down more to him being so visible. Drake sells the basics, and saying he impacted style drastically is like arguing people started buying beds because they saw one in Drake’s house. Real style influencers, like Rick Owens for instance, make you weigh whether or not it’s worth it to sleep on a slab of concrete for fashion’s sake.
To GQ’s credit, it honored deserving people on this list and past ones. Pharrell, who appears on last year’s list, is synonymous with personal accomplishments in style. The rapper-producer-designer-Voice host fits what we more traditionally think of as someone deserving of the title style icon: Someone who pushes the way we dress in different directions, who wears things (and pulls things off) that no one else would ever think to wear. This has been the case throughout style history. Dating all the way back to classics, like Marlon Brando and James Dean, who were instrumental in converting the white T-shirt from underwear into outerwear.
Kanye—love it or hate it—might be the best example of a true modern-day style icon. The rapper has not only changed how many guys dress, but is also certainly a boon for the brands he’s worn and designed for. What style-conscious guys don’t have a horror story about trying to buy Kanye’s collaboration with adidas? The inclusion of Harry Styles is the type of forward-thinking choice we want to see (and another we named to our own year-end list). The former boy-banderdoesn’t shy away from challenging looks, like floral Gucci suits and flamboyantly-printed button-ups.
Jaden Smith, who is coming for the throne when it comes to dressing weirdly, didn’t make the cut for GQ this year, but was on 2015’s. Young Thug, the one who actually holds the throne when it comes to wearing outfits that make you do a double take, is conspicuously absent from both. The rapper is constantly pushing standards by dismissing trends, wearing women’s clothing, and truly going for it with bold patterns and designs in the age of minimalism. Once upon a time, Kanye wore a Givenchy skirt. Now, we can look to Young Thug wearing a Gucci dress on the cover of Dazed. This is the type of out-there shit we should be demanding from our style icons.