Jude Law is done with basics. He’s not opposed, necessarily. But at 49 years old and with a keenly developed sense of his own style, he’s full up on fundamentals. “It’s not like I need basic stuff,” he tells me over the phone, noting that his wardrobe is big enough already. “But if there’s something interesting and it feels like a piece that’s got a real personality and almost a quality of artistic integrity—sometimes you find really old vintage pieces or a piece of tailor-made clothing that just feels like, ‘Wow, this is not a one-off but this feels very, very special;’ it has its own personality and you feel lucky to kind of have it in your life for a short period—I love acquiring those.”
One look at the British star’s style over the past few years and it’s easy to see how that plays out in real life. Off duty, walking around his native London, he’s mastered the sort of artfully slouched vibe that manages to look both deeply relaxed and deeply considered. Drop-crotch trousers and painstakingly distressed outerwear are absolutely on the menu, but he always looks like he’s wearing them, as opposed to the other way around. On the red carpet, he manages the same sort of balancing act, pairing elements like wide-leg trousers and neatly tailored jackets in a way that feels fashion-forward but eminently wearable. He always looks at ease, and that’s by design.
“I’m just comfy,” he says. “If I can get away with wearing something soft, then I do. But I think the thread really is this idea of clothes as costume, clothes as an expression of who you are and how you’re feeling. Sometimes you want to disappear. Sometimes you want to feel great, and the clothes help you with that. I’ve always been curious about that connection.”
This spring, helping him explore that theme a little further, Law and his son Raff have signed on as the faces of storied Italian brand Brioni. Known for its precise tailoring punctuated by that legendary Italian sense of movement, it feels like a natural fit for Law in his comfy era. So I caught up with him to talk about how the partnership came together, how he tuned in his own sense of style, and, of course, how the IRL Dickie Greenleaf feels about his character’s place in the menswear canon.
Esquire: Okay, great. So I guess to kick things off, I’m curious how the relationship with Brioni came together. What drew you to the brand?
Jude Law: Well, the working relationship came together through all the usual, unromantic channels. When I was approached, I was very curious because this is a brand that is somewhat of an institution. It’s got an incredible history and legacy. I knew of their heritage and when I met with them and saw what they wanted to do and where they’re taking the clothes, at the moment, it just felt like a very comfortable fit, I suppose, with where I am in my life and who I am. It felt like a good relationship.
I guess it’s worth adding, also, that I have a very close relationship with Italy as a country and as a culture. I spent a lot of time there and I feel very at home there. So I think the fact that Brioni was an Italian brand was one of the many elements that drew me there originally. And the current people that are working at the creative team are all very good people, very collaborative. That’s always important. In anything I get involved in creatively you want to be able to… Especially in something like this, you want to be able to feel like you feel yourself rather than just a dummy that gets the clothes to put on.
Esquire: It seems like you have a pretty well-developed sense of personal style. And I’m curious if you’d agree with that, and I’m wondering what drew you to developing that in the first place and how it’s evolved over time.
JL: Oh, thank you. I take that as a compliment. I don’t know that I’ve ever given it anything other than regular kind of attention. I suppose if I were to look back over the years when I was a teenager, I was someone who was always very into my favorite band and my favorite characters in movies or even the characters in books. If there was any image, I was always drawn to what they were doing with their clothes and how they were expressing that. So I went through all sorts of different outfits, I suppose, as a kid.
And I guess it was a connection in a way, somewhere along the lines with myself as an actor, and I sort of… It’s not that I saw my clothes as a costume, but I certainly saw them as an opportunity to express maybe how I was feeling. And again, you could say that was maybe the start of my personal style, but in truth, I’m someone who, I look at the weather and I look at how I’m feeling, collect it all, and I kind of put together what feels right through the occasion.
Sometimes I quite like contrasting what’s maybe expected of an occasion. Sometimes I like toeing the line. I always like to feel comfortable the older I get, with the type of stuff I’m wearing, that’s for sure. I’m just comfy. If I can get away with wearing something soft, then I do. But I think the thread really is this idea of clothes as costume, clothes as an expression of who you are and how you’re feeling. Sometimes you want to disappear. Sometimes you want to feel great, and the clothes help you with that. I’ve always been curious about that connection.
Esquire: I think it’s cool that you said that you just take things and throw them together. And I’m curious what your ingredients are. When you’re shopping for something or when you’re thinking about what you want in your wardrobe, are there specific elements that you look for there? I’ve noticed you favor a baggier pant with a more fitted jacket.
JL: Well, first of all, I’m at an age and I’m at a place where I don’t need any kind of real basics. If I go out shopping or I happen to be sent stuff, it’s not like I need basic stuff. I feel like I don’t really want to add to an already big wardrobe. That always feels a little excessive. But if there’s something interesting and it feels like a piece that’s got a real personality and almost a quality of artistic integrity—sometimes you find really old vintage pieces or a piece of tailor-made clothing that just feels like, “Wow, this is not a one-off but this feels very, very special.” It also has its own personality and you feel lucky to kind of have it in your life for a short period—I love acquiring those.
As for the silhouette you were just describing, I mean, that, to me, is the sort of classic ‘40s sort of style I’ve always just seen as from the movies and the movie stars of that period. I just thought they always looked great. High-waisted trousers, loose. I went through my 20s and 30s wearing very tight trousers like most people. I grew up in the sort of tail end of punk in London with bands like The Clash and The Dead Kennedys. And so, I don’t know, I just feel at my age now, I quite like wearing a looser trouser and a jacket, always, if it’s cut well, can so complement… It makes you feel very comfortable, but it also is elegant. I also love scarves. I feel like scarves have a kind of personality of their own right. They make you feel a little more, I don’t know, creative really.
Esquire: Would you say that you have a different approach when it comes to putting together something more casual for like a kind of off-duty day than you do when you are dressing up for a more formal one?
JL: Not anymore. I mean, like I said, I really became interested in finding comfort in the evening where, I mean, if I’m really honest with you, there was a period that luckily I was very slim, but I’d squeeze myself into stuff in the evening because it was all about… You know when Hedi Slimane was at Dior and everything was really tight? I was very into all of that. Now I’m sort of almost going in the opposite; I like things kind of comfy. So, to be honest, if it’s day wear, if it’s comfortable and it’s soft and warm, then I’ll go for that. And then in the evening, I try to do the same but just try and add an element of smartness, I suppose. So I don’t disrespect someone if I’m going somewhere where one has to wear a tie.
Esquire: You mentioned those kind of standout pieces that speak to you emotionally. Are there any pieces that you have that are treasured to the point where you don’t think you would, for instance, let your son borrow them?
JL: Yeah, I’ve got lots of pieces I wouldn’t let anyone borrow. The only person who really wears most of—well, she doesn’t actually, but she wears a few—is my wife because she’s taller than me and she just looks phenomenal in everything. So she kind of wears whatever she wants to wear. My son, yeah, maybe not. [Laughs] I’ve got a couple of these pieces that—there’s this brilliant British designer called By Walid, and he uses and sources incredible vintage material from around the world and repurposes it into these exquisitely cut jackets and trousers.
I love just the fact that he’s using repurposed stuff and I love the fact that most of the jackets and the material on them are completely one-off unique. So I’ve got a few of his clothes. And he, in fact, made the suit that I got married in and it was the most exquisite, beautiful, repurposed material. It was amazing. They’re like pieces of art and I kind of don’t wear them myself. I kind of leave them. I’ve got to figure out what I’ve got to do one day with them but I love them.
Esquire: What’s the discovery process for you like with something like that? How do you tend to find out about new and interesting designers or items and decide to bring them into your wardrobe?
JL: I mean, I’m not someone who trolls shops. I have a couple of shops I pop into and leave very, very quickly. I don’t particularly like shopping. But I know a couple of key things I really like, and I’ve got a couple connections at those places—very, very good friends now, who I trust. So I’ll go in and we’ll have a catch up and a cup of coffee and then they’ll show me some stuff. I rely on my daughter and my son quite a lot. I guess they both see it as an expression of themselves. And so my daughter, who’s studying textile at Central Saint Martins, has really got a finger on the pulse of what and who is doing what and where and when.
But a lot of the really young people stuff, understandably, doesn’t really suit me, but I’m curious to know what’s coming up. I guess Walid came about through a guy I know here who works in the fashion business and I have… I sometimes feel like fashion should be seen and not talked about. Do you know what I mean? It’s overly discussed, you suddenly start thinking, “Hold on. Are we really talking about a pair of trousers here?” And then sometimes it’s absolutely like the be all and end all like, “What is the difference between a cuff and a straight leg?” You know? So I couldn’t put my finger on it. It feels like a very organic process.
Esquire: You mentioned getting tuned into things from your kids. And I know that you said there are some things you wouldn’t let your son steal. Are there any things that he’s wearing that, maybe if you’re not going to steal it out of his closet, you might crib the idea from him for yourself?
JL: I think since he became a young man, he was a good barometer for me to stop maybe wearing certain things because I thought, “Hold on. My son’s wearing this so I can’t get away with that anymore.” I’m jealous of how free he is in what he wears. He’s pretty expressive and he’s much braver than I was at his age. The only thing I would say is sometimes sneakers. He always has these amazing sneakers. I mean, not that I wear sneakers as much anymore, but I was one of these collectors back in the ‘90s and the late ‘80s so I’m always a little envious of where he gets these new sneakers.
Esquire: I recognize this is pretty specific, but do you have a favorite outfit that you’ve ever worn?
JL: Honestly, the one that comes to mind is the suit I got married in that I mentioned that Walid made. He used all these incredible vintage pieces of white woven and lace over woven swatches that he then kind of reduced and dyed to a single ivory and put together this really beautiful, kind of loose… I don’t know. I felt very special on a very special day.
Esquire: Do any jump to mind that you particularly regret?
JL: Luckily not. I mean, I’m thinking it must be something in my past. I’m sure someone else will read this and go, “Oh God, I saw a photo of him wearing this and he looked awful.” No, I don’t regret. There’s no point. I mean, I’m sure there’s something in my past. I can’t think of it. I look back on a lot of the stuff I wore, especially as the kid, and I’m like, “I’m glad I got away with that just,” but I can’t think of anything to describe I’m afraid. I think it’s the only way [to be], right? You can’t walk around going, “I wish I’d never worn that purple Lycra suit.” [Laughs] Anyway, I don’t have one of those.
Esquire: Are there any characters that you’ve played who you really related to in terms of their style? Where when you got in costume, you were like, “Oh yeah, I’m feeling this.”
JL: Oh, sure. Well, recently, absolutely. I just played Professor Dumbledore again. I mean, I was in the great and glorious hands of Colleen Atwood. And we both had this idea of coming up with something comfortable but elegant. She used all these beautiful period tweeds and cashmere. So, everything was soft and silken but equally very sharp and smart with long coats and trilby hats. So I mean, it was right up my street and ‘30s, so slightly earlier than some of the sort of silhouettes that I like, but I loved playing that character and I really loved dressing with that character. Very elegant, suede, like calf-length boots, and I mean really beautiful, beautiful outfits. And then after that, I’d just played Captain Hook as well. So, walking around with massive knee-length boots and cute coats and a hat and long hair and billowing white shirt. All of that was fantastic, too. So, there are two complete contrasts of how I see myself.
Esquire: I’ve got to ask about Dickie Greenleaf. Because honestly, photos of you in mid-century polos and in character as Greenleaf populate more style mood boards than I think you would want to know about. Did you feel a particular connection to the style of The Talented Mr. Ripley?
JL: It was pretty clear from the character that this guy had to look incredibly elegant but also throwaway, which I think is a great combination. He’s someone who would be wearing a classic pair of deer skin woven white peachy loafers that he would just sort of pick off and leave on the beach, and the same with those beautiful shirts and ties. I mean, there was this sort of disregard to the elegance and this beautiful laissez faire [attitude]. Again, I was in the hands of an amazing costume designer, Ann Roth, who is a legend. Ann brings so much more than just the clothes. She sort of starts coloring in the character for you.
That period was always one…I mean, I grew up in the ‘80s really, so if you remember, the 80s were, or certainly in London, there was a lot of throwback fashion. And the film was just sort of edging into that. So I loved all those clothes. Unfortunately, I never got to keep any of them but it’s interesting, my son, when he dresses in Brioni, reminds me so much. Because Brioni at times have that sort of tailoring. They have some of their shirts which are open neck and short sleeves, slim-cut trousers, the loafers. Raff, just totally reminding me of that era and that character. And listen, to hear you talking about that now or to say that it still has that effect, obviously, for an actor, that’s such a wonderful compliment to the work we did back then.
Esquire: Well, that wraps up my questions on style. I’ve got just one last thing to ask you, because I hear that you’re a pretty voracious reader. What’s on your nightstand?
JL: Well, I’m about to start work on a film in April in which I play Henry VIII, the king of England in Tudor, England. I’ve literally read, I mean, everything I can get my hands on, and I’m at book number nine, I think, of biographies and backstories. So everything is about Henry VIII. Two that really stood out for me were the Antonia Fraser, The Six Wives of Henry VIII and then a Robert Hutchinson book called The Last Days of Henry VIII. But it’s all Henry at the moment.
Esquire: Do you get a chance to read for pleasure much or is it mostly when you’re doing research for roles?
JL: Oh, no. I read for pleasure. I read all the time, but at the moment, as you can imagine, when you’re kind of studying, then that has to lean into what the subject of the day is.
Esquire: Right on. Well, now I’ve got a couple of Henry VIII books that I can catch up on—
JL: Yeah, if you’re interested. Yeah, exactly. And I’ll tell you a book I loved, called A Million Heavens by John Brandon. That was a great read. Out in the desert, a contemporary-set book, a brilliant novel. Sort of multifaceted, very slow moving but really, really profound.
Esquire: That’s great. Well, thanks for the heads up on that one too.
JL: A couple of weeks readings worth there.
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