Style Icon: Andre Benjamin


You know the glossy man; the high-cheekboned, slick haired, brilliantly attired chap sat on the steps of some enormous Rhode Island mansion. Looking vaguely pissed off, impossibly wealthy and handsome to the point of vulgarity. His Fair Isle sweater, club stripe tie, rolled-up coloured trousers and saddle shoes are perfect in colour mix and context. A moment of exquisite beauty captured, many might say.

Of course, the reality is that these images – like the still life of the silver screen – are creations of fantasy and dreams. Men of such youth and high conventional appeal don’t swan around with linen pocket squares and silk bow ties on grand estates, musing over their gargantuan fortunes. As soon as the last camera has clicked, the lighting is disassembled and the set dismantled; the glossy man returns to his dressing room to remove his preppy clothing, ruffle his smoothed down hair and return to his Diesel jeans and D&G t-shirt. The whole tableau grinds down with a disappointing decrescendo, like the whirring demise of a carousel at the close of the fair.

No one believes that men dress like the glossy man. He is the unicorn of menswear. Certainly, plenty of men, older men particularly, borrow elements from such scenes. The tie perhaps, or the saddle shoes, but generally in a more conservative fashion; generally sober and sensible; generally without the Kiwi green punch or the purple pizzazz.

Andre Benjamin on the other hand does it with all the punch and just the right amount of pizzazz. He does it with charm, sophistication and energy – most importantly, he doesn’t look pissed off when he is doing it.

Famously down to earth and genuine, Benjamin is a talented man with an eye (and an ear) for artistic creation. Known variously as André 3000, Dré, and by his given name of André Lauren Benjamin, he is a fantastic expressionist of sartorial possibility; brilliant colours, a mixture of tailored and casual items, fearless experimentation that seems to pay off each and every time and a great sense of the importance of vintage cuts and style. He wears bright bow ties, a grand array of hats and mashes it altogether for playful, entertaining, attractive and mature ensembles that betray a natural creativity that, not so long ago, he decided to explore and exploit.

For Benjamin is not only a noted rapper, singer/song writer, actor and dandy-about-town, he has started his own brand, Benjamin Bixby, which after an extraordinarily preppy premiere (think Ralph Lauren meets the ‘Hey Ya’ video) has quickly matured into a vintage-inspired clothing and accessories line with a healthy dose of funk – avoiding the stuffy, starchy clichés of similar brands. There is the occasional gratuitous ‘B’ logo but Benjamin’s offering, so clearly bearing his mark and his ideas, is generally tack free.

His style is in the checked plus-fours, the tweed jackets worn with the bright green polo shirt, the tongue in cheek pith helmet and the double breasted blazers; he is one of those people I most admire in style terms. A seeker and an appreciator; you can envisage him searching for ideas in unlikely places, trying something because he saw it in a Leyendecker drawing or an old postcard, wandering through little shops in Paris and Rome without pomp or fanfare, just looking for the next thing.