Some time ago , Michelle Tea wrote a fantastic post about literary ladies. I decided to put this concept to very different ends: the style of spiritual dudes.
Obviously, we all know the type I’m not interested in exploring on a fashion blog. No offense to yoga pants/hemp, but that’s not what I’m thinking. Additionally, I’m cheating by ruling out the most boring/cult-y of the group, so no Tom Cruise or Bono. Gross. I’ve also excluded people who were merely raised in a faith. I’m interested in creative adults who have actively explored spirituality in their more recent lives.
With all those qualifiers aside, some Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Woos, and Muslims walk into a bar and . . . well this crew could at least talk about their outfits.
Besides being a genius, Mr. Lynch is totally weird dude (these are potentially related thoughts, that’s why there’s only a comma separating them). A practitioner and funder of the vaguely-Ponzi, deeply New Age-y Transcendental Meditation program, Lynch says his meditation practice deepens his creative one, and I can get with that (even if it does still smack of its psychedelic-’60s origins, which involved founder Maharishi Mahesh Yogi promising the Beatles that the practice would bring levitation and “world peace”).
The guy who brought us Twin Peaks can’t be wrong, even if it’s confusing why you’d pay to practice meditation when you can easily join a local community practice funded by a very reasonable donation policy. But whatever! And he’s off:
Look, sitting silently only does a body good, no matter what else is going on. That’s what I think.
Anyway, he’s clearly channeled his eccentric precision into his outfits. I love how he’s so committed to his look:
I hope to age into a uniform like David Lynch here. And, frankly, to have hair that looks even remotely like this.
Malcolm X was one of the sharpest dressers in modern history.
Besides being a civil rights activist and master orator, Malcolm X was also very publicly a member of the Nation of Islam. He eventually left the group and founded his own organization, the Muslim Mosque Inc. According to Wikipedia (so, grain of salt):
“Malcolm X’s expressed beliefs changed substantially over time. As a spokesman for the Nation of Islam he taught black supremacy and advocated separation of black and white Americans—in contrast to the civil rights movement‘s emphasis on integration. After breaking with the Nation of Islam in 1964—saying of his association with it, “I was a zombie then … pointed in a certain direction and told to march”—and becoming a Sunni Muslim, he disavowed racism and expressed willingness to work with civil rights leaders, though still emphasizing black self-determination and self defense.”
Malcolm X’s clean, trim look and trademark Clubmasters (putting prescription lenses in those frames is an idea I definitely learned from him) gave him a modern, confident look.
It’s sad that we’ll never know how he would have aged, but it is true that his clean-cut formality makes him one of the most timeless sartorial figures of the 20th century.
Cat Stevens/ Yusuf Islam
After several hit albums, Cat Stevens converted to Islam in 1977. By 1979 he’d sold all of his guitars for charity and begun a life of devotion and Muslim educational missions.
Yusef (his preferred name) had been on a spiritual quest for some time, looking into Buddhism, astrology, Numerology, and mystical pursuits. But a near-drowning incident in 1976 soon led him to the Qur’an, and, as he told Rolling Stone, “I had found the spiritual home I’d been seeking for most of my life. And if you listen to my music and lyrics, like ‘Peace Train’ and ‘On The Road To Find Out,’ it clearly shows my yearning for direction and the spiritual path I was traveling.”
Yusef’s pre-conversion outfits were definitely more interesting than the more traditional garb he wore for some time after. He was definitely among the most stylish of the flower-power set, with his rugged beard and penchant for tight flannel. However, to be fair, it’s hard to locate images of him during his 25 year hiatus from music.
Either way, he ended up looking pretty great:
He kept the beard, even if he cut the hair. And the suit looks pretty boho, which is a nice salute to his roots.
Probably one of the more handsome men in indie rock, Stevens is not only a weirdo and genius, but also a Christian who has a complicated relationship to faith. He’s cagey in interviews, but his music has been interpreted as questioning the effectiveness of prayer, and “Seven Swans” was a mystical album if there ever was one.
Stevens looks like a dick high school soccer player but dresses like an understated musician, except when he’s on stage:
When not in a Boy Scout uniform/wings, he seems to mostly kick it in in T-shirts:
Which is probably his appeal. He’s well put-together, but not precious. His stage personae/physical presence/music all seem to exist in barely touching spheres. He pulls off a simple look well, which might be the theme of well-dressed spiritually inclined fellows.
Dylan, as you may know, has had a pretty bumpy relationship with his spiritual quest, famously converting briefly to Christianity in the late-’70s and even releasing two (!) gospel albums. His evangelizing during that period was so annoying that John Lennon recorded a song that basically told him (and proselytizers) to shut it and look a little closer to home:
By 1997 he was telling the New York Times that he didn’t subscribe to any organized religion, only the power of song.
Regardless of his strange relationship with spiritual matters, Dylan is a man who is both melodramatic and poetic, a troublemaker who thinks deeply about the world. He also aesthetically managed to balance glamour with rootsiness in equal measure.
Spirituality is a personal matter, and one that I don’t mean to make flippant. But, as always here at IBC, I’m advocating that I’m not sure aesthetic reality is or should be divorced from the deeper questions of life.
Big questions about meaning come for all of us, well dressed or not. The human experience is rich, man.