Mahershala Ali is now two for two at the Oscars. He became the first Muslim actor to win an Academy Award, for his turn as drug dealer Juan in Moonlight. This year, he was also the first black man to win Best Supporting Actor twice. He’s an overnight success, after more than a decade of work.
Even before he won his first Oscar in 2017, he was an unassuming slayer of red carpets. Killer tuxes and slick tailoring, worn with personality. But since Moonlight, his wardrobe – like his career – has stepped up a gear. He’s now a bona fide style icon, arguably the best suit-wearer in the game (for all we love the Timothée Chalamet and Ezra Miller approach, it’s a bit unattainable for those of us who don’t get invited to Hollywood parties).
Ali’s carved out a style niche that’s one-of-a-kind in the right way. He’s a red carpet don, but not the kind who only looks good when there’s a stylist to wrap him in Tom Ford. Off-duty, he balances the rugged with the delicate, adding enough quirks – like a love of Nehru collars – to make even basic looks feel like his alone. Should you fancy tapping that Mahershala magic, here’s some lessons from his most fire fits.
Start From The Top Down
Not many men can pull off a hat at the Oscars. Ali’s beanie-a-like is actually a rabbit-fur hat from milliner Gigi Burris, which adds a touch of the unexpected to an outfit which encapsulates the different-but-not-too-different approach that he brings to red carpets (and, later in the night, acceptance speeches). The tux is a glove-like DB which only reveals its brocading when you get up close, and he’s ditched the dickie bow for his signature Nehru collar. Proof you can make any dress code your own, even without wearing a glittery chest holster.
Dress For The Space
Deadline’s annual pre-awards show, the Contenders, is an in-between kind of get-together – an almost awards show, with a not-quite red carpet. A tux would be too much, but you still need to put the effort in. Ali bullseyes the look with a grey-on-grey suit and tee, worn cuffed with tonal trainers and dressed down with another hat, this time offering a flash of colour. It’s the definition of smart-casual right now.
Keep It Consistent
This double-denim look is the mirror equivalent of the one above, taking weekend pieces and giving them an awards-season spin. Our normal advice is to make sure there’s some colour distance between your jacket and trousers, or it looks like you’re wearing a denim suit. But you can make the Canadian tux look deliberate. Clark’s Wallabees are the killer move here – smarter than trainers, but still dressed-down enough that the contrast is distinctive, not jarring.
Back To Basics
Mahershala Ali can do old-school glamour, too. For years on the bounce, the Golden Globes has been where he breaks out the most traditional tux. This 2017 look, by Dior Homme, is all about the cut – slim enough to flatter, but not so skinny it suffocates. It’s a look that could drop onto any red carpet in the last 50 years and not look out of place.
Make The Details Count
In a world where most red carpets now feature prints and sequins (and that’s just the guys), Mahershala Ali shows the power of dialling things back. Sure, the suit’s petrol tone and check probably aren’t the kind of thing most guys would wear to work, but you could. Especially when the accessories are so classic – black tie, white square, shiny black double-monks. It’s a lesson in less-is-more style that you should bank for wedding season.
That bag over his shoulder probably has some seriously high-end tailoring inside, but it’s the rest of the look we’re interested in here. On the carpets, Ali keeps things trim; off them, he’s amenable to a looser, more modern cut. The trousers are right now’s platonic ideal; spacious, but not baggy, and cropped to avoid unsightly shoe puddling. The tones, too, are sublime, with the brighter-than-usual blue of the denim popping against rich, yellowy-brown canvas.
It’s A Wrap
This suit, by British-Singaporean brand Dzojchen, marked Ali’s shift to true fashion killer. The brand’s signature robe tailoring has popped up all over the red carpet recently – Chadwick Boseman at Black Panther’s Seoul premiere; Lakeith Stanfield at the Critic’s Choice Awards – but for our money, no one’s worn it better than Mahershala Ali. It’s a novel spin on the three-piece, swapping in a patterned shirt for the standard waistcoat, and offers just enough pattern and shine without looking like a magic eye picture. It’s also not a look that just anyone can pull off. Which makes it all the more unique.
Pattern On Pattern
At the AFI Fest’s Green Book screening, Ali showcased another take on not wearing a tie; a cravat. It’s a look that actors like Clark Gable pulled off in the 30s, and which since has been a tripwire for actors who want to be thought of like Clark Gable but actually just look like they train racehorses. On Ali, though, it offsets the tonal tailoring and provides a flash of unexpected pattern and brightness, which makes a pinstriped, double-breasted suit feel less Wall St. Bonus points for the socks.
The Mahershala Method in a bottle. There’s something classic (the suit) with a twist (the egg yolk yellow colour). It’s worn open, which has become something of a signature – and only works, ironically, if the fit’s just right and nothing’s flapping or tugging. There’s the monk straps at the bottom, the band collar at the top. And there’s that smile, which shines brighter than even the mantelpiece-worth of trophies he’s collected in the last few years.