First things first, men: effortless style does not mean leaving the house dressed in your bed-crumpled, jam-spotted pyjamas. Or only ever changing your shirt when you feel its stale odour is putting your pet French poodle off his Bonios. Neither is effortless style about Mark Zuckerberg’s tragic Tupperware-grey hoodie. (Anyway, what’s the point of being a billionaire if you’re going to dress like an intern every day?) No, effortless style is about an inner confidence that translates into exothermic sartorial élan; or something Cara Delevingne might describe as, ‘swag’. It’s a tricky thing to define, and it’s even more difficult to assemble from the ground up. The truth is some guys have it, and some guys need to put a little more effort into their effortlessness...

One of the bastions of such an easy-breezy look is Johnny Depp. I don’t mean the Depp as you see nowadays, a man whose style has somehow become all of the character roles he’s ever played on screen – part 1920s, prohibition-era mobster, part cartoon pirate, part human keyfob. Before the ubiquitous moth-eaten fedora, before all the bangles, the watch chains, the tattoos, the foot-wide trouser hems, and the effeminate engagement rings, if you look back at the images of Depp while he was hooking up with Kate Moss, for example, you’ll see the absolute personification of what it means to have ‘effortless style’.

A blue linen shirt unbuttoned to your mid sternum, hair that looks tousled but not purposely so – there’s bed head (good), and then there’s Nicky Clarke (bad) – boots that have seen far better days, an oversized leather jacket borrowed from a hobo on Skid Row – you couldn’t get much cooler, nor much shabbier, frankly. Unkempt. Edgy. Depp’s style back then was a smouldering shrug. All rakish ennui and a middle finger to The Man.

Of course, the trick is youth – the metaphorical elixir of all effortless style. If you’re a 20-something Hollywood dreamboat with a supermodel hanging off your arm (and every word), you’d look good stepping out of the Viper Room in a pair of fluoro-pink beach shoes and a technicolour onesie. Those who have taken over from Depp with just as much ice-cool effortlessness are Harry Styles (being in the blandest band on the planet doesn’t stop him looking like a rock star in skinny black jeans, plus Keith Richards-appropriated headscarf), Robert Pattinson (who somehow makes the nylon bomber jacket look as sharp as an all-black two-piece suit), and Jamie Dornan (the Fifty Shades of Grey star is king of the jeans ’n’ trainers non-effort effort). But how to achieve the seemingly unachievable? Pattinson and Styles, as you were. For the rest of us, looking nonchalant about our wardrobe choices takes work.


This may sound counterintuitive, but as my girlfriend told me once when she caught me hunched like a monk over a suede brush: ‘There’s nothing sexy about polishing shoes.’


Ditch the shiny, black, pointy things as sharp as envelope openers and choose something with a little more scuff. Desert boots (from Marni, Sergio Rossi or Church’s) are fast becoming the smart choice for the non-stylish style set.

3. AVOID EYE CONTACT OLIVER SPENCER Sid round acetate sunglasses

Wear sunglasses. All the time. Even while driving. At night. Nothing says ‘Back off, bro!’ more than a neat pair of shades from Oliver Spencer or Gucci.


Keep the casual look contemporary by layering a dark denim jacket from somewhere like Jean Machine under a coloured, more formal blazer.


Whether it’s a Balmain biker or a Saint Laurent bomber, invest in a jacket that will look as good in the day as it will at the bar. (Sometimes a little edge at a formal event is all you need.)

SAINT LAURENT Wool-twill and leather Varsity jacket SAINT LAURENT Wool-twill and leather Varsity jacket
Jonathan Heaf is features director of British GQ.
Follow him on Twitter @JonathanHeaf.