Why The Talented Mr Ripley remains the ultimate guide to perfect men's style

Few movies could ever be considered the perfect "how to" guide on impeccable men's style as much as 1999's The Talented Mr Ripley.

Shot on location in the Italian town of Positano (in the film, the location is a fictional village by the name of Mongibello) and several islands off the coast of Naples further north, the film is an ode to classic Italian menswear: elegant tailoring made casual thanks to a relaxed fit.

Throughout the film, Jude Law's character Dickie Greenleaf is a cad in cream linen and sheer shirting; plush blazers worn with loose trousers and espadrilles. No socks, obviously, it's way too warm for such things.

His clothing reflects a debonair existence any of us would hope to achieve. One where the only reason to get up in the morning is to enjoy the best of life's pleasures. 

The film's aesthetic, the work of costume designer Anne Roth and co-designer Gary Jones, is created by cross hatching Italian "sprezzatura" (careful negligence) with preppy American and a touch of old money. Quite frankly, if that doesn't sound like the kind of personal style you want to aspire to then maybe check if you still have a pulse.

It's simple, it's comfortable and it's the kind of style that works perfectly for what looks to be a bloody hot Australian summer. It's an elegant manner of dressing that Italian (surprise surprise) brands like Armani has been gently encouraging men to adopt for decades. More locally, tailors Steve Calder and P. Johnson Tailors have championed this approach in their own work.

This ease and simplicity - the building blocks of what makes something elegant, and yes menswear can be elegant - is what I'm hoping to take into 2020.

If only it came with a smidge of some of that American old money too. But I digress. 

After several years of brands sending heavily overdone looks down the runway and streetwear being touted as the new luxury (hint, it's not but it is an important detail of contemporary fashion and that's another story), taking note of collections that celebrated a more classic menswear from designers who have refused to court trends or Insta-fads is almost like getting a sartorial reboot. 


During their most recent spring collection, Armani reminded us that menswear isn't just comedic interpretations of the dad sneaker and repurposed sportswear. 

Loose-knit cardigans and relaxed trousers created an at-ease silhouette, while blazers were cut close to make the flair of the pant more pronounced. Graphic shirts were billowing, even sheer in some cases, and in lieu of jackets were vests – a nod to the feel of a traditional suit without requiring the jacket. Sandals and loafers were footwear of choice, again hearkening back to a mode of dressing that prized gentlemanly refinement over excess.

At Hermes, the same relaxed sense of comfort was also apparent in an array of gelato-hued pieces, and similarly at fellow French label Officine Generale. At Ermenegildo Zegna, exploring the nature of tailoring became the cornerstone for creating a menswear that integrated modern elements without sacrificing good taste or wearability. 

The only way to describe what was on display is elegant, which is a thing that menswear seemed to have forgotten during the teen years of the new millennium.  Even here at Executive Style, we've occasionally fallen prey to shock value sensibilities. It was fun at the time, it shook things up, but it's now had its time. 

During a recent conversation with Zegna's artistic director Alessandro Sartori, the designer stated that if there is to be any rule about menswear, it's that it is to be elegant.

This can be jeans and a t-shirt, it can be cropped trousers and a navy blue blazer of the style that Armani unveiled in their Spring Summer 2020 collections, worn with loafers; and it can be a three-piece suit worn with a t-shirt and style of sneaker. But the fit, and the overall look of the finished product right down to your choice of cologne and trim of your beard, is one where every element is considered and undeniably stylish. 

Aside from a potential streetwear fatigue, the inspiration to get back to a more grown up personal style also comes from an ongoing effort to buy less and buy better - better quality, better craftsmanship, better for the planet. 

One of the interesting details of Jude Law's character in TTMR is that he recycles his clothes for different occasions - only you'd never know, since the styling points are so acute that it looks as though he's in something different each scene. It's a master class in why you don't need more of anything to fresh or stylish, just imagination and an eye for detail.

Here's to an elegant 2020.