It’s difficult to talk about Paul Newman and stick to only one subject. Newman defied the trappings of celebrity and in doing so cemented himself as an iconoclastic legend. Actor, humanitarian, mogul, director, race car driver – any of these phrases could be used to describe the man who was in so many ways the last of Hollywoods true golden age leading men. Gore Vidal, referred to Newman as “Mr. Shaker Heights”, an epithet that encapsulates the uniquely American allure of Newman’s inadvertently adopted aesthetic.
Sartorially Newman was as straight-forward and unaffected as the heroes and misfits he portrayed on screen. He didn’t dress to impress but the end result was always masterly. All the hallmarks of classic American style can be found within Newman’s wardrobe. There is ease – no man since Steve McQueen has been able to infuse such nonchalance into his clothing. Coolness – simply look at any picture of Newman in aviators and you’ll find it. And of course simplicity – Newman gave away everything in said wardrobe save a few spare shirts and trousers after winning the Hersholt Humanitarian Award. For someone who didn’t necessarily care about the statement behind clothing his every choice stands as a source of inspiration for designers from Ralph Lauren to Michael Bastian and for anyone else interested in the rough hewn reality of dressing rather than pomp and circumstance. He will be missed.
See the NY Times for a loving tribute of his film career and personal life.