Writers don’t always look stylish. Although the notion of the troubled poet – haggard of face, wild of hair – is an alluring one, you often need to be an authentic, words-obsessed, mentally unhinged prose warrior with dubious morals to properly pull it off.
But as Mark Twain once said, “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” And he didn’t dress too shabby himself.
Here are 15 other authors who know, or knew, a thing or two about style…
To paraphrase the great man, Oscar Wilde had simple tastes; he was content to settle for the best. He was obsessed with beauty – an aesthete, - wore bright coloured clothes and kept his hair long. He remains a stylish icon.
The late Arthur Miller’s range of glasses, often offset by a pipe or a cigarette at a jaunty angle, are iconic all by themselves. That he wrote the seminal plays Death Of A Salesman and The Crucible, was married to Marilyn Monroe from 1956-1961 and was Daniel Day-Lewis’s father-in-law all seems quite by-the-by.
Reading John Updike has, “always been a way to focus and concentrate my mind and stop grumbling over minor things.” Not our words, the words of that well-known style icon and glamourpuss Roy Hodgson. It’s a pity the England boss doesn’t stroll the technical area in a turtleneck – Updike’s style might rub off on the team.
Edgar Allan Poe
Looking at Edgar Allan Poe, it’s easy to see why nobody wears capes anymore. Though sleek, they’re terrifying. However, if you’re going to be the figurehead of 19th Century American horror, a cape is spot on. His dapper appearance belies his life of poverty, however; Poe died penniless in 1849.
New Yorker Wolfe is renowned for his ostentatious wardrobe – particularly his white suit. He is one of the founders of the New Journalism movement along with the likes of Hunter S Thomspon, Norman Mailer and the equally exquisitely-attired Gay Talese.
Steinbeck’s The Grapes Of Wrath, Of Mice And Men and East Of Eden are timeless works. Likewise, the author’s wardrobe choices have aged well – his sweater and blazer combo doesn’t look too dated. Plus, in his 1962 travelogue Travels With Charley, Steinbeck printed a handy guide on how to stay in clean clothes when you’re on the road, miles from a washing machine.
Kerouac’s On The Road is one of the pillars of the Beat era. The story's narrator, Sal Paradise, trails his friend Dean Moriarty around America with barely a dollar to his name. Sartorially, Kerouac made a statement out of the basics; lumberjack shirts, white t-shirts, khaki trousers and rugged work boots. Working men's clothes.
In 1966, Truman Capote’s novel In Cold Blood was a success. To celebrate, the writer threw a masked ball for the rich and famous at New York’s Plaza Hotel, attended by celebrities including Frank Sinatra, Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich, as well as countless dignitaries and fashionistas. Capote’s own ruffled elegance, complete with those famous specs, is a look that has endured.
Hemingway: warrior, traveller, Pulitzer-prize-winner, cad and cat-fancier. This famous picture of him with a fisherman’s beard and a roll-neck sweater that makes it look like his head is on a knitted plinth expresses superbly his indestructible manliness. Stylist, rugged, rough’n’ready. Will fist fight you for food.
F Scott Fitzgerald
F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby has come to embody the spirit of the roaring ’20s. Hardly surprising, then, that it’s easy to picture the author as a guest at one of Jay Gatsby’s lavish West Egg parties. He stood out as well-dressed in his pomp, favouring three-piece suits, sports jackets and all manner of tweed, not to mention a pristine centre parting that seems to grow in size (some photos show it to be extravagantly tall, like the spread wings of some sort of forehead-mounted fruitbat).
In Dick Richards’s 1970 book, The Wit Of Noël Coward, the playwright and actor is quoted as asking “Why am I always expected to wear a dressing-gown, smoke cigarettes in a long holder and say, ‘Darling, how wonderful’?” In truth, it was a well-honed image, cultivated by the man himself. Coward’s indoor-wear is perfect if you’re thinking of spending time gadding about a country house.
Ogden Nash’s snazzy prose is matched by his flair for specs and sports jackets. The poet, playwright and wit is famed for his limericks and short, sharp quips. For example: “The cow is of the bovine ilk; One end is moo, the other milk.”
William S Burroughs
It’d be harsh to quantify Burroughs’ look as “hobo chic”, so instead we’ll call his penchant for three-piece suits “romantically haggard”. Mind you, when a collection of his personal effects – including one of his trademark hats – came to light 13 years after his death, the shoes did have holes in...
Hunter S Thompson
Big, yellow shades? Hat to hide your bald bonce in? Ill-fitting Hawaiian shirt/motorcycle jacket? Quart of ether? Oh wait, you don’t need the last one to look like Hunter S Thompson, just to act like him.
Simon Van Booy
Van Booy’s look is somewhere between Truman Capote, a yachting enthusiast and a recently fired Apprentice candidate. However, this British-born, American-resident philosopher and author brings a dash of style to modern literature. Van Booy's works include The Secret Lives Of People In Love and 2012's Everything Beautiful Began After.