David Hockney isn’t afraid of colour. In a career spanning more than seven decades, he’s produced some of the most famous art the world has seen, in an instantly recognisable style that incorporates virtually every colour imaginable. But this love of bright, bold shades extends to his personal wardrobe too.
Indeed, the way Hockney dresses is arguably just as impressive as his art, if not quite as widely appreciated. His 1972 Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), which sold for $90.3 million in 2018, is the most expensive piece of art sold by a living artist, after all. But in the same way his distinctive painting style draws from multiple inspirations, creating a look entirely his own, Hockney’s personal style is bold, effortless and completely unique to him.
The Hockney look
The best dressed people in the world make their own rules. They might look to any number of time periods or sub cultures for inspiration, but rarely do they imitate just one. They pick and choose, drawing the best bits from each, combining garments, both formal and casual to create something of their own. This is what Hockney does with his art – his work often features hints of expressionism, pop art and cubism all in the same painting. And he does it with the way he dresses too, still to this day.
A single Hockney look might involve a drapey, Ivy-league style blazer, a lightweight scarf tied as a tie, white trainers, a beaten up baseball cap and an oversized Mac or trench coat. As with his art, pops of colour are always used, often in the form of a cardigan, sometimes with his pleated trousers and regularly with a striped or polka dot tie. He borrows from aspects of classic American preppy style, as seen with his tailoring; but also subverts traditional British style with the way he wears slouchy staples and flat caps. His thick, round-rim glasses are an ever-present signature that have completed his look for decades.
Hockney is both smart and casual. He wears garments that are inherently formal – suits, blazers, shirts and ties – but in a way that is laid back and nonchalant. He doesn’t look as though he is dressing up, perhaps because he dresses his suits down with the aforementioned caps and trainers. But perhaps also because of the way in which he wears his clothes. He looks simultaneously thrown together and immaculate, like he’s spent hours getting dressed and like he’s spent no time at all. It’s a strange effect and one that’s only achievable by wearing your clothes in. Hockney’s shoes are often scuffed, his trousers often creased and his shirts sloppily tucked in. But in short, it works.
The art of consistency
While the style of his art has jumped around a bit over the decades, his wardrobe has remained remarkably consistent. Hockney has dressed in the same artfully dishevelled manner throughout his entire career, and makes a good case for finding a uniform and sticking with it. This is also true of his colour palette. Making use of bold, often primary colours, Hockney’s wardrobe very much reflects the colour we see in his artwork. Shades of blue, green and red feature prominently, sometimes working as accents to more muted looks, and other times as the main event, either in the form of tonal combinations or more vibrant pairings of clashing colours.
In short, David Hockney isn’t just one of the most famous artists of all time, he’s also one of the most stylish. Naturally, he’s a master of colour, so if you’re looking to move away from navy, black and grey, you could do worse than turn to him.
Life imitates art. Or something. If you want to imitate, or at least borrow from the clothing canon of Hockney, a corduroy suit is a great place to start. Equal parts preppy and hard-wearing, corduroy is a casual fabric with roots in workwear and functional clothing, so when utilised in tailoring it brings a casual, laidback edge to a suit. Cord also suits colour incredibly well thanks to the velvety qualities of the fabric, so make like Hockney and go for a deep green, which combines well with your existing navies, as well as browns and other pops of colour.
For the shirt, try going bold with pattern. Stick with complementary blues and greens which won’t take anything away from the suit, while also adding a visual point of difference, giving depth to the look. The tie is where things can be taken up a notch. Look for something bold and red, a colour that Hockney turned to time and time again in both his art and his wardrobe. It might seem counterintuitive, but don’t overthink the knot. If you want to channel Hockney, then his nonchalance is a big part of the overall look. In fact, that’s perhaps the biggest takeaway from the way he dresses. Legendary fashion designer Hardy Amie’s once said “a man should look as if he’s bought his clothes with intelligence, put them on with care and then forgotten all about them”. Hockney channels this concept to a tee, and now you can too.
Written By Charlie Thomas exclusively for Alexandra Wood.