‘Accidental style icon’: how Larry David became the older man’s fashion idol | Fashion

When Curb Your Enthusiasm emerged in 2000, the cult sitcom’s irascible star and creator, Larry David, wasn’t exactly a bastion of style. But over the critically acclaimed HBO comedy’s 12-season run, which draws to a close in the coming weeks, David has evolved into an unexpected fashion role model.

“Larry David is one of the bestdressed men on television,” New York magazine declared in 2020. On TikTok, videos from the likes of stylist Allison Bornstein examine the looks of an “accidental style icon”, celebrating the “classic, layered and practical” elements. Fashion publications have implored readers to channel his “laid-back dad style”. He has appeared on the front row at New York fashion week – admittedly with his fingers in his ears due to the loud music – and on the front of T-shirts, with one reading: “You’re allowed to be happy, but not in front of me.”

David has come a long way from The Pants Tent of the first episode, which centred on the awkward way his beige slacks bunched up around the groin when he sat down.

The David look entails plain, high-quality white Cotton Citizen T-shirts, well-fitting blazers, cashmere sweatshirts in muted colours, his favoured Ecco shoes and signature Oliver Peoples round glasses. On the golf course, David adds a windbreaker and a baseball cap bearing the logo of former Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter’s newsletter, or the word “Menemsha”, the name of a village on Martha’s Vineyard. None of it screams stylishness or a great interest in current trends, more just a man who knows what he likes and is comfortable wearing it.

The author and cultural commentator Jason Diamond calls David’s look “post-normcore”. “It’s normal, but it’s sneaky. He dresses really well, but there’s nothing flashy about it … He’s actually one of the smartest dressers on TV.”

He likens David’s style to the “smart casual” look often found in Nora Ephron or Steve Martin films in the late 1980s and early 90s. “It’s very subtle and so people don’t really pick up on it.” Jerry Seinfeld once described the look as “Upper West Side communist”.

As with everything, David is exacting about clothes. In real life he is the son of a garment-district salesman, and approaches getting dressed with a rulebook. As he told GQ in 2020: “One should wear only one ‘nice’ piece of clothing at a time. Otherwise it’s too much. Too dressed. You have to be half dressed. That’s my fashion theory, since you asked: Half Is More.” This is the kind of pithy rule that translates well on TikTok.

But clothes to one side, “a big part of it”, Diamond says, “is he’s so confident … those shots of him just sort of gangling, walking down the street”. In our era of quiet luxury, it makes sense that such understated nonchalance would be finding fans.

Leslie Schilling, who came on board as Curb Your Enthusiasm’s costume designer when the show returned from its six-year hiatus in 2017, agrees that people “like the way that he carries himself”. But she still has people asking her: “What are those pants?’ Where do I get those?” David is 77 now, but, she says, he “doesn’t dress like a frumpy older man, he still looks very stylish”. It helps that he is “tall and slender, so fortunately things just kind of hang really nicely on him”.

Throughout Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry stays essentially the same, undimmed in his belief that he is right about the world – and the world must bend to his whims or happen around him. And this has occurred with fashion, too: the trends have come towards him. “In early seasons, Larry’s style is definitely not as put together,” says Schilling. “It’s just a little baggier, less fitted.” Her work was to gently tweak the look. “The clothes were dated and it wasn’t like he had really gone shopping a lot in that time,” she says of the hiatus years. So she chose things that were a little less baggy but not too straight, getting rid of some V-neck sweaters, adding cashmere, AG’s Tellis trousers, the occasional high-end blazer and a little more colour.

It can be hard to separate aspects of TV Larry from the real one, visually at least. “At the end of each season, he does take the clothes home,” says Schilling. She’ll see David doing an interview on TV and recognise the clothes she brought to set. There are some of David’s own clothes in the mix – especially when it comes to his golf caps – but into this, she adds new elements.

“This season, I mentioned this Paul Smith jacket, a cashmere blazer, unstructured,” she says. “At first he didn’t seem to really like it at all. And then by the end of the season, that’s all he wanted to wear.”

Ultimately, though, it’s not particularly about fashion. “He mostly wants to be comfortable and feel like himself,” says Schilling. “As long as he doesn’t have to think about it or mess with the collar, you know, he’s pretty happy.” Schilling thinks this is part of the appeal of his style: it is “approachable. People can dress like this easily without going high-end.”

This somehow effortless appeal is something Diamond and many others gravitate towards. “Across the world, people really love Larry David,” says Diamond. He predicts that in 20 or so years there will be another wave of Larry-inspired Curb-core. “I think more people should look to him as an inspiration; style and also just sort of how to live, because he’s done a good job of living.”

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