“Mick or Keith?” is the inevitable question every Rolling Stones fan faces. It’s also one that I still can’t answer. It’s like a mother being asked to name her favorite child.
Nevertheless, in my mind, there’s one area where Keith Richards, who is 70-years-young today, trumps Mick Jagger — and that’s personal style. Some might be surprised by this conviction, as Jagger is without question the sartorial risk-taker. He wore a Shakespearean tunic as he let 2,500 white butterflies into the crowd for Brian Jones in ’69; leaped around in a crushed velvet and diamanté Ossie Clark jumpsuit in ’72; suited up in a football uniform (kneepads, et al) for the American tour in ’81; and, just this year, sported a head-to-toe houndstooth get-up, designed by his beau L’Wren Scott, for the ’50 and Counting’ tour. He’s among the pluckiest frontmen rock ‘n’ roll has ever seen, and his commitment to mad-as-a-hatter ensembles is trophy-worthy. But if you asked me to describe his style, I wouldn’t know where to begin. And for the record, I like it that way.
What I love about Keith is that I can walk into a clothing shop, scour the whole place, land on a piece and say, “that’s SO Keith.” Richard’s evolution began in the late ’60s and early ’70s, where he lived amid the free-spirited, Swinging London scene with androgynous bohemian looks comprised of bell bottom suits, fur coats, and newsboy caps or fedoras. In the ’80s and ’90s, his style became less over-the-top and boasted a lot of denim, undone shirts, and earthy jewelry. Every now and again there’d be something a bit more loud, like a pop of leopard or skin-tight leather pants. Through the years, he’s always worn scarves in spades.
But it’s been over the last decade that Richards has really defined himself as a style icon. In fact, his distinctive style inspired Johnny Depp’s Pirates of the Caribbean character, Captain Jack Sparrow. In 2008, he was tapped by Louis Vuitton to star in one of their campaigns, looking just as laid-back as he would backstage. Just this year, he had his tour wardrobe custom-designed by Saint Laurent’s Hedi Slimane that included a waistcoat, café racer jacket, silk scarves, and T-shirts. Richards was also named No.5 on Vanity Fair’s Best Dressed List. When asked who was his personal style icon, he responded, “Why should I? I am one.”
Keith’s steadfast style is inherently chic, but he doesn’t actually give a fuck — and that’s why I worship him. So with that in mind, here are the five things the 70-year-old rocker taught me about editing my own style.
1. Own Your Signatures
When I envision Keef, he is wearing a bright headscarf, ribbon fedora, gossamer neckscarf, worn-in jacket, chest-baring button-down, skinny pants, and of course, his skull ring. It’s not a uniform, it’s a signature look that’s been years in the making. I’m still working on my own signature look, but in the process I keep Keef in mind — especially when I’m talking myself out of fleeting trends. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
2. Age is Just a Number
The old saying, “you are as young as you feel,” stands true for the way you dress, and if you think turning 70 years old is going to change anything about Keef’s style, you’re terribly mistaken. Thanks to him, I aspire to be just as passionate and daring about my wardrobe as I am today. Not to mention, completely faithful to my leather motorcycle jacket.
3. Pick a Pièce de Résistance
Keith’s style has become synonymous with a skull motif thanks to the infamous silver skull that’s been perched on his right ring finger for over 30 years. It’s become a symbol not just of Keith’s devil-may-care approach to life, but the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll. A bit of background: The piece was designed by Courts and Hackett in 1978 as a small scale sculpture of a human skeleton. During the time of its creation, the ring’s goldsmiths, David Courts and Bill Hackett were invited to Richards’ birthday in New York. The ring was their present to him. The silver gem was no doubt a conversation piece over the years and was completely unique to him. It also encompassed his style perfectly.
I don’t have a pièce de résistance of my own yet, but Keef’s skeletal keepsake will always be the paramount example of how to go about finding one.
4. Don’t Look Put On
One thing I’m certain of is that you could go through Vanity Fair’s entire Best Dressed of 2013 list and not find a single person who cares less than Richards. That’s what makes him such a unique style icon. Sure, there’s something to be said about those who invest every fiber of their being into fashion, but it’s just so organic and refreshing that he doesn’t think twice about what he throws together. He doesn’t subscribe to trends, because why bother when you can just set them?
5. It’s a Lifestyle
Last, but certainly not least, the most important thing to know about Richards and his style is that it’s not just about what clothes he wears, but how he wears them. It’s his attitude — and that’s not just a reference to the cigarette always dangling from his mouth. His anti-establishment approach to life is reflected in everything from his music to the way he carries himself. The clothes are the icing on the cake. I’m far from a rock star, but this is something I always keep in mind.