The balance a lot of people are trying to strike in their fashion life is the meeting point of street-style and class. Edgy and elegant. It is hard to pinpoint what makes an outfit achieve this crux of modern chic, but when you see it, you know.
This was the unexpected experience I had watching Four Weddings and a Funeral the other day, when the film’s wardrobe made me attracted to Hugh Grant for the first time in my life (please don’t send hate mail).
Charles (Grant) is the embodiment of the middle class, late-twenties/early-thirties singleton, bumbling around London and life. He is evidently desirable; the film centres around the imperfect past, fickle present and ambiguous future of his love life, punctuated by an ensemble of various women. But he is also pretty clueless, at times very much the privileged straight man who cannot get a grasp of how to maintain a stable relationship, let alone manage their own life. Some clever stylist working on Four Weddings sussed this out before I did and made sure every part of Charles’ aesthetic in the film incarnated his unique and complicated charm…
Obviously, the film centres around a lot of weddings, so the primary look is a smart one. But that doesn’t stop Charles from teasing us with his quirky style.
Fig. 1: Wedding Charles
In this image, Charles’s hair is a perfect example of that quasi-unruly, quasi-bouffant vibe favoured by middle class men who don’t have time to sort their hair or their life out. On top of this, the solid-framed glasses add an intellectual layer but, to a contemporary viewer, ooze alternative hipster. To push the edge-elegance paradox to its limits, as part of his formal attire, Charles has opted for a floral tie and has taken the liberty of undoing his top button. Bold moves to say the least.
Fig.2: Casual flirting Charles
Committing to the floral theme, in one of the only scenes not set at a wedding, a funeral, or some other church-based ceremony, Charles wears this baggy, curtain-esque shirt and it is actually irritating how well it works. Not to mention, he somehow pulls off pairing it with a pair of chino short shorts (not shown, but there is a considerable flash of leg in Fig.2 as a result of said shorts). The film is set in London, but in classic, off-piste Charles style, he looks like he just stepped out of a Hawaiian beach house. To top it all off, he is wearing a pair of fairly solid brogues, of course recognisable today as a fashionista favourite.
I think what we are seeing here is an early moment in charity shop culture. Charles dresses an awful lot like he isn’t aware you can find clothes in shops other than Oxfam, but his boujie lifestyle, charming manners and general posh-boy vibe make it all seem chic.
Fig.3: Funeral Charles
Everyone has a moment before a funeral where they wonder if they’ll stand out and/or somehow look too colourful. Not Charles. He wears this brown suit with pride, and who doesn’t love a subtle check pattern on a tie?
Lastly, and not to sound like too much of a creep, but we have to address Charles’ underwear, as seen in his sex scene after what I believe is the second of the eponymous four weddings. He wears white boxer briefs, not unlike the Calvin Kleins you would see Justin Bieber sporting today, at a time when my knowledge of 90s film and television tells me most men were stuck in baggy, checkered boxer shorts. You go Charles.
I think it is safe to say that Charles was sartorially before his time. In the same way that 80s movies now look like a modern Chanel runway set in a high school, could we be on our way to a 90s fashion craze? So whip out those home movies, because you’re going to be begging your parents for those chunky cable knits and floral shirts before you know it…
[Image credit: Working Title Films]