Fashion happens faster than ever these days. Each week, we attempt to make sense of it in a column called, “What Is Fashion.”
I cannot remember the last time I actually wanted to dress like a celebrity. They’ve been so carefully put together by teams of professionals for so long that their style has become completely out of reach for the average person.
But this year, I started to feel like things were changing. Red carpets stopped carrying so much weight, and street style began to garner more attention. The rise of Instagram has allowed celebrities to invite you into their closets and out shopping. And the result is that it’s become cool for famous people to embrace their own personal style, even if it’s a bit … idiosyncratic. In 2018, it was almost a competition to see who could dress more nonchalantly, with Justin Bieber leading the charge.
In that spirit, we made a list of the best style moments of 2018 that does not include Beyoncé, Rihanna, Cardi B, or the Kardashians, but does include a pair of black JNCOs. This isn’t about the celebrities who are writing the fashion rules — it’s about the ones who refused to follow them. They might not look polished, but they do look like the best versions of themselves.
Below, 18 times celebrities actually dressed with personality in 2018.
Lil Uzi Vert at the Grammys
To say that Lil Uzi Vert has personal style would be a gross understatement; he exists on another fashion plane entirely. The 24-year-old rapper likes designer brands, Marilyn Manson diamond chains, and $1,000 crabs, but he styles his Gucci and Goyard with mall brands like Hot Topic and Von Dutch. At the Grammys this year, he wore what looked like black JNCO jeans and a hoodie sweatshirt, a.k.a. the emo tuxedo. When asked what he was going to do if he won, he mumbled, “shopping.”
Agnès Varda in Gucci
While out promoting her film, Faces Places, director Agnès Varda reminded the world that she’s never been one to follow rules — even on the red carpet. Just look at her hair! Audiences started taking notice when she wore a purple tracksuit to the Indie Spirit Awards earlier this year, giving Armie Hammer some stiff competition. But her most memorable look was a full Gucci silk pajama set, which she wore to the Oscars. At the age of 89, Varda proved that the brand isn’t just for millennials.
Tracee Ellis Ross Defending Her Ugly Sneakers
Tracee Ellis Ross loves fashion. She attends runway shows, has relationships with designers, and clearly knows what she likes. Her stylist, Karla Welch confirmed that Ross does a lot of shopping on her own, and that her sneaker collection is her passion project. In March, Ross took to Instagram to defend her velcro Acne Studios sneakers after her fans called them names like “Air Dads” and “Senior Center 3s.” She had a good sense of humor about it but demonstrated that if you love your sneakers enough, it doesn’t matter what other people think of them.
Timothée Chalamet in Haider Ackermann
Timothée Chalamet, our beautiful boy and humble influencer, was the reason so many of us adopted short haircuts and middle parts this year. Even though he’s only 22, Chalamet styles himself for most of his red-carpet appearances and has developed a “beautiful friendship” with designer Haider Ackermann, who calls him by his nickname, “Timo.” Ackermann’s other muse is Tilda Swinton, so Chalamet’s got big, strange-looking shoes to fill. But the two make perfect sense together, as they’re both very in touch with their feelings and make you want to have sex with inanimate objects, like suits and peaches.
Armie Hammer’s Tracksuits
While Timothée Chalamet was picking out big-boy suits, his Call Me By Your Name co-star, Armie Hammer, was discovering tracksuits. The actor got so into Adidas getups during his press tour this year that his wife even started calling them “Le Tracksuit.” She made sure he had enough clean ones for a constant rotation — around 70 total. Adidas ambassador Kendall Jenner said Hammer was “killing it,” but he decided to quit while he was ahead, retiring his tracksuits in March. We miss them.
Big Men in Tiny Thom Browne
Why let all these actors and rappers have all the fun? The Cleveland Cavaliers weren’t going to let that happen. With the encouragement of Dwyane Wade and later LeBron James, designer Thom Browne whipped up custom suits, ties, shoes, bags, and eyewear for the entire team this year. Because Browne’s signature is tight, short silhouettes, the result was a bunch of big men in tiny suits — a sight you don’t have to care about basketball to appreciate. From then on, the pre-game entrance became the NBA’s version of a red carpet, or the Clout Corridor.
Lady Gaga’s Rebirth
Stefani “Joanne” Germanotta’s wardrobe may have been pretty casual in A Star Is Born, but she was in full Lady Gaga mode during her press tour for the film. And thank God for that. Mother Monster does not simply leave the house; every outing is an occasion to dress up, and Gaga kept it interesting with brand new Celine bags, dangerously high heels, and oversize suits. There can be 100 people in a room, but only one of them will look like Lady Gaga.
Tiffany Haddish’s White Dress
This was another blockbuster year for Tiffany Haddish, but she didn’t seem to let it get to her head. After buying a white, halter-neck Alexander McQueen dress for $4,000 last year, the actress has worn it not once, not twice, but five times. She wore it to the Girls Trip premiere in 2017, on Saturday Night Live in November of that year, while presenting at the Oscars back in March, while hosting the MTV awards in June, and during a scene in Nobody’s Fool, which came out in November. “I feel like I should be able to wear what I want, when I want, no matter how many times I want, as long as I Febreezed it,” Haddish said of her dress on SNL. As a great bit, it’s paid for itself.
Ariana Grande’s Lollipop
Ariana Grande had a tumultuous year, but she somehow kept her head up throughout. She also somehow convinced me that an oversize hoodie and thigh-high boots was (maybe?) a good look. There’s something sweet and hyper-juvenile about Grande’s whole thing, which was aided by the presence of a certain lollipop this summer. The image of Grande licking it while gazing longingly at Pete Davidson spawned 1,000 memes, but despite its obvious sexual connotations, it was also a symbol of self-indulgence. The greatest accessory of the year was your own, childlike pleasure.
Jeff Goldblum’s Prada Shirt
Jeff Goldblum took perhaps a little too much pleasure in being the internet’s “daddy” this year, but we have to give him credit for a certain flaming Prada shirt, which put his adult man style on our radar this summer. Troy Patterson wrote in The New Yorker that the garment resembled an “elevated version of an embarrassment perpetrated by one’s father at a backyard barbecue,” which sounds like an insult, but in 2018, the uninhibited taste of a weird dad was exactly the sort of aesthetic that fashion people were willing to pay a lot of money for. Lucky for Goldblum, his weird dad-ness was authentic.
Justin Bieber’s Hotel Slippers
As we learned this year, Justin Bieber’s most seemingly haphazard outfits were supplied with the help of his stylist, Karla Welch. But even she couldn’t control all the whims of his heart and mind. Bieber’s love of slide sandals became symbol of his emotional and sartorial fickleness in 2018, and he took the look a step further when he walked outside wearing white terrycloth hotel slippers. While most people would be kicked out of restaurants in such footwear, he made them look luxurious. Bieber has the means and power to steal them, plus he’s not going very far on foot. Driver!
Kristen Stewart’s Underwear
All anyone could talk about this year were men dressing badly. We gave them names like “sleaze-lebrity” and “slob-lebrity” and thought our work was done. We did not, however, spend enough time as a society talking about Kristen Stewart and her personal style. She made Justin Bieber and Shia LaBeouf look like try-hards when she walked out of the house wearing high-waisted Calvin Klein underwear peeking over her jorts. The only reason she still looked sexy was because she really didn’t seem to care.
Blake Lively’s Suits
Earlier this year, the question on everyone’s mind was: What’s Blake Lively trying to tell us with all those suits? The simple answer was that they were a press stunt for Simple Favor, an absurd murder-mystery starring Lively as a pantsuit-obsessed PR director slash con-artist. But really, Lively — who styles herself — was an accidental fashion prophet; her suits predicted the future of fashion. In 2019, the question won’t be who made your sneakers, but who designed your expertly tailored bootcut pants and suit jackets. Whether or not you need a walking stick, as Lively decided she did, is still up for debate.
Bad Bunny, Not Ezra Miller
By the end of 2018, Fantastic Beasts actor Ezra Miller had positioned himself as a fashion icon. And it’s true: His Darth Vader puffer coat, feathered cape, and Champagne flute pen were all fantastically over-the-top outfits. But his performance overshadowed a stylish up-and-comer that we’re much more excited about: Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio, also known as Bad Bunny. The young Puerto Rican artist has his own innate aesthetic, with a love of nail polish, overalls, and tiny sunglasses. His real shining moment was at the American Music Awards, where he wore a third eye. It was almost as good as having a second Gucci head.
Ashley Olsen in Phoebe Philo’s Celine
Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen would have made great replacements for Phoebe Philo at Celine. Not only do they share a similar aesthetic to Philo, who loved roomy, practical-yet-luxurious pieces, but they also wear a lot of clothes by the designer. In fact, they’re keeping her dream alive. In October, Ashley was photographed wearing a fur coat from Celine pre-fall 2018 (Philo’s last for the brand), which looked like it was made for her. She wore it with sneakers and relaxed pants — just like the model, who also had messy blonde waves. But there was absolutely nothing casual about that coat. Or about Ashley Olsen, ever.
Frank Ocean’s Instagram
I spent so much time this month in the depths of Frank Ocean’s Instagram account, which he only recently made public. It offers a glimpse into the artists’ heavily-guarded mind as well as proof that celebrities can think for themselves in terms of style. His pictures in dressing rooms are some of my favorites, especially when he tries on women’s clothes and accessories like Judith Leiber handbags. Besides maybe Tracee Ellis Ross, I’m not sure there’s another artist on Instagram with more sophisticated personal taste.
Jonah Hill’s Basketball Jersey
Jonah Hill really came into his own this year. He started drinking more water, learned to love himself, and made his directorial debut with Mid-90s, an auto-biographical film about a 13-year-old boy who finds social refuge with a group of skaters. Hill also became a style icon — not for his 64-ounce S’well bottle and Palace Skateboards swag, but for his relatability. He’s that guy in Soho, who tries hard but is far from perfect. In order to avoid being the butt of the joke, though, Hill started playing with his newfound “style icon” status. In September, he walked out of his apartment wearing a basketball jersey tucked into his dress pants. Fans gasped, but Hill smiled. His troll was a success, and celebrity street style had finally eaten itself.
Meghan Markle’s Nail Polish
Meghan Markle was the queen of breaking protocol this year. Excuse me, the Duchess of Breaking Protocol. Before marrying Prince Harry in a stunningly modern, off-the-shoulder Givenchy dress, she ruffled royal feathers with her pantsuits and messy buns. Afterwards, she also had the gall to open and close doors for herself. Markle’s real moment of rebellion, though, came just last week, when she made a surprise appearance at the British Fashion Awards wearing — gasp! — dark nail polish. The setting was perfect: She was there to honor her wedding dress designer, Clare Waight Keller, who had fashioned yet another perfect dress for the now-pregnant Duchess. Clutching her stomach in front of a room full British fashion’s most powerful players, it was clear that Markle was really the one in control, and that she can wear whatever the hell she wants.