Brand Loyalty is a column that explores one person’s obsession with a brand, silhouette, garment, or color—like Kristen Stewart embracing Outdoor Voices, Kanye West’s love for Vetements, or Isaac Mizrahi’s legendary collection of Belgian Shoes.
In a world that loves dad shoes, dad hats, and dad jeans, there can only be one zaddy. And Jeff Goldblum, in his skinny black tailoring, velvet suits, and precise leather jackets, is he.
I exaggerate a little, but Goldblum has certainly solidified his place in the menswear pantheon—most recently, in his wardrobe of Prada shirts. For the past two years, Goldblum has made an art of wearing the Italian brand’s mixed up, boxy, sleazy printed shirts, which combine two or even three of the brand’s retro-’70s prints with flames, monsters, flowers, and other icons of oddness. Last year, the preference cemented into a full-blown partnership, with Goldblum wearing the shirts almost exclusively on his jazz tour. Most recently, he wore a cornflower blue shirt in the rose print from the brand’s Fall/Winter 2019 Frankenstein collection with a gray fur collar; in a studious and sly bit meta-commentary, that collection was Frankenstein-themed. The shirts, for the most part, are now pieces the brand has made custom for Goldblum.
“There’s a certain irreverence that [Goldblum and Prada] both have,” says Andrew Vottero, who’s served as Goldblum’s stylist since 2014. The partnership “does seem like a perfect match: Jeff is super handsome, super classic, but also an intellectual, and also a little bit adventurous, and I feel like he has that spirit of constantly moving forward, and being excited and enthusiastic about the future. And I see that all in Prada as well.”
What gives Prada’s shirts that highbrow mystique is that they are embedded in a long lineage of “bad” shirts: bowling shirts, Hawaiian shirts, Cosmo Kramer, Guy Fieri, The Sopranos. These are loud and crass, evoking a very particular brand of sleaziness so penetrating it can’t help but represent something about the wearer’s untamed inner consciousness. It’s not just the bad taste, but the amount of it. A barrage on the visual senses. Writing in the New Yorker, Troy Patterson described one Prada shirt, the flame-print Goldblum wore on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, as “performance art,” explaining that “it belongs not to any one season but to a years-long period of decadence characterized by the parallel trends of street-stylish elegance and proudly obstinate ugliness.”
But Prada’s shirts also move in a more elevated universe—the first printed Prada shirts Goldblum wore, for example, were adorned with the work of French artist Christophe Chemin. The most elevated act of all, of course, is making bad taste into the height of sophisticated understanding. Like a slime-green shirt covered in flying Frankenstein heads–beautifully made by one of the most intellectually rigorous fashion houses in the world.
Unlike most icons of the crazy shirt divinity, Goldblum hasn’t always been an acolyte. Vottero marks the Prada shirts as a new moment in the Goldblumian Fashion Timeline, following a yearslong period of dressing the actor in skinny black Saint Laurent suits. (When they first began working together, Vottero says, “We got rid of his entire closet. Every piece of clothing that he owned when I started working with him, he got rid of.” The Kanye to Goldblum’s Kim!)
But then Hedi Slimane left Saint Laurent, and fortuitously, Prada was embarking on a partnership with Chemin that brought us Fall/Winter 2016’s “Impossible True Love”: four prints that combined, say, Cleopatra kissing Elvis, which they also revived for their Fall/Winter 2018 men’s collection. Chemin does not like to call them prints: “They are artworks that I related to Miuccia’s visual universe and vocabulary, mixing very personal obsessions of mine with ideas that were directly inspired by her,” he told Business of Fashion in March of 2016. Goldblum is perhaps a little less precious in his work than Chemin, but he shares an important quality with the Prada universe: he carves out his place in one world (acting) by insisting on his connections to other ones (jazz, fashion, the iconography of his own persona). Prada exists so that architects and gallery directors have something to wear that’s as impressive as what they do—and what Goldblum does is tease and delight us.