Fashion

When Ben Affleck Dressed Like Hollywood's Bouncer

Don't dress for the dress code. Dress for those upholding them.
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Style Archive: Our new series in which we celebrate the stars of the past that made menswear what it is today. This week, the age in which Ben Affleck coldly informed you that your name wasn't down, and you most certainly weren't coming in. 

Hollywood ain't so shiny. Flashing bulbs pursue celebrities in high speed car chases all over Calabasas. Paparazzi monetize on breakdowns. Rather depressing stuff. So, God bless those with the thankless task of its guardianship: the security detail, the heavies hired to make those preying on the vulnerable feel just as, well, vulnerable.

Ben Affleck at the Shakespeare In Love premiere, New York (1998)

Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd.
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The stereotypes linger, too. Leather jackets. Wide suits. Jawlines carved by Mike Tyson with a wrecking ball. But it seems the bouncer standard issue was not composed by one of their own, but by one of their own charges: a certain Ben Affleck. Yes, long before public breakdowns and Twitter pile-ons, Hollywood's golden boy dressed like the neighbourhood's protector-in-chief, and it was emulated in every club doorway from Bed Stuy to Bradford.

It began in the cold winter of New York, 1998, at the premiere of Shakespeare In Love. Affleck, then a supporting actor that so happened to be romancing the leading lady (Gwyneth Paltrow, if you weren't aware), wasn't quite the red carpet showboater. Instead, he opted for the kit of the on-hand security: black tie, black overcoat, white shirt and, of course, a goatee that holds you back by the velvet rope barrier as your significant other gains entry, no questions asked, and into a den of suitors far more accomplished than your now-ostracised self. 

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Of course, you cry, such garb was a sign of the times. That's only somewhat true. As the turn of the Noughties approached, menswear was still preoccupied with the Verona vibrancy of Romeo + Juliet, of puka shell jewelry taken from the kind, considerate high school heartthrob that never existed, or, indeed, of N*SYNC's peroxide. Affleck suffered no such blight. 

Instead, it was the quieter, boxier tailoring of Nineties Giorgio Armani and Prada (the sort enjoying a second wind on today's runways, too). Less dazzling than the MTV Awards, sure, but the actor exerted the dominance of the security detail by complementing wider shoulders with wider suits and safer palettes. All that's missing is an in-ear microphone.

Photo by GETTY IMAGES.
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Photo by GETTY IMAGES.

And it wasn't just the stuff of red carpets. Where Affleck went Secret Service for his girlfriend's big bash, he went backstreet members' club on the off-duty. At airports, restaurants, across the unnecessarily wide pavements you'd only find in America, the overcoat was interchangeable with the leather jacket, the oversized sagging sort that was unflattering and cool and imposing all at once. Not every guy could pull a leather jacket off, and there's high argument that the thinking still stands for 2019. If he could, he was as cool as Ben Affleck. Or a bouncer. Or both. 

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None of this ruffled tabloid feathers at the time. And that's precisely the point. When Jack Nicholson was wearing shades indoors and Samuel L. Jackson punched through with signature flourish, the now 47-year-old played by the dress code, mimicking those with the keys. It was one-in-one-out back in those days, sure. And yet Affleck was never left out in the cold.

This story originally appeared on Esquire.co.uk. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.

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