Classic Men of Style: Clark Gable
Style hallmarks of an Old Hollywood legend
Clark Gable commands a mythic status when it comes to Old Hollywood celebrities, and it’s easy to see why. Words like dashing and debonair seem almost designed for him, with his classic good looks, impeccable dressing sense, and incredibly emotive acting. Clark Gable achieved an incredible amount of professional success and was renowned for his style and grace. Effortlessly shining on camera, it was clear that he was a natural in show business.
Although he led a turbulent personal life, he left behind an incredible legacy that continues today. Movies like Gone With The Wind have cemented his classic masculine style in Hollywood history. Known for his sharp and clean look, that famous mustache and a rugged, manly mystique, Clark Gable is truly a classic man of style.
Exploring Clark Gable’s early life
Born in Ohio in 1901, Gable’s early life started out with a brief stint in oilfields. At sixteen, he dropped out of school, and after seeing his first theatrical production, he knew what he was meant for. At the young age of 23, Clark Gable found himself in Hollywood, looking for his big break. At first, acting didn’t quite pan out. Gable found himself working as a studio extra and a garage mechanic as he tried to find his footing.
Luckily, he was also involved in theater and his stage career helped get him noticed. He received a few parts but they all tended to be the same. Often cast in supporting roles or as a villain, it was starting to seem like he would never quite get that leading man role he so desperately wanted. In fact, a legendary MGM boss once told him that he was “too elephant-eared and unattractive” to get those kinds of parts. But soon, that would all change, as his fan base continued to grow.
Career highlights and personal life
Within a decade, Gable had starred in some of the most iconic movies ever made in Hollywood, earned an Oscar for best actor, and was deemed the “King of Hollywood” – a title he held on to for many decades. Gone with the Wind, of course, is probably the first Clark Gable movie that comes to mind, but he had several classics. It Happened One Night and Mutiny on the Bounty were some of his best works. And he starred with some of the most famous women in Hollywood including Greta Garbo, Jean Crawford, and Jean Harlow.
Throughout his career, Gable married many times but the greatest love of his life was Carole Lombard. Known for her beauty and sharp wit, she was the perfect companion (and opponent) that challenged him with her brash, outspoken nature and Gable loved her for it. One of the happiest periods of Gable’s life, it was cut far too short when Lombard died tragically in a plane crash just a few years after their marriage.
Devastated, Gable left Hollywood and enlisted in the US Army Air Service as an aerial gunner. During that time, he earned many military accolades but eventually made a comeback. Initially, he was met with a lot of success but eventually, his star waned. His final performance was in The Misfits, with Marilyn Monroe.
Hallmarks of Clark Gable’s style
Clark Gable is a great example of the fact that style isn’t always this innate “thing” that someone just has, but it’s something that’s cultivated over time and it takes a lot of hard work. Gable went through a lot of personal and physical transformation to become the classic style icon that he is, and studios helped craft that rugged masculinity he’s so well known for now with meticulous care and a lot of personal grooming.
There are some interesting stories about him during that time like how MGM had his ears (or “flops,” as he affectionately called them) taped back to build that look–to which he told the studio to leave his “flops” alone.
A little known fact about Old Hollywood is that the traditional “wardrobe” didn’t really exist. There weren’t racks of clothing for stars to choose from while filming. Stars really just wore their own clothing when shooting movies, which is likely why Gable became such a style icon. He was known for his clean and elegant suits, sophisticated casual wear and of course, for single-handedly killing the undershirt.
Let’s talk suits
First and foremost, Clark Gable was known for his suits. He loved double-breasted suits with wide lapels and drape cuts for the most part, but Gable was also known to wear three piece suits as well. His suit styles are a testament to the fact that good tailoring is timeless. Even with his single-breasted suits, wide lapels were always a staple. And to top it all off, Gable always paired his evening wear with a boutonniere, favoring roses and carnations.
The death of the undershirt?
When Clark Gable took off his sweater and shirt in It Happened One Night, he’s seen without an undershirt. Urban legends claim that this led to a 40-percent decrease in undershirt sales soon after, but that’s rooted in a lot of myth so it’s hard to find verification for this. The point is, while MGM may have crafted his look, Gable played by his own rules when it came to style. Rather than stick to the status quo, he was all about having that classic look with his own twist.
Trousers, slacks, and tailcoats
In Gone with the Wind, Gable brings a lot of Southern charm to his looks with classic silhouettes. Tuxedos and tailcoats are a large part of the movie’s wardrobe. He also favored high-waisted slacks with pleats, pretty much always. Again, his look was about taking his personal surroundings as a guide and using that to create his own look. The lesson? You can branch out with certain looks, or you can mix your staples with some new twists. Your outfits can reflect your surroundings, but be quintessentially you.
Shirts and sweaters
Gable wore button-down collared shirts and paired them with classic, understated ties. He favored classic shirt collars rather than trendier styles, choosing to stay with what he knew worked for him. Another outfit choice for him was pairing deep v-neck sweaters with a shirt and tie for a sleek and elegant look that could work for a lot of different environments.
Iconic status in Hollywood
When we’re talking about Clark Gable’s iconic Hollywood status, it’s usually in relation to his dashing looks, rakish charm, and of course, who can forget that signature mustache of his, and the slick pomade hair. He was the epitome of masculinity, with his rugged good looks and effortless style.
But ultimately what made Clark Gable an icon was his confidence. He knew that style was much more than the clothes he wore, but also how he adapted to his surroundings, and how he made a look his own. It was about infusing your own personality into the look, and being confident in that. His acting prowess is undisputed, and you can see that talent shine when you see him on-screen. He’s natural and effortless, and his style reflects that.
What are some of your favorite parts of Clark Gable’s style? Chime in below!