Jean-Paul Belmondo was born on April 9, 1933, in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France, and became one of the greatest French actors, epitomising the classic elegance that is often associated with icons such as Jean-Pierre Melville and François Truffaut. He brought a unique blend of suave sophistication and rugged charm to the silver screen throughout his prolific career which spanned several decades, not only captivating audiences with his acting prowess but also leaving an indelible mark on the world of menswear. In this article, we will delve into the sartorial elegance of Jean-Paul Belmondo and how his iconic style in films continues to inspire and influence contemporary men's fashion.
Belmondo was a master of tailored suits, which quickly became his signature look in many of his films. Whether he was playing a detective or an adventurous playboy, he exuded an air of effortless sophistication in perfectly fitted suits. His suits were typically well-structured, often featuring a single-breasted design with notch lapels and a slim, tapered silhouette to complement his lean figure. Dark, timeless colours like black, charcoal, and navy were his go-to choices. One of his most memorable suits can be seen in the 1960 film Breathless, where he played the role of Michel Poiccard, a charismatic car thief. His dark, minimalist suit paired with a crisp white shirt and narrow tie became an iconic representation of Parisian cool.
In many of his films, Belmondo demonstrated an affinity for trench coats that added a touch of mystery and intrigue to his characters. His trench coats were often tailored to perfection, enhancing his figure. This classic piece of outerwear was versatile, equally suitable for both casual and formal occasions. A prime example of his trench coat-clad style can be seen in the 1967 movie Le Cerveau (The Brain), where he played alongside legendary actor and style maverick himself, David Niven.
Belmondo's style was not limited to formal wear; he also excelled in the realm of casual cool. His off-duty looks were a masterclass in laid-back elegance, often featuring well-fitted jeans, crisp white shirts, and relaxed blazers. He effortlessly blended sophistication with comfort in films such as The Professional (a very slick blue leather jacket), while off camera he was a great proponent of the shearling jacket.
Iconic Films and Style
Breathless (À bout de souffle)
This 1960 film, directed by Jean-Luc Godard, was a defining moment in both French cinema and Jean-Paul Belmondo's career. His character, Michel Poiccard, introduced a rebellious spirit to French cinema, and his style reflected this attitude. With his casual suiting, white T-shirts, and dark shades, Belmondo created a look that resonates with audiences to this day. Breathless also showcased his love for fedora hats.
In the 1981 action-thriller Le Professionnel, Belmondo's character, Josselin Beaumont, exuded masculine charm. His wardrobe featured rugged leather jackets, denim shirts, tactical vests, and an assortment of military-inspired attire. This film exemplifies his ability to adapt his style to suit the roles he played while maintaining an undeniable sense of style.
Pierrot le Fou
In Jean-Luc Godard's Pierrot le Fou (1965), Belmondo played the role of Ferdinand Griffon, a man on the run. His wardrobe in the film included striped sailor shirts, denim, and a carefree attitude that showcased a more relaxed and bohemian aspect of his style. This laid-back look became emblematic of his ability to effortlessly shift from one style to another.