Who Was the Most Stylish Beatle?

The latest in an ongoing series in which we debate current style topics with an intensity that is—we'll be the first to admit—a little out of proportion to the actual significance of the issue at hand.
Photo: iTunes

Guys had flare.

On Jan 25, 2011, at 8:30 AM, Tyler Thoreson wrote:
Those ubiquitous Beatles iTunes ads are supposed to inspire me to buy music, but whenever I encounter a two-story billboard of John, George, Paul, and Ringo looming over a Manhattan street corner, I feel more inclined to buy Jack Purcells than “Hey Jude.” George was never my favorite Beatle, but here he’s a paragon of understated cool. The aforementioned footwear and cropped hem even manage to make the boot-cut denim (Levi’s 517s, I’m guessing) look sharp. So let’s set aside songwriting skills or musicianship and get down to what really matters: Who was the most stylish Beatle—and why?

On Jan 25, 2011, at 9:03 AM, Andy Comer wrote:
This question comes at a particularly, er… excitable time for me, since I’ve been going through a pretty immersive Fab Four rediscovery. (And no, it wasn’t prompted by the iTunes thing.) As you guys all know, I’m something of a fan. And as readers of Gilt MANual may recall, we’ve gotten behind the style of both John and Ringo (yes, Ringo) in the recent past. Now, I’m not a proponent of the “who’s your favorite Beatle?” thing, so I’ll just echo Tyler here in saying this ain’t that. And, we’re talking about style, not necessarily who the best dresser is, per se. So…I’m gonna have to say John. Where to begin? The white suit, the fur coats, the turtleneck sweaters, the incredible use of color and his experimentation with fit and shape (not to mention grooming)… I’d argue he showed a range during his time with the Beatles that the other three couldn’t match.

On Jan 25, 2011, at 9:15 AM, Christopher Wallace wrote:
Ah, see, I was getting ready to say that Ringo is the best-dressed in this picture (mostly because I just picked up a vintage black cord suit that I’m crushing on, but I digress…). Isn’t the “who’s your favorite Beatle?” thing the same as asking whose style you most prefer/identify with?

On Jan 25, 2011, at 9:25 AM, Josh Peskowitz wrote:
Not for nothing George Harrison was killing it throughout the ’90s. The Traveling Wilburys, et al… So I’m going with him.

On Jan 25, 2011, at 9:34 AM, Christopher Wallace wrote:
This really is the ultimate there-is-no-wrong-answer question (unless, of course, you choose Paul). John’s gotta be in the top five of the most stylish men ever, and George ain’t far down that list. I’m going to have to go with John on inventiveness, versatility and creativity in style—name someone else whose style is so emblematic of so many types and periods of fashion. Protest, hippie, beatnik, seeker, intellectual, the ’60s, the ’70s—it is John you think of (or, well, I think of) when conjuring the look from any of those categories. QED. Whew. Is that enough over-rationalizing for the easiest answer available on a multiple choice?

On Jan 25, 2011, at 9:36 AM, Josh Peskowitz wrote:
Jesus. I’m in continental Europe and all I’ve heard is house music for the last week and a half, so all this shit is meta to me.

On Jan 25, 2011, at 10:24 AM, Andy Comer wrote:
Yes, John may feel like the “easiest” choice. Still, he’s mine, out of personal preference and sheer cultural impact. But I figured the Paul-bashing would come, and early. To which I say: Take it easy on Macca. Not only is the button-down oxford shirt, odd vest, and flared, cuffed pants look on display here a great one, I dare say it’s a prescient one, in terms of what’s going to be “coming back” in men’s fashion over the next year or so. And in his younger days, Paul could wear the bejesus out of a wool pinstriped suit. I’ll go so far as to say that Paul has the most underrated style of any Beatle.

On Jan 25, 2011, at 10:44 AM, Jared Flint wrote:
I’ll agree there, Paul underrated all the way up until the Michael Jackson duet, then it’s open season on him and his crooked smirk. I’m gonna go ahead and be boring and say John. Wallace makes a good point that he hit on so many different looks and periods and it never seemed contrived, whether in fur or wearing nothing. I’d equate it to Dylan’s style. Changing, but never chasing a trend. I love Ringo’s style but he also kind of terrifies me; the overzealous beard grooming had a certain maniacal-villain element to it. I can’t believe that I forgot this but about twenty years ago I met George Harrison (with Tom Petty) at the Long Beach Grand Prix. Dude was in aviators, white pants, and a chambray shirt. Plus he signed my program. Totally changed my mind—it’s George.

Photo: Barry Feinstein/Morrison Hotel Gallery

Poster Boy: George in full "All Things Must Pass" regalia.

On Jan 25, 2011, at 11:15 AM, Andy Comer wrote:
At this stage I must point us all to the fold-out poster included with the initial run of George’s All Things Must Pass triple LP (which, I gotta say, is a prime contender for “best post-Beatles solo album”). When I first saw this I freaked out—in the best possible way. Basically, the style blueprint for Dash Snow—and pretty much every twenty-something guy below Bond Street circa 2010. Good God, am I reconsidering my answer?

On Jan 25, 2011, at 11:23 AM, Jared Flint wrote:
Damn, George out-Sam Elliotted Sam Elliott. I’m with you AC, the more I think about it, the more George takes the prize. I can’t argue against his classic stoicism.

On Jan 25, 2011, at 11:32 AM, Andy Comer wrote:
I’m getting the feeling that Messrs. Peskowitz and Thoreson are “Stones guys.”

On Jan 25, 2011, at 11:35 AM, Tyler Thoreson wrote:
That dude totally hooked me up with a crap table at Freemans in 2006.

On Jan 25, 2011, at 11:40 AM, Christopher Wallace wrote:
Wait, I feel like I’m caught in the rip and don’t know which way is up. This is style we’re talking about after all, and for guys, getting dressed is all about personality. Who do you want to be that day? I still say this answer comes down to your innate sensibilities (and which of the guys you most identify with/want to be). George was definitely the most sartorially poetic of the bunch, in fitting with his overall demeanor. John dressed like a rebel prophet rock star—which he was. That being said, my inner George secretly wants to be John.

On Jan 25, 2011, at 12:01 PM, Josh Peskowitz wrote:
For me it’s George, always George ever since I was a kid. He was my parents’ favorite Beatle, and while we don’t agree on everything, on this we do. Plus he was a Traveling Wilbury, which has probably already been brought up, but Roy Orbison didn’t ask Paul to be in the group. Just saying.

On Jan 25, 2011, at 12:10 PM, Tyler Thoreson wrote:
Traveling Wilburys? I thought you said you liked him.

On Jan 25, 2011, at 12:16 PM, Andy Comer wrote:
We’re not dissing on the Wilburys, are we?

On Jan 25, 2011, at 12:32 PM, Josh Peskowitz wrote:
Suppose that’s a conversation for another time. Dissing the most mind-blowing super group of all times (aside from the Crooklyn Dodgers) shouldn’t be part of this equation, so let’s go back to the question at hand. I think George is the best dressed, period. Paul and Ringo are not part of this conversation as far as I’m concerned, but John is. Here’s the difference as I see it: John’s look evolved over time and never seemed contrived—which has been mentioned—but his changing look was somewhat due to his political leanings and affiliations. This doesn’t discount his style choices, but it does make them a statement. George, on the other hand, played the quiet role: always confident, always self-assured, but never seeking others’ approval for his sartorial choices. This makes him not only the best dressed of the Beatles, in my mind, but also the most effortless. And isn’t that what we all aspire to? Not saying that his style wasn’t timely, but I’d sure say it’s timeless.

On Jan 25, 2011, at 1:16 PM, Tyler Thoreson wrote:
Much as I feel compelled to defend Paul simply to give the guy his share of ink, mustering the energy to rise in his defense is about as hard as mustering the energy to get up and change the station when “Band on the Run” comes on. Oh wait, that’s never been a problem. Anyway…I gotta say that in this highly limited case, the Quiet Beatle gets my vote. But we’re admittedly splitting hairs here—as this whole “Reply-All” series does by definition and without remorse. I wish I had half the style of any of these guys.

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