Neal Caffrey is one of best dressed guys on TV today—refined taste in all things, from wardrobe to wine, is core to the character. The same happens to be true for the guy who plays him, Matt Bomer, who’s a true man of style (not to mention a talented actor and devoted father). We sat down with Matt to talk about his relationship with Alton Lane, his approach to style, and the distinct benefits of the tear-away suit.
Neal is an exceptionally dapper guy. Has playing such a sharp dresser impacted the way you dress off camera?
Absolutely. Before this job started I think I just saw a suit a something you wear when you dress up. Once we started having conversations about the style and sartorial influences behind the character, I realized you could use a suit for so much more, in terms of self expression, using things like pocket squares and tie clips to express your personal style.
How about vice versa – has any of your personal taste made its way into Neal’s repertoire?
It’s definitely become more symbiotic over the years. There have been times when I’ve used some of my own wardrobe on the show, and there’ve certainly been times when I’ve worn Neal’s wardrobe in public.
Give me an example of a Neal piece that’s made its way off the show.
There’ve been quite a few over the years [laughs]. I certainly borrow more than I contribute.
I’ve always felt that Neal’s success as a con man is, in some small way, testament to the power of a great suit. Do you agree?
I think when you’re operating in the upper echelons of society the uniform is very important. It tells people a lot about you in a very brief period of time, and if you’re trying to con somebody in the white collar world, you’ve got to come correct in the wardrobe world. One thing I notice is, when we started doing the show and I’d be so dressed up, when I’d go to get coffee, or to a restaurant, for lunch, I found that I was treated differently than when I wore my flannel shirt and jeans [laughs].
Tell me a little about your relationship with Alton Lane. How did that come about, and why did you decide to team up with them among so many other options?
We met through mutual friends, and decided to start collaborating on the show. They were such a standup group of guys. I love they way they ran their company . It was done really well, and their showroom in New York sort of evoked Neal Caffrey’s living room, so it seemed like a perfect pairing. And I liked that they could bring bespoke elements to people for whom it might otherwise be out of their price range. They can make the same fabrics that Brioni uses accessible to someone who might not be able to afford a Brioni suit. I like that they give the chance for everybody to show their personal style.
Do you have your own personal style icon?
Oh yeah, I think it starts with the European stars of the fifties and sixties – Marcello Mastroianni, Jean Paul Belmondo, Alain Delon – and then Cary Grant of course was a big stylistic influence for Neal, and I love the whole American prep look of the fifties and sixties. Steve McQueen, and Paul Newman, and James Dean.
That’s a good place to start for any guy.
Yeah! They knew how to rock the basics, you know?
Who do you think it the best dressed actor out there today?
Ryan Gosling does it really well. He knows how to dress up. He just understands style—he understands what looks good on him. Channing [Tatum] does it well when he dresses up. McConaughey—I have to give him props, too.
Love how you’re giving a shout to your costars in Magic Mike—but isn’t there something a little ironic about the combination of dressing well and the subject matter of that particular film?
Well, maybe I appreciated their style because I was so used to seeing them without any clothes on that I was like, whoo, y’all can rock a suit, too!
Although you can’t see the six-pack abs you guys were all working on behind the suit.
Hey, maybe their suits are tear-away. I didn’t ask.
Does Alton Lane do that, because they should.
I’m sure they could.
My next suit is definitely going to have tear-away functionality.
I’m just warning you: it’s great for that moment, but make sure that moment is right, because the reset takes a long time.
Wise words from a man who knows. So I hear you’re a fairly avid shopper on Gilt.
You know, my family had an intervention because my Gilt shopping had gotten out of hand. There were so many boxes from Gilt arriving on my doorstep that they threw down the gauntlet and said, “It’s time for you and Gilt to take a little break.” So I weaseled my way in, the only way I knew how to: this photo shoot.
We’ll send you home with a few hidden away, no worries.
I’m going to take a break, I’m going to enter a Twelve Step program, and I’m going to come back stronger than ever.
Hey, all good things in moderation.
Last time we talked, it was at a dinner celebrating a bunch of well-dressed dads. Any advice for our guys out there who are trying to balance their own desire to look sharp with the demands of playing dad to young kids?
Good luuuuck. [Laughs.] No, I think if you can get the basics together in your wardrobe: The navy suit, the grey suit, the khaki suit, the black suit. A nice white shirt — you know what the basic are; just Google it. If you get those going on, you can provide enough variety over the course of the week to make it easy.
My theory has always been to make sure everything kind of goes with everything else, because you’ll be getting up early and dressing in the dark a lot.
Yes! There’s a lot of dressing in the dark. So good luck with that.
Catch White Collar Tuesdays at 10/9c on USA.