When people are interviewed about men’s style icons, the list of names that gets reeled off is usually pretty similar. Paul Newman is on there. Steve McQueen too. Former Fiat head Gianni Agnelli makes an appearance to add some international flavor. (There seems to be something about guys with a connection to motorsports that yields a certain fashion flair. Newman drove race cars; McQueen raced motorcycles; Agnelli led Ferrari into Formula 1.)
One person who doesn’t often find himself on those lists is Bill Murray. That is a shame. Murray, who celebrated his 64th birthday yesterday (consider this ode a belated present, Bill), has consistently made impressive sartorial decisions both on-screen and off. They may not be looks that everyone would feel comfortable sporting, but who wants a style that everyone can copy anyway?
The urban legend was that Murray used to sneak up behind strangers on the street, cover their eyes with his hands and when they turned around he’d say, “No one will ever believe you.”
In the age of social media and ubiquitous camera phones, the shroud of mystery surrounding Murray’s penchant for joining regular people doing regular things has been lifted. The escapades are well chronicled. Here’s Murray hanging with bros at a bachelor party. Here he is posing with a recently-engaged couple. The stories are viral gold and help humanize Bill Murray. He really is as cool as he appears in the movies.
The tales are also memorable because of the outfits Murray wears. Whether he’s acting in a Wes Anderson movie, playing golf at Pebble Beach, or appearing on The Late Show with David Letterman, you remember Murray’s performance and the clothes he wears while delivering it.
Look at the film roles. You can probably dress Steve Zissou or Dr. Peter Venkman or Carl Spackler or Ernie McCracken completely from memory down to the smallest detail.
Sometimes the reaction to Murray’s style is confusion. In the engagement pic, some questions that pop to mind are, “Why does Bill Murray wear shirts that are four sizes too big for him?” and “Does Bill Murray know how to use shampoo?”
But more often than not, you look at a Billy Murray outfit and think, “That’s pretty fucking cool.” I remember seeing that bachelor party video for the first time and being impressed not just with his assessment of holy matrimony but with that fishing vest thing. A guy who plays golf in a ghillie suit is someone that I want to play golf with. And if that’s the same guy goes on Letterman in a Liberace costume all the better.
The debate in fashion circles has long revolved around whether form should follow function or vice versa. What Murray has found is that it doesn’t have to be binary. There is a third, and arguably more important, priority: fun. His fashion choices are designed with that in mind. And nothing looks better than a guy who looks like he’s having fun.