When Hugh Grant Dressed For An Art Heist On The French Riviera

The chino-shirt combo with three passports and a naughty little habit for Château d’Esclans

Style Archive: a series in which we celebrate the stars of the past that made menswear what it is today. This week: Hugh Grant, and a wardrobe with a knack for closing big deals abroad.

It's three o'clock, and Cannes is looking a lot like a scene from a made-for-TV espionage thriller. Pristine tablecloths flutter in the breeze. A well-baubled older lady is hiding recent nip-tucks behind Dior sunglasses. Some Eastern European accents fly around. And there, in the corner, with a mobile as large and as unresponsive as a remote control, is a man based in this eerie, comically expensive restaurant for the whole summer. 

Hugh Grant sloping around what could well be his second house in Provence. Or London.

Photo by Byron Newman.

He's a bit enigmatic. He's forever clad in the clothes of a Mayfair art dealer. He is, in short, Hugh Grant. Or at least he looks the same, sharing an identical uniform with the patron saint of West London gentrifiers (a now silvering, eloquent breed that rocketed Notting Hill house prices in a shuttle crafted from dreamcatchers and Ruinart Blanc de Blancs). 


Grant's kit of choice in the eighties and nineties looked to the business-casual of lands abroad. That meant loose shirts, boxy chinos, a Ralph Lauren stripe and, ideally, a very respectable Swiss watch. Not a watch that draws attention. Instead, you'll see a piece that's classic, understated, and without a diamond in sight. That's for the lady on table nine who may or may not be in dialogue with a hitman regarding her fourth husband. 

The above formula looks simple enough, sure. Though dig a little deeper, and it's of a more complex arrangement, a happy balance of the cursed smart-casual dress code. To clinch a level of appropriateness, Grant stuck to the basics. Ties are for the boardroom only in this instance, so they're gone. The crisp, immaculate shirts are left unbuttoned (but not too unbuttoned, mind). Trousers are proper, and pleated, and loose for the weather, but never remotely close to shorts or denim. 

Grant's wardrobe, while of its time, was replicated internationally, too. Cool urbanites stomped around London and the blossoming European Union in the same gear season-round. A summer in Holland Park was, after all, to be no different to a weekend in the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo (and yet it couldn't be further from the West Coast set). 

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Nor was it to be rejigged in front of the paparazzi, or in airports, in restaurants, or when by the side of then-girlfriend Elizabeth Hurley. The Four Weddings actor dressed the part of charming, well-educated, international art dealer at every turn. And it worked. 

Of course, Grant never did partake in the shady procurement of priceless Cézanne pieces. But here's an outfit that'll flit from Learjet to licensing talks in the flash of a third passport. Better yet, it's an easy way to clinch smart-casual as the appetite for Nineties boxiness rumbles through once again, as does the next shipment of Romanov-era sculptures fresh from Moscow.

This story originally appeared on Esquire.co.uk. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.

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