There are few men who can share – or, dare we say, steal – the style limelight from A$AP Rocky, but at Raf Simons’s Calvin Klein debut in New York, Ashton Sanders did just that in an insanely oversized Dickies jacket, corner store shades, beanie, bandana and some COS. With every new magazine cover and red carpet appearance, the central star of Oscar-nominated Moonlight is emerging as an exciting new menswear hero and a rare movie star with genuine style (most actors can’t dress for shit).
The outfit was just one of a series of brilliantly varied ones worn by the 21-year-old from Carson, California. Boiler suits, tartan trousers, military, florals, sneakers, Docs, pink faux fur, camo tux: you name it, he’s made it look good. His dressing success comes down to his total confidence, sense of fun, lean model frame, and also his fruitful collaboration with stylist Jessie Jamz.
Sanders joyously @’s 31-year-old Jamz in his Instagram posts, since she’s the one who’s helped him create looks that are the right mix of clean, flamboyant and classic. The pair met back in September, shooting for Ladygunn magazine – before the release of Moonlight and the major buzz that followed. They’re like cute childhood sweethearts who met before the fame.
“I pulled some things that were a little bit riskier and I was kind of nervous that he was going to hate it, but he was like, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s like you read my mind! I love all this stuff!’ This was in September, before he started doing award shows. We got along really well, so I was like, ‘If you ever need anything, call me.’” When Sanders had to attend the Gotham Awards, he called Jamz right up. “From there it’s been everything,” she says.
Jamz is far from the traditional, institutionalised celebrity stylist. After years designing for Ed Hardy (“I was responsible for all those diamond-encrusted everything!”) and small LA brands, she’s done magazine editorials, music videos and advertising, but nothing quite so high profile as styling one of Hollywood’s hottest young stars.
She’s not about to become a pure red carpet dresser though. “I’m not going to just dress some celebrity to say I do. I want to have good energy and a connection with them.” She clicked with Sanders and they work closely to get a very personal aesthetic that nods to his love of Mods, Jimi Hendrix and André 3000 (he describes the Outkast rapper as “real inspo” on one Insta post and christens himself ‘Anton 3000’ in another). For her part, Jamz contributes her love of colour, clean lines and challenging silhouettes.
“Some celebrity stylists pull a ton of clothes and then have a full studio full of clothes, but we work the opposite. He’ll tell me what vibe he likes, we’ll both look at the runways and pick things out and then from there I’ll target specific designers or pieces. When Ashton was at the Calvin Klein show and we were just screen-shotting images back and forth.”
So what are their shared philosophies on men’s style? “We’ve both discovered that we don’t want to rely on labels. We look at runways and respect fashion and appreciate it, but if something is not the right vibe, we don’t wear it just because it’s designer. Ashton has a very clear vision of what he wants. He brings elements of his normal wardrobe into things, like Doc Martens and Vans. Even if he’s wearing Louis Vuitton, he’ll wear them with Doc Martens. If you feel like you’re dressing up in a different way, then you’re not going to pull it off so cool.”
Jamz says it’s a fun time to be dressing the new Hollywood. “Men’s fashion is at such a good place right now. It’s a time when anything goes. There are some nice, clean, structured lines, also looser, wilder stuff. And men are wearing furs and big jackets and skinny pants or big pants, or whatever. You can do anything right now. If it’s your thing and you feel confident in it, it’s gonna look good.”
So what’s his Oscar look going to be like? “His outfit is really awesome. Argh, I can’t say anything more! It’s gonna be clean! Ashton has been away filming a movie, so he’s flying back in and I’m more excited like, ‘My buddy’s back!’ We’re going to make him look awesome. I’m super proud of him, especially since I met him before the film came out. I didn’t know who he was. I’ve seen him grow through all this and I’m so proud.”