Man of the month
Our favourite hip-swiveling, Welsh ‘tiger’ is the king of reinvention, and at the grand age of 77 is still showing men how to style a suit.
He’s had one of the longest careers in the history of pop music, tackling every style from Rock’n’Roll to Country to Gospel. He has a sense of style that is at the same time completely on trend and timeless, has been made a Knight of the British Empire and has a stunning voice that has sold over 100 million records. With his return as coach to The Voice – everyone’s guilty Saturday night pleasure – I feel it’s time to feature Sir Tom Jones as our best-dressed man of the month.
Who is Sir Tom Jones?
The son of a coal miner, Sir Tom Jones was born Thomas Jones Woodward on 7 June 1940 in the South Welsh town of Pontypridd. Not terribly keen on school or sports, Jones found his passion in singing at school, weddings and family gatherings. He developed a love of music through a childhood spent listening to BBC radio, American Blues, R&B and Rock’n’Roll. Contracting tuberculosis at twelve years old forced him to recover in bed for two years with little else to do but listen to music.
Jones quit school as a teenager but had little direction, working in a paper mill and as a door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman. He married his high-school girlfriend, Linda Trenchard in 1957 at just 17 years old when they were expecting their first, and only, child Mark.
He continued to sing, performing at working men’s clubs, nurturing a deep sound influenced by American soul music. In 1963 he fronted beat band, Tommy Scott and the Senators. Jones was soon signed with Decca Records and although his first single didn’t make to the charts, his second – It’s Not Unusual – went to the top offshore, despite the BBC refusing to play it. That’s unthinkable now!
There was no stopping him then – huge chart success came quickly with hit singles like What’s New Pussycat, Thunderball, Green, Green Grass of Home, Help yourself, and Delilah. In 1965 he crossed the pond and secured instant fame after a performance on the Ed Sullivan Show. Now a global superstar, he split his time between the UK and US, touring regularly and performing two-week ‘residencies’ in Las Vegas at the Flamingo and Caesar’s Palace. With his sharp suits and tight trousers, it wasn’t long before he amassed thousands of frenzied, knicker-throwing, female fans. A famed womaniser, he admitted publicly that he took advantage of that adoration many times, despite his ‘rock solid’ marriage.
Appearances on Hollywood soundtracks followed and he tucked a Grammy for Best New Artist into his belt in 1966. Along the way, he befriended big hitters Elvis, Sinatra and John Lennon. He hosted his own pop culture show This is Tom Jones from 1969 – 71, making history as the biggest contract ever signed at ITV. He finally moved his family to the USA permanently in 1974, purchasing Dean Martin’s house (of course!).
The late seventies and eighties heralded a decline in his career but, well known as a come-back King, Jones revitalised his career in the late 1990s, featuring on the soundtrack for the comedy film The Full Monty, with You Can Leave Your Hat On. At a time when most people were considering retirement, Jones ramped up and in the last 20 years he has released numerous records, toured almost constantly and performed at the Concert for Diana, the BBC Music Awards, BBC Children in Need, Cornbury, Isle of Wight Festival, V festival, Latitude, and Glastonbury.
Despite the tragic passing of his wife of 59 years in 2016, 77-year-old Jones hasn’t lost any of his zest for life, continuing to record, tour and hold his seat (bar a rather controversial sacking and re-hiring) on The Voice. But Jones doesn’t take it for granted. Speaking to The Independent
he mused “You know, if I could have one wish granted, it would be for immortality. God has given me this most wonderful life, and the only thing I hate about the aging process is that, one day, I’m not going to be able to live it anymore.”
Tom Jones’ Style
Voice aside, Jones’ ability to continually reinvent himself to meet the times has contributed a great deal to his longevity. Early in his career, he styled himself with shirts from Carnaby Street paired with tight, leather pants (black to hide perspiration) and Cuban-heeled shoes from Anello & Davide in Kensington. In an interview with The Guardian in 2009
, he revealed: “Once I was singing “Kiss” at a TV special in Cardiff and I came to the part where I do a squat, and these leather pants I was wearing split up the back. So, I said: “This is for people who don’t believe I wear underwear” and bent over so you could see the red briefs I had on. I’ve stopped that move now. You can’t always count on the pants holding up.” His attire may not have been as practical as he hoped, but it quickly earned him a sex-symbol status he’s never lost.
He moved seamlessly through the 1970s in platforms, flairs and silk paisley shirts and into the washed denim and tight shirts of the 1980s. He’s still very bold with his dress sense on stage and getting older certainly doesn’t mean getting boring: he wears a lot of sumptuous fabrics like velvet and silk in rich tones and loves a turtle-neck and jacket combination. Jones embraced his Silver Fox image several years ago by ditching the hair dye, yet somehow, he has avoided the aging effect snowy hair has on most of the population.
Off-duty he can be seen in a variety of jeans, tees and leather or denim jacket combinations, but his exceptional grooming ensures he always looks polished. Jones loves his accessories, and while not for everyone, solid gold pinky rings, necklaces and a beautiful watch complete his outfits. He admitted to GQ
that he can’t count how many watches he now owns – it must be some collection!
Jones has said that he does have a stylist now, Peter Hawker, who selects suits for him from designers such as Oswald Boateng, William Hunt and Gucci. And it’s paying off – his suits are well fitted and show off his upper body very well. He has a strong shoulder and firm chest canvas, although that may be because he is so broad at the top that it looks this way. His lapels are wide, very much a nod to the 50s where it all began for Jones as a Teddy Boy. It does balance his proportions well as he has a large face and big hair.
How I would dress Tom Jones
I’d keep with his character and personality and stick with the bold lapels and luxe fabrics. He’s got such a great frame that the firm shoulder, structured look really works well for him.
He’d look great in classic pieces such as a Tonic grey mohair suit, or a jewel green suit kept really plain but with a real punch in the colour and texture. Open-necked shirts work well on him, and I’d even add a cheeky neck scarf to bring out the old-school charm.
Sources:Tom Jones Official Website‘How I get dressed’, The Guardian, May 2009‘Sir Tom Jones on the death of his wife Linda: “My heart stopped”‘, GQ, June 2016‘Tom Jones: “With Chuck Berry, every note was a new word”‘, GQ, June 2012‘My Exclusive Interview with Sir Tom Jones, in Which I Fail to Learn How to Be More Like Tom Jones’, Huffington PostBiography – Tom JonesThe fall and rise of Tom Jones: The singer reflects on an extraordinary life, The Independent, May 2012