Celebrity stylist David Thomas on his new book, good haircuts and the one thing every man should own

Having dressed everyone from Paul Newman to John Legend, celebrity stylist David Thomas reflects on the elements of style

It’s hard to imagine your plumber becoming one of the top fashion stylists in the industry, but that’s the case with David Thomas, who in the ’80s was an unemployed plumber with dreams of joining the fashion industry. The native Brit eventually left his hometown of Gloucester for London, where he added cassette salesman, dishwasher and lavatory attendant to his resume. He pounded the pavement trying to get the attention of every fashion editor possible until someone finally gave him an opportunity.

The world of styling has changed considerably since Thomas first got his big break and he’s racked up tales of celebrities, photographers, fashion editors and designers along the way. His client list is nothing to scoff at: John Legend, Britney Spears and Calvin Harris just to name a few. While there are many highly respectable celebrity stylists in the industry, few have as many years of experience under their belt as Thomas. Now that he’s launched Vanity Project, a new book detailing the trajectory of his career, Thomas spoke with Robb Report about the style insights he’s gleaned over his decades in the business.

His personal style

“I’m very laid back. I work most days, so I have this rule that I will never show up dressed better than a client. I have 30 T-shirts: 10 black, 10 white and 10 navy. I’ll pair those with sweats, and either a hoodie or leather jacket. This makes it easy for me to focus on the people I’m styling. My go-to personal colour palette is black, white, navy and grey.”

James Perse crewneck T-shirts, $190 for three.
James Perse crewneck T-shirts

Wardrobe staples

“I like my T-shirts from James Perse and my sweatpants from John Elliott. I’ll whip out a Gucci hoodie on a special occasion. Of course, those are just a few of my favourite brands aside from my own, David ThomasX.”

The importance of grooming

“I always said if you have a good haircut and good shoes you can get away with almost anything. I will always swear by a good haircut.”

One thing every man should own

“Any opportunity to wear a tuxedo is an opportunity to dress well. Even though tuxedos are such a simple, classic garment and you’re just wearing black and white, men always look handsome in one. One well-fitted tuxedo, with a crisp white shirt, good bow tie and proper pair of tuxedo shoes is a look every man should rock once in their life.”

Don’t worry about getting it ‘right’

“I make no judgment about clothes. I just love clothes, even if I see someone who is still trying to figure out their style and is experimenting with different looks. Just because they haven’t got there yet, clothes are still great to see. What I will say is: I think people shouldn’t be so susceptible to trends and focus on the elements of fashion that best reflect your style.”

The cover of "Vanity Project"; John Legend styled by David Thomas.
The cover of “Vanity Project”; John Legend styled by David Thomas

The one brand he swears by

“Saint Laurent has this very classic rock ‘n roll vibe to it that is steeped in the past, but still modern. It’s not so much about the design of the garments, but it’s about the style of the garment. You can go to Saint Laurent and find a fabulous suit, they have great cuts, all their products have great fabrics. I could go in one of their stores and know I can find a good leather jacket, a good trucker jacket, a great pair of jeans that will look good on me, beautiful cashmere and a good button-down.”

Saint Laurent jacket, denim shirt and trousers; Jil Sander sterling silver signet ring ($250).
Saint Laurent jacket, denim shirt and trousers; Jil Sander sterling silver signet ring


“I’ve never been big on accessories myself. I personally never wear any, but in terms of styling other people, I think a watch or a ring is an easy go-to, maybe even two rings if one is a wedding band. Also, don’t think about ‘dressing for your age’, it’s about the type of person you are. Develop your style and go from there.”

David Thomas X wool varsity jacket ($1,295), suit jacket ($995), cotton hoodie ($195) and sweatpants ($265).
David Thomas X wool varsity jacket, suit jacket, cotton hoodie and sweatpants

The one trend he’s into

“The androgyny going on in fashion right now is so interesting. I ran away to London when I was 18 during the glam rock era, so I’ve always been fascinated by people defying gender norms with the way that they dress. It’s so intelligent to see straight men, especially sports players, experiment with what we consider to be traditionally male or female clothing.”

Getting into the design game

“I’ve been collaborating with brands to create different products, so I thought why not create a fashion line across multiple product categories? The pandemic gave me a pause where I wasn’t working for the first time since I was 16, so I got to dive deeper into thinking about developing the brand. I wanted to create clothes that aren’t disposable and are more style-driven than trendy.”

David Thomas

This story was first published on Robb Report USA