Men’s style isn’t just about clothes. Having an eye for design and appreciation for quality needn’t be limited to just the garments we choose to wear, and a well-curated wardrobe surely deserves a well-curated home. This is where people like Tom O’Dell come in.
A stylist who works with both menswear and interiors, plus an art director, O’Dell’s eye is well-trained on the subject of aesthetics. A quick stroll down his Instagram feed gives you a sense of what he’s about: mid-century furniture, textural fabrics, vintage watches and a calming, neutral colour palette – a combination that wouldn’t look out of place on the set of Mad Men.
As one of London’s best-dressed men, we wanted to get a grasp on how he built his look, what his tips are when scouring vintage shops, and his advice for creating a unique aesthetic of your own. In short, it takes time, but Tom offers some shortcuts that’ll get you well on the way.
Name: Tom O’Dell
Occupation: Menswear and interior stylist
Based: London, UK
Known For: O’Dell Studios and Mid-century styling
Style Inspiration: The 1950s & 1960s
Tom O’Dell first broke out in the London style scene with his brick and mortar store, O’Dell Studios, which was open for over four years between two locations, in Arnold Circus and Soho (and has recently re-opened as Open Plan, a studio store located in the former area). It sold an enviously curated selection of goods ranging from hand-made leather belt clips to walnut bar stools and bespoke window units. Each product complemented the next and there was a continuity that’s reflected in the way Tom dresses.
His personal style doesn’t shout for attention. Instead, it’s the clever details and subtle use of colour that makes his look stand out. His preference for neutral colours and consistency is actually part of his business, and he’s seen work come to him off the back of it: “Brown has become a thing really, through both my interior work and styling. People come to me for a specific look. Browns, tonal, taupes, greens – these sort of colours are the ones I gravitate towards.”
It creates something of a throwback look, which he wholeheartedly embraces. “As a whole there’s a mid-century reference to everything I do. My personal style and sense of design is mid-century influenced, whether that be interiors, my watch collection, my clothing and the other things I’m into.” Tom has committed to the look, and while he isn’t defined solely by his preference for the 1950s and ’60s, in buying into the wider mid-century lifestyle, he’s created a niche for himself. Albeit without the rationing and post-war austerity.
The Style Signature: Vintage Outerwear
We’ve discussed the impact outerwear can have on a look on this site plenty over the years. There’s no single garment that can transform an outfit quite like a well-chosen jacket or coat. And it’s a point where Tom agrees. But crucially, rather than traipse the high street in search of this season’s latest design, he recommends going vintage.
“I like buying vintage clothes in general. But my coat collection – I’ve probably got 30 coats and 26 of them are vintage, it’s the quality [that sets them apart]. If you buy a vintage coat of a certain year, the quality you are getting is the best. Some of my coats when new would have cost £1,000, but you can buy them for £100 in a second hand shop. The quality of the product is something that appeals to me when dressing.”
It’s a hard point to argue with, especially when you consider the attention to detail often found in quality vintage. “The nice thing about vintage when you work with it and when you really study it, you start seeing all the details. Now lots of [new] companies cut out those details. It might be pocket detailing, or extra stitching. But also, vintage clothing has lasted this long, so if it’s lasted 40 or 50 years, it must be quite good.
“And then with coats they’re practical, they look pretty, they give a bit of character to a look. You can wear a white T-shirt and jeans, and a good coat sells the whole look.”
Tom O’Dell’s 5 Timeless Style Tips
Take Your Time
“I think it’s important to build your wardrobe, and not try to do it all at once. Maybe try buying one thing you really like, and then build up your look from there. Shoes are a good one to start with, as it dictates where you are at with the look. You don’t want to go too far away from what you already do [straight away].
“Buy something you feel comfortable in, that looks cool, and when you start wearing that in your day to day, then it will give you confidence to try something perhaps a little different. But trying to buy it all at once doesn’t really work. You need to test things really.”
“You don’t need to spend loads of money. If you go to a good vintage shop, you can get beautiful outerwear for under £100. You can get shoes for £70. You can get ties, for a wedding, for £9, and it will change your whole look. If you’ve got a classic blue suit you wear to work, and you buy a vintage tie, it will transform the look. Work on little details, and then you start building up. Then in ten years time, you’ll be like me and have ten watches, 30 coats and eight pairs of shoes!”
Curate Your Wardrobe
“With vintage it’s about looking at the individual products and thinking ‘will this fit into my day’? I’ve got coats that I wear on set that have lots of pockets, then I have more dressy coats that are unlined and more delicate, but more suitable for the city. It’s just fitting those pieces around your wardrobe.
“What you probably don’t want to do is buy something you can’t wear your jeans with, or your trainers or shoes. I used to buy coats I could wear with my Uniqlo jeans and Clarks Wallabees. Then once you’ve got that coat you might find a nice pair of old trousers and you start teaming stuff together. I don’t really follow a specific look as such. I’m not necessarily into the mod look or a punk look. It’s more about the individual items and teaming them together with what I’ve got.”
Re-Think The Suit
“On trends, sportswear is obviously a massive thing, I just feel like I’ve missed it. I love sports, football is my favourite thing, but I missed the sportswear trend. I like a nice pair of trainers or a technical jacket but the idea of my spending £900 on a pair of Balenciaga trainers blows me away. But each to their own.”
Dress With Function In Mind
“You have to wear things that suit you. Yes you can follow trends but it’s also about practicality. Most people work in jobs where they want to feel comfortable, they’re commuting or they might be going to the gym, they might be on a bike, so casual clothing is practical and there’s some amazing brands out there doing cool stuff.”
For more on Tom O’Dell, click here.
Photography: Charlie Thomas