Bilbo Baggins, Dr. Watson, the original Tim in the UK version of “The Office,” the adult film star in “Love Actually.” All these parts have been played to some acclaim in recent years by Martin Freeman, now one of Britain’s leading character actors. But just as important as Freeman’s acting capability is his sense of style, and his unique approach to how he dresses.
In an era where most actors are styled to within an inch of their lives, Freeman’s look is all his own, a heady mix of British Modernism, European tailoring and Ivy League staples. Freeman is a “Mod” in the very best sense of that word. He takes the continental and trans-Atlantic aspects of Modernism on board and loves them, in favor of the Little Englander Union Jack-bedecked version which can sometimes obscure the pure fashion aesthetic of the original Modernists. He’s often to be found in tailoring from well respected UK tailors like Mark Powell and in well cut chinos, Weejuns, and varsity sweatshirts more commonly associated with Ivy.
What I love about Freeman is that he loves to mix it up and what he wears is massively important to him. He’s what I would call a clothophile: what he wears defines him as much in his eyes as his acting does. Even his musical interests portray a man with varied yet impeccable taste. In recent years he’s collaborated with Eddie Piller (DJ and well known Mod) on Soul and Jazz compilations, and his musical choices on these albums show a man of wealth and taste, as Mick Jagger would say. Seersucker and madras jackets are a wardrobe staple for Freeman, as are oxford-cloth buttondowns, and when combined with some of the earlier mentioned items give him a look which is as much at home in an East Coast University campus as it is in 221B Baker Street, or indeed in Middle Earth.
He summed it up himself a couple of years ago in a foreword he wrote for Mark Baxter and Paolo Hewitt’a book “The A-Z of Mod.” “The genius of Mod is having great taste. Knowing where to look and more importantly what to look for.”
Amen to that, something which we all strive for. Martin is also a regular customer at John Simons, the place that could be regarded as the US Ivy Embassy in Britain. He’s really shown that Mod is not all scooter runs and Union Jack bowling shoes. There is an understated subtlety there to be explored through the fashion of immaculate American clothing, and he’s pushed that front and center in this part of the world. Long may he reign. — CIARAN PEPPARD