What Makes A British Style Icon?

Sometimes I like to pretend that I don’t read printed fashion/gossip magazines any more. This is only partially true. I still buy Elle almost every month, and I will happily pick up Glamour or Grazia if they have been left on the table on the train. The problem I have with most magazines these days is that I don’t always know who the celebrities are – and the ones I don’t know don’t really inspire me want to find out more. Bad fake tan + hair extensions + showing too much flesh = me turning over the page. In my opinion, the girls who are most deserved of their place in those magazines are those who make you want to find out where they got their clothes – because they pull off designer labels without seeming intimidating and who are not afraid to have their own style.

There are loads of well-dresses ladies I could have mentioned in this column, but I chose the handful that really made me proud to be British. Did I miss anyone? Let me know.

Alexa Chung
I used to watch the beautiful Alexa on Sunday morning TV when I was a student. She was beautiful, of course, but she was engaging because she was also intelligent, funny and down-to-earth – I lost track of the amount of times she and her co-host broke down in giggles on air! Since then she’s used her natural charm (okay, okay, and good looks and impeccable dress sense) to become a front row staple. Dating a rock star (Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys) hasn’t hurt, and neither has having the Mulberry Alexa bag designed for her – I have never been big into designer labels but the Alexa tipped the scales for me. Alexa can do designer and still be relatable. She is often seen in a simple girly frock – I do love a good frock. She knows how to do rock-chick without being try-hard. She looks good at a festival, but not good enough to make you suspect she’s staying in a hotel each night. That’s why we love her.

Tilda Swinton
Tilda’s unrivaled charisma means she can pull off any outfit and make it look amazing. Take the outfit she wore to the 2012 Golden Globes – put that on anyone else and it would make the ‘what not to wear’ page. There will never be another icon like Tilda.

Lauren Laverne
LaLa is a radio presenter and recently a fashion columnist. She was in a Britpop girl band called Kenickie just at the right time of the ’90s when I needed angsty girls with guitars in my life. Since then, Lauren has presented TV shows whilst looking fab and being clever, and appeared on many comedy panel shows whilst looking fab and being witty. Now she presents the morning show on my favourite radio station (BBC 6music) and woe betide anyone who suggests a change of channel when she is on. As well as the aforementioned cool, wit and intelligence factors, Lauren’s success as an icon has been established by her genuine love of clothes and almost defiant take on fashion. I’ve never really looked at her as a fashion-follower – instead as someone who wants to look good for herself and not for who’s looking. She didn’t buy or beg her way into the fashion elite, she earned it. Her status as a British style icon is best expressed in her own words in her own fashion column: “I have the benefit of being fashion literate without it being my mother tongue.” Love. Her.

Dot Cotton
Please bear with me, I will explain. The reason I see Dot Branning, née Cotton, (played by June Brown on Eastenders) as a style icon is because we are all wearing clothes like hers without even realising! Dot is 75 years old, yet her favoured glad rags of a post-war dress, neat shoes and beautiful cameo would not be out of place at any vintage fashion fair. Even her everyday look of a nice blouse, cardigan and high-waisted skirt would not be out of place on the streets of Brighton. Vintage is everywhere at the moment and I like to think that the icon that is Dot Cotton has a little bit to do with it.

Emma Watson
The first time you saw Emma Watson as Hermione, did you ever think she could make it as a fashion icon? Answer: er, no. She’s managed to establish herself as sexy-stylish without being needy or trashy, and she wears our brands with pride. Go Emma.

My friend Polly
Like not being able to avoid mentioning tea in my How to be British column, I couldn’t not mention Polly. If, like me, you don’t have the Alexa-cool, the Tilda-charisma or Lauren’s wardrobe, have a think about someone closer to home who has a style you admire. Don’t go Single White Female and buy all the same clothes as them, but don’t be afraid to take inspiration where you can get it. Knowing Polly has made me realise that I’d rather base my wardrobe around beautiful, well-made key pieces than by stuffing it with disposable fashion. Polly doesn’t wear just anything because it’s on trend but she loves fashion and always looks stylish – and confident.

So, girls, if you want true Brit style then don’t be afraid to look beyond the celebrity magazines. Choose your icons from wherever you find inspiration – from the front row to the girl next door.

Tilda Swinton image via The Guardian, Lauren Laverne image via her Observer fashion column, Image of Alexa Chung at the Elle Style Awards via Elle