Few guys deserve their place in the pantheon of style greats more than Paul Newman. His watches set auction records, his sunglasses remain perennial moodboard fodder, even his collection of beat-to-death dad hats recently fetched close to ten grand at Sotheby’s. But Newman’s own closet (sorry) isn’t where his contributions to menswear lore ends—his general approach to getting dressed has long been a template for fellas looking to dial in, or pare down, their personal style.
In the early 2010s, when guys were still obsessing over waxed jackets and selvedge jeans, you couldn’t scroll through Tumblr without encountering a photo of Newman in a perfectly rumpled Oxford shirt, striped nautical tee, slim khakis, and dainty canvas sneakers. His style is still so revered, in fact, that said canvas kicks sold for well over a $1,000 at that same Sotheby’s auction earlier this month—a mind-boggling amount of money to drop on sneakers that only cost 80 bucks today.
So while we’re on the subject of menswear history, here’s a little fun fact: The sneakers Newman wore almost exclusively throughout his life come from Sperry, the New England-based brand famous for its genre-defining boat shoes. Sperry actually introduced the CVO (or “Circular Vamp Oxford”) a full year before it debuted the yach-ready Top-Sider, and it was the CVO that caught on first among the US Navy, in addition to style gods like JFK and the king of cardigans himself, Mr. Rogers.
The CVO’s appeal is pretty obvious: it boasts no splashy logos, no tech-age fabrics, and no extra paneling or ergonomic curves beyond what’s entirely necessary to keep your foot in place and help prevent untimely slips, whether you’re hopping aboard a schooner or hustling to a brunch reservation after a light summer shower. Unlike Newman’s sought-after Rolexes, there’s nothing “grail-worthy” about it, which is exactly why, nearly 90 years after its debut, you’d be hard-pressed to find sneakers that offer the same versatility for the value.
More than that, though, they go a long way in explaining Newman’s rarified place in the menswear psyche. The guy knew what he liked, stuck with the classics, and seldom tried to catch whatever fashion wave was cresting in the moment. You might call that indelible mix of taste and confidence “true style”—but even if you don’t, you could probably learn a thing or two from his unswerving dedication to decidedly non-swerve-
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Boy, Paul Newman Really Liked These $80 Sneakers