Details of the Best Fashion Icons

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It almost feels unfair to write about Ralph Lauren in this context, but we suppose when you're one of the true legends of men's-wear, we can forgive the fact that you have a closet that's essentially a department store (and then some). We might not all be so lucky, but we can still look to Lauren for inspiration and ideas on just about every style move imaginable. This shot of him, from 1970, represents the early days of the Ralph Lauren aesthetic. It's just three years after he launched his brand, long before the days of RRL and Purple Label — before the neo-prep-meets-luxury-meets-western version of Ralph.

This is just good ol' trad Ralph, with a touch of English quirk thrown in the mix for good measure. There's a lot going on in this outfit, but what stands out the most is his tattersall waistcoat (or "vest," if you must). It's a nice nod to the designer's Anglo influence, yes, but it also works quite well to break up the rest of his outfit. While a waistcoat isn't for everyone — it normally connotes a more formal get-up — opting for a contrasting one adds a dash of color, and, dare we say, fun to what could otherwise be a fussy look. As Ralph demonstrates, it's best to keep the rest of the outfit simple when you're trying something like this. It emphasizes the pattern on the waistcoat, and it makes it clear you didn't get dressed in the dark. Which is important. (Obviously.) We can't all be kings of American sportswear, but that certainly doesn't mean we can't learn a thing or two from the master.

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It's hard to think of a man that has been emulated more over the past few years than Gianni Agnelli. As the Italian wave hit contemporary men's-wear, Agnelli, the former President of Fiat, was raised up as the god-king of style. While he's well-known for his adventurous streak — wearing his watch over his wrist cuff, intentionally tying his tie off-kilter, rocking hiking boots with a suit — we'll admit these signature touches aren't for everyone. But it's the little details that came together to make him a style icon that we can all learn from.

Case in point: Agnelli's exemplary spread collar in this shot from '67. While button-down collars are timeless, and a few intrepid young souls (ahem, bloggers) seem to be favoring the more extreme cutaway collar these days, the spread collar is that happy medium that can instantly elevate any look. An import from overseas, it has, over time, become widely available on our shores, and works incredibly well with a bigger tie knot for a more confident overall look. A good spread should fit just like Agnelli's, with the points of the collar angled toward the gorge of your jacket, framing both your face (above) and your tie (below). Consider it for the office, where it'll make you look presidential like Agnelli and set you apart from the pack of schlubs in their worn-out, point-collar shirts.