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Seinfeld: the unlikely inspiration for this season’s menswear

What is the deal with fashion? Who turned the runways of this weekend’s menswear shows into a 90s sitcom? Why is everyone dressing like a character on Seinfeld these days?

All those oversized plaids and twills that the Seinfeld ensemble like were on show in Casely-Hayford, Shaun Samson and Topman Design’s collections.

George Costanza’s sable hat – the one that he buys for $8,000 on Elaine’s expenses and then misplaces, on purpose, in a date-gone-wrong’s house so that he has an excuse to see her again – had its own luridly colourful, furry counterparts at Astrid Andersen, Katie Eary and Moschino. While the bloated Gore-Tex coat that he wears to keep out the cold – “look at you, you can’t even turn around in that thing,” mocks Elaine – looks a lot like Christopher Shannon’s cinched puffa jackets.

Even London’s most dandy-ish designers appeared to be channelling their inner George Costanza this season. JW Anderson, a designer known for dressing men in high heels and halter necks, showed khaki trenches, coats with sheepskin collars and polo necks tucked into trousers; actually, shirts and sweaters tucked into smart trousers were everywhere this time around. Inside the crystal palace that Burberry Prorsum constructs every season in Kensington Gardens there were ornate, flowery art nouveau prints that would not look amiss in Cosmo Kramer’s wardrobe. As for John Galliano’s first couture collection for Maison Martin Margiela, with all its frills and frippery and pirate embellishments, well, it was probably inspired by Jerry Seinfeld’s puffy shirt; the one that a low-talker tricked him into wearing, setting off a series of unfortunate events that brought an untimely end to George’s career as a much-desired hand model.

Everyone on Seinfeld is a style inspiration – apparently – so here’s how to dress like your favourite character.

Cosmo Kramer

Cosmo in his lobster shirt.
Photograph: PR

With his haphazard dress sense of clashing prints, tweedy jackets and pulled-up trousers with white socks, Cosmo Kramer is the most iconic character on the show. Lily McMenamy, supermodel and star of the current Marc Jacobs campaign, once told me that she was spending all of her time watching Seinfeld and he was her favourite character. “Kramer, obviously Kramer!” she snickered. “There’s this amazing YouTube video of every time Kramer bursts into a room, you know how he always comes in with such a bang, like me at Hotel Vuitton! [Where she slammed a door opening on to the catwalk so hard that the numbers fell off in the middle of the show.] I try to incorporate a little bit of Kramer into my attitude towards life.”

Characterised by his frizzy hair standing on end, his plaid blazers, and his short-sleeved shirts decorated with drawings of lobsters, Kramer’s style is an inspiration. But it is about so much more than what he wears. It is about how he carries himself, how he makes an entrance, how he smells. In one show he comes up with the idea of a cologne that makes you smell like the beach – “The Beach. You spray it on and you smell like you just came home from the beach” – and pitches it to Calvin Klein, who mocks him and then steals the idea for himself.

As it happens, The Beach was ripped off, sort of, maybe, by architects Herzog de Meuron when they produced Rotterdam, a fragrance that smells of the river Rhine (and dog, and hashish, among other things).

Cosmo likes: banana-embroidered shirt, £335 by DSquared2

Jerry Seinfeld

Seinfeld checks out his puffy shirt.
Photograph: Brendan Smialowski

The most colourful, and colour-blocking, of all the characters, one of Jerry Seinfeld’s best looks combines a bright purple shirt with a rosy pink T-shirt, and a pair of faded Levi’s with a pair of box-fresh basketball shoes. His colour combinations are nothing short of superb – he dresses like a Matisse collage – and maybe this is how he was able to woo so many unusually attractive girlfriends. Or maybe it was the outlandish bagginess of his shirts and mock turtlenecks against the tightness of his jeans, conjuring up an a feminine silhouette. Or maybe it was his Imelda-Marcos-like collection of shoes, with more than 50 different models of Nike sneakers appearing throughout the course of the show.

Jerry likes: pink jersey T-shirt, £15 from American Apparel

Elaine Benes

Elaine in a camel trenchcoat.
Photograph: PR

Unlike the other characters, Elaine Benes actually works in fashion, writing florid, adventurous copy for the J Peterman catalogue and inventing things such as the floppy urban sombrero (which was not at all a success). Sometimes she power-dresses in a camel coat with shoulder pads, at other times her look is more laidback, such as a flouncy, flowery dress or a 90s denim jacket with the sleeves rolled up, but always it is topped by a wobbling souffle of curly brown hair.

Elaine likes: faded denim jeans, £40 by Topshop

Sue Ellen Mischke

Sue Ellen wears a bra!
Photograph: PR

The vastly wealthy heiress to the Oh Henry! candy bar fortune, Sue Ellen Mischke is Elaine’s nemesis, mostly because she never, ever wears a bra. So incensed is Elaine by this flouting of convention that she buys her a bra for her birthday, only to find that, to her utter infuriation, Sue Ellen is wearing it with a blazer and nothing else. It is a captivating look, one that causes men to fall in love and even to crash their cars. “There was this beautiful woman walking down the street wearing just a bra,” says Jerry. “I can’t get that image out of my mind!” J Peterman recounts, sadly: “I saw a woman in our hallway wearing one of these as a top. What exquisite beauty, I ran down the hallway to talk to her, but the elevator door closed. It was not to be. Perhaps our paths will cross again some day …” He thinks it is a daring, visionary way to wear a bra, the sort of thing that would happen at the wildest parties of the roaring 20s, and, indeed, this blazer-and-a-bra look is one that Rihanna wears out a lot. Although, recently, she rarely bothers with the bra.

Sue Ellen likes: push-up bra, £12.99 from HM

George Costanza

George works a big coat for that Henry VIII look.
Photograph: PR


Combining a beige trenchcoat – itself a picture of British gentlemanly elegance – with a checked shirt of thick cotton twill tucked smartly into his trousers, and thin-rimmed glasses, the George Costanza look is a classic. And although a short and portly man, he is unafraid of wearing clothes that widen him yet further, often wearing thick winter coats to create a Henry VIII-like silhouette of kingly power.

George likes: cotton twill shirt, £35 from Blue Harbour

Larry David

Larry David’s episode-stealing cape.
Photograph: PR

Although he only ever appeared in Seinfeld on rare occasions, Larry David had the show’s most spectacular look when he appeared as a shadowy figure – with white sneakers, shades and a billowing black cape – that George spots his father arguing with. “Who wears a cape?” asks Elaine in confusion. “Where do you even get a cape?” As it happens they are very hard to come by, but you can always try hanging your winter coat off your shoulders.

In the years since this fleeting appearance, Larry, a man that loves comfort at all times, has also done much to popularise New Balance running shoes, which are a favourite of the fashion crowd today.

Larry likes: running shoes, £125 by New Balance

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