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Is Tom Cruise an Icon?

Tom Cruise

Perhaps we should be clearer: the question at hand is whether Tom Cruise is a style icon. It’s a fair question, and one we’ve found ourselves pondering for whatever reason in these slow-going post-Oscar, pre-summer-blockbuster months.

First, there are all kinds of reasons he’s not: he isn’t exactly Ryan Gosling off screen; he almost definitely relies on a stylist for the red carpet; and, oh yeah, he’s the leading member of a batshit pseudo-religious organization that may or may not run hard-labor prison camps. [Ed. Note for legal reasons: Allegedly. ]

But, but, but...

A few reasons Tom might be an icon after all...

Risky Business. Top Gun. Jerry Maguire. Mission: Impossible All iconic films, all starring Mr. Cruise in an iconic part, all with the help of some iconic supporting players: Wayfarers, aviators, bomber jackets... Jonathan Lipnicki.

Point is, no one—and we mean no one—was as compelling on screen as Cruise was in his prime. Ask any guy who grew up in the ’80s. Who was the absolutely coolest movie star out there? It had to be Cruise. Dude was Maverick.*

Top Gun

(*So pervasive was his cool, in fact, that Christian Bale is said to have modeled his performance as American Psycho’s murderous—but ultra-’80s stylish—Patrick Bateman on a Cruise appearance on Letterman. Bale credited Cruise’s “very intense friendliness with nothing behind the eyes”; hey, who said an icon can’t be a little distant?)

Tom Cruise award

Even post-peak Cruise, between bouts of admittedly un-iconic couch jumping and, uh, Jack Reacher–ing, has taken quite well to such street style staples as the double-breasted suit jacket (which he sported ahead of trend at the Golden Globes in 2009). He even manages to nail the casual dude look on overseas press trips, sporting a sweater or a puffy coat over a button-down shirt with jeans and work boots, in a way totally befitting a man on the long side of 50.

Tom Cruise

So there’s plenty of pro to match the con, but to us, it comes down to one final thing: effort. If your go-to movie star icons—your Newmans, your McQueens, your Redfords—exude effortless style, you might call what Cruise has effortful style. Just as his every recent press appearance seems stage-managed, his every piece of clothing seems thought-through, careful, overly precise.

Tom Cruise

To put it another way: being well dressed isn’t the same as having style. Fortunately for Tom’s status as a style icon, he’s definitely well dressed. But unfortunately, he doesn’t quite have the sprezzatura to qualify.