Icon: Chet Baker
People tend to forget that well into the ’50s and ’60s, before rock and roll really took hold, jazz musicians were still the epitome of subculture cool—and they’d gotten even cooler since the raucous ’20s of ragtime in speakeasies.
So when Charlie Parker hit the West Coast for a string of gigs in 1951 and chose an up-and-comer by the name of Chet Baker to play with him, a new subculture star was born. He may never get the biopic treatment like Ray or Cash, but his story runs about the same—just swap in a trumpet and Baker’s magnificent head of hair.
Chet spent his formative years in the Army and was still sporting the preppy civilian style he’d picked up on base during his rise to stardom. And you can see documents of the style continue in his wardrobe as his life visibly unraveled—succumbing to the same vices that plagued most of the greats at the time (which, sadly, he would never fully get over). He was a jazz legend, a stylish dude and an all-around badass…
And here’s a look at his style evolution in these five iconic pictures.
- — Najib Benouar