James Dean: The Original Style Rebel


The Fashionisto


Published August 17, 2021


Updated May 24, 2023

James Dean appears in a promotional image for Rebel Without a Cause (1955). The actor sports an iconic look consisting of a red Harrington jacket, white t-shirt, and Levi's jeans.
James Dean appears in a promotional image for Rebel Without a Cause (1955). The actor sports an iconic look consisting of a red Harrington jacket, a white t-shirt, and Levi’s jeans. | Photo Credit: Allstar Picture Library Ltd. / Alamy Stock Photo © WARNER BROS.

The combination of an untimely automobile-related death at the age of twenty-four, a short movie career of three films, and the memorable role of Jim Stark in Rebel Without a Cause cemented James Byron Dean as a Hollywood legend. Seen as the original teenage rebel, the image of Dean leaning against a wall with a cigarette in hand is timeless and ingrained in the public consciousness. Outside his mid-1950s films, one of which the movie studio released after his death, Dean lives on with an iconic wardrobe: a classic white t-shirt, Levi’s jeans, and a red Harrington jacket.

James Dean Rebel Without a Cause 1955 Smoking Against Wall
One of James Dean’s most iconic images, the actor poses against a wall, smoking a cigarette. Dean also wears his popular look from Rebel Without a Cause (1955). | Photo Credit: Floyd McCarty; Warner Bros / Alamy Stock Photo

Rebel Without a Cause (1955)

Playing Jim Stark in Rebel Without a Cause, James Dean hit the big screen as the new kid in town for the first time. His portrayal of a switchblade knife-fighting youth was a captivating image at the time for his generation. The star’s simple style in the classic film spawned a relaxed trend. Those who haven’t seen the movie should stream it and see Dean at his best.

James Dean Photographed by Dennis Stock

Ahead of East of Eden’s 1955 release, photographer Dennis Stock approached Life to cover the expenses for a story featuring rising star James Dean. Stock planned to connect with Dean, who resided in Los Angeles, to capture his past by visiting his uncle’s farm in Indiana and his New York City stomping grounds. The 1955 story was approved, and the beautiful photos ran six months before his untimely death captured a rather candid Dean.

James Dean East of Eden 1955
No one quite pulled off the simple sweater like James Dean. The Hollywood icon had a way of making basics seem elevated and elegant. Here, Dean is pictured in East of Eden (1955). | Photo Credit: AA Film Archive / Alamy Stock Photo © WARNER BROS.

East of Eden (1955)

The actor’s second film, James Dean, starred in East of Eden with Julie Harris, playing the lead of Cal Trask. Set during World War I, Dean plays the black sheep of his family as he seems unhappy at each turn, especially when feeling like he competes with his brother. The tragic character captured certain cinema magic, contributing to Dean’s larger-than-life appeal.

James Dean Giant 1955
Channeling western style, James Dean wears a cowboy hat and smokes a cigarette in Giant (1955). | Photo Credit: ScreenProd / Photononstop / Alamy Stock Photo

Giant (1956)

Joining Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean’s last film to be released, which occurred after his death, was 1956’s Giant. Not far from his rural Indiana upbringing, Dean played a Texas cattle rancher named Jett Rink. Portraying the life of a rancher, Dean embodied a classic masculine spirit in relaxed, unaffected fashions. Tackling a western-style charm, Dean wore denim jeans and informal shirting options with cowboy hats.

Get the Look: James Dean Iconic Style

Baracuta G9 Harrington Jacket Dark Red
Baracuta G9 Harrington Jacket Dark Red

If you admire James Dean’s cinematic style and desire to capture some of the star’s iconic charm, look no further than the red Harrington jacket. While the Harrington is a classic statement in red, you can always choose a more practical color such as black, tan, or navy.

Ben Sherman Signature Harrington Jacket Red
Ben Sherman Signature Harrington Jacket Red

For example, Ben Sherman carries its signature Harrington jacket in red and endless color options, ranging from black to putty. Baracuta champions investment pieces with its time-tested G9 Harrington jacket in classic dark red. All you need to finish off your look is a plain white tee and dark blue jeans!

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