Style evolution: Zayn Malik
By Sarah Kershaw, 25 March 2016
Zayn's dropping his debut album, Mind Of Mine, today so we're looking back at the track list of his style life, so to speak. He's reached the grand old age of 23 with a plethora of fashion hits under his (no-doubt designer) belt, so let's look back at how he's grown from an X Factor up-and-comer into a bona fide style star.
As a hopeful on The X Factor's best-ever year in 2010 (Wagner! Cher Lloyd! Tesco Mary!), Zayn started his celebrity career as an eager young pup of 17. Clothing-wise, he favoured uninspiring sub-collegiate basics like baggy joggers and pastel-toned hoodies. Nevertheless, his fluffy pre-quiff and doe eyes were already well on the way to earning him his swathes of future fans.
As all good celeb hopefuls should be, the 1D boys were always early adopters of a trend. Here, Zayn's working 2010's biggest fad, the onesie, with aplomb (or with as much aplomb as it is possible to work a giant babygro). You'll be glad to know that Harry, Liam, Louis and Niall, in the spirit of boyband togetherness, rocked similar primary-coloured beauties for some X Factor promo.
Clean-cut and collegiate
Once they'd graduated from TV wannabes to real-life chart hopefuls, the 1D boys got on a wholesome preppy flex, which they rode all the way to number one with What Makes You Beautiful. Zayn's too-baggy, too-long jeans and schoolboy haircut are misses here but we're seeing the shoots of his future sartorial prowess start to bloom with the suede skater kicks and varsity jacket.
Style on stage
Fast-forward to 2012, and Zayn's gone from boy to man at lightning speed. With a year of performing, perfecting their looks and amassing a world of Directioners behind them, the boys were on the verge of global domination. Zayn, meanwhile, was showing off his burgeoning hair-idol status with this rockabilly blonde streak, as well as foreshadowing his future inked-up self with a wrist tattoo. Bonus points for the rather coppable navy bomber.
Bad boy biker
Showing he had more edge than some of his pop peers, Zayn has been a fan of the leather biker from the start. Here he is demonstrating perfect monochrome pitch in late 2012, even down to the white streak in his hair. The trademark pout's coming along nicely, too.
Around about this time, our protagonist really mastered the art of layering. Looking so casually thrown together that we're sure it took quite a bit of effort, this patched-denim-jacket-over-checked-shirt-over-distressed-tee-over-skinnies look was so ahead of it's time, it was practically a space and time vortex leading to 2015's grunge trend. The coordinating grey beanie and suede Chelsea boots are winners, too.
By mid-2013, Zayn had really got to grips with paring down his look to simple pieces that add up to much more than the sum of their individual parts. Light-wash, perfectly fitted jeans, a scoop-necked white tee, an artfully rumpled biker and Air Jordans make for a devastatingly simple on-stage look. And is that his first chest tatt peeking out of his top, there?
At the UK premiere of their smash docu-flick This Is Us, the 1D boys all went monochrome but it was Zayn's minimal structured look that we were coveting. Showing a style confidence that was wise beyond his 20 years, he paired this waistcoat and longline cover-up with chunky black bovver boots and a hairdo that was quickly becoming a part of his signature style.
Come 2014, Mr Malik was winning fashion plaudits all over the shop. Favouring this kind of semi-rocker, semi-smart look, he added twists like grungy thumbholes or this short-lived curtain hairdo. Only Zayn could get away with that.
2015 brought a new direction, literally, as Zayn parted ways with the rest of the boys to go it alone. In celebration, he shaved his head, dyed the stubble blonde and started experimenting more with his style. This combo of grey trousers and white shirt, which he wore to the Valentino show at Paris Fashion week, is expertly pulled back from the brink of call-centre garb with thick-soled, pointed Derbies and a longline jacket with a peaked collar.
The emotional toll of calling off his engagement to Little Mixer Perrie Edwards turned Zayn grey in August. Well, not really – he dyed it silver, presumably because it looks really cool. Paired with a ear-splitting Versace tee, which shows off his tattoo stash in its full glory, it's a ballsy look that says 'I've just signed a new record deal and I'm going places'.
And so to 2016, where Zayn has already been rocking a variety of excellent looks, as well as this 90s throwback frosted 'do. This effortless look is symptomatic of his way with garms – longline bomber thrown over slightly dishevelled tee and jeans, suede boots and sculpted facial hair.
In a departure from his day-to-day casuals, Zayn smartened up for the Grammys in February with this tie-less shirt and monochrome cummerbund, with black trousers and shiny shoes. By now, his bleach job – which he dyed shocking pink – has faded to a candyfloss quiff which, along with his ever-increasing roster of tattoos, gives the look a rockabilly edge.
'Ya little punk!’
Fast forward to the end of Feb at Milan Fashion Week, and Zayn had gone from pink to punk, ditching the bleach for his natural black on his head and going back to the trusted ripped skinnies and black combo on his body. Throwing a heavily customised khaki jacket over the top, he worked one of SS16’s hottest colours. Oh, and he brought girlfriend and co-star in his Pillowtalk video Gigi along for the ride.
The 90s called…
And then? And then Zayn went full retro tracksuit on us. Filming the vid for Like I Would, his Puma and Nike threads gave off strong 90s boyband-meets-footballer vibes and were complemented perfectly by the newly shorn sides to his now-epic pompadour hair. Climb on board…