His CV includes roles as Tony Blair, David Frost and Henry V; he's played Tina Fey's awkward love interest on 30 Rock and frightened pre-teens everywhere as all-knowing vampire Aro in The Twilight Saga. Now, Michael Sheen shows you how to wear this winter's essential item, the pea coat.
Critics frequently reach for the word “mercurial” when describing Michael Sheen.
His CV boasts an enormous variety of roles – from a restless Hamlet in Ian Rickson’s recent production at the Young Vic, to an eerily convincing Tony Blair (whom he has played twice, in separate TV and film roles, in 2003 and 2006) to Aro, a vampire in the Twilight franchise, which returns this month for its final installment – yet his shape-shifting performances are united by a magnetic energy.
The reason for this, of course, is that he puts the hours in. “I worked on Hamlet for about two years before I did it,” he says. “And with characters like Brian Clough, Kenneth Williams, David Frost and Tony Blair, I worked on those performances for at least six months beforehand.” Sheen’s note-perfect portrayals of these iconic public figures has led to almost unanimous acclaim for the 43-year-old Welshman, who joins a storied list of popular Shakespeareans from his hometown. “
I come from Port Talbot,” Sheen says. “It’s a working class steel town, but it’s where Richard Burton and Anthony Hopkins come from, and there was so much support for me there when I was starting out.” Sheen’s first job, fresh out of RADA, was with Vanessa Redgrave. He’s not been out of work since.
Sheen has lived in LA for ten years, in order to be with his daughter, Lily, from his relationship with the actress Kate Beckinsale (they separated in 2003 and Sheen is now seeing Rachel McAdams, whom he met on the set of Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris). But he retains close links with Port Talbot, and in 2011 returned there to stage a hugely ambitious, 72-hour Passion play, corralling 1,000 local residents and the National Theatre of Wales into the production.
“It was very personal for me,” he says. “I wrote for it, directed it and created it, and worked in collaboration with other writers and companies and the community.” He’s set to put in another classy performance in To The Wonder, the forthcoming film from the great Terrence Malick, in which he plays alongside Rachel Weisz, Javier Bardem and his girlfriend, McAdams.
But it’s not all serious acting in cerebral works of art; Sheen’s not above a spot of male modelling when the occasion requires it. How did he find his Esquire shoot? “I really enjoyed it,” he says, “though I was relieved to be wearing pea coats and not hotpants. I fear that would have been for a rather niche audience.”
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 is out this month
First worn by European sailors in the 1700s, the original peacoats were made from heavy blue twill (P-cloth). The coat’s strong silhouette has taken endless reinventions. Bottega Veneta’s update is made from burgundy sheepskin and should stay firmly on land.
(Burgundy sheepskin peacoat, £5,040, by Bottega Veneta. Multi-coloured striped wool roll-neck jumper, £240, by Tommy Hilfiger Collection. Grey wool trousers, £225, by Paul Smith at Liberty. Black leather lace-up boots, £230, by Grenson)
A peacoat’s wide lapels are designed to be turned up and buttoned to keep the neck and ears warm. Gucci’s version adds a double-ribbed collar but keeps the cut tight, tight, tight. Add your own details with a patterned silk scarf or a collarless shirt. Or both.
(Navy wool peacoat, £895, by Gucci at Matches Fashion. Blue/white striped cotton shirt, £355; blue/brown patterned silk scarf, £195, both by Gucci)
Large lapels, check; slant side pockets, check; horn buttons, check. The twist here is not just the deep olive colour — the coat’s made from soft-stretch wool for added comfort and body-hugging appeal. Pair with chunky boots.
(Olive wool peacoat, £2,285, by Ralph Lauren Black Label Denim. Green waxed/cotton gilet, £295; multi-coloured checked cotton shirt, £150; navy denim jeans, £150, all by Polo Ralph Lauren. Brown leather boots, £160, by Timberland)
Sure, you seldom go wrong with navy (you’re a man, you love navy). But is it time to consider other, brighter possibilities? Make a statement by uniting a bold red peacoat with a colourful Fair Isle knit.
(Red wool peacoat, £295, by Jigsaw Menswear. Navy Fair Isle wool jumper, £130, by Diesel. Blue/white cotton shirt, £235, by Paul Smith)
A standard-issue peacoat has eight buttons with an anchor motif on them. Burberry’s olive version adds leather-stitched buttons for a more cultivated take. It’ll work as well with an office suit or (as here) dressed down with checked shirt and crew-neck knit.
(Olive wool peacoat, £895, by Burberry London. Checked cotton shirt, £75, by Jigsaw Menswear. Burgundy wool jumper, £295, by Maison Martin Margiela at Liberty)
The original peacoats were so heavy they came with a metal chain on the neckline, so you could hang them up. That detail might have gone but don’t shirk on playing up other nautical references. They look great teamed with a striped top, as Damon Albarn’s Gorillaz demonstrated. (If it’s good enough for Paul Simonon, it’s good enough for us.)
(Navy cotton/wool peacoat, £420; white/navy striped cashmere jumper, £240; navy cotton chinos, £80, all by Tommy Hilfiger Collection. Red cotton T-shirt, £55, by Orlebar Brown. Navy leather brogues, £120, by Jones Bootmaker)
For another twist on the look, Paul Smith adds a knitted shawl collar but keeps the distinctive wide lapels. Team with a plain white shirt and a bold contrast knit and let the details do all the work.
(Navy wool peacoat, £939, by Paul Smith. Navy/red knitted jumper, £235, by Alexander McQueen at Liberty. White cotton shirt, £165, by Dries van Noten at Liberty. Grey wool trousers, £225, by Paul Smith at Liberty. Brown leather boots, £160, by Timberland)
More Scott of the Antarctic than naval officer, this peacoat offers a rugged outdoors look, throwing in wax, leather and sheepskin. A chunky textured knit serves as the perfect companion. Windswept hair and a manly beard optional.
(Brown sheepskin, leather and waxed canvas peacoat, £1,150, by CP Company. Cream merino wool roll-neck jumper, £325, by Daks)
Photography by Tom van Schelven
Fashion by Gareth Scourfield
Words by Max Olesker