This isn’t just another article about Shia Laboeuf’s outfits. I mean, they are good, and they have been good for quite a while—a nuanced coalescence of scum-bro, anarchist, and art boi. He always looks like he may have just left one or more of the below:
An Into The Wild-esque nomadic journey
The skate park
A REALLY abstract art gallery opening
A mommy-and-me class
His college dorm, late for the 8 a.m. class
Dinner with your parents
For all these ensembles and more, Shia’s been lauded as the “king of fashion”, a style icon in Uggs, a normcore fashion god, and I agree. (If it is not now abundantly clear, I am a devotee and deep-sea diver of the Instagram account @shiasoutfits.) I love the way he surprises and delights within the parameters of looking like an extremely regular dude. But like I said, this isn’t just about the outfits. Because his style may serve as the perfect corner piece, but it is not the whole puzzle—and it is the whole puzzle that has inspired me to plaster photos of him with little decoupage hearts all over my Man Repeller locker. (Not actually, but the art project cometh.)
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You’ve probably heard at least some of his backstory: Shia entered the Hollywood scene at age 10 and his foray into show business served as a retreat from a hostile family environment. Understanding that in the context of his breakout role, Louis in Disney’s Even Stevens, whom I loved deeply, makes sense. Cue humor—the balm for trauma and pain.
When he almost-but-not-quite rose to Blockbuster B-list elitedom, I felt delighted that schmaltzy Louis Stevens could make it big. And when he suffered a child-star fall from grace culminating in an arrest for public drunkenness and court-ordered rehab (and then spent good time atoning for it), I felt a maternal sympathy. And when he threw himself into performance art pieces like the viral #JustDoIt video, or #TouchMySoul, where he invited people to phone in to an open call line with heart-wrenching stories whilst live-streaming and live-transcribing every moment, I thought, What’s this really all about Shia? before realizing that his urgent and sometimes conflicting searches for meaning and comfort and art (and, of course, a paycheck) within the cookie-cutter Hollywood system directly connects to the way he approaches his style, too. And then I imagined our theoretical wedding wearing matching pantsuits and inviting only the people we met during a 24-hour period bar-hopping in Oklahoma City.
I think often (a lot, I mean) about one particular petal pink women’s fleece sweatshirt, $29.99 from H&M, with the words “Maybe Baby” emblazoned across it that he’s been spotted wearing around not only to pick up his mom from the airport but to movie premieres. He pairs it with all the trappings of normcore dude style—dirty golden geese, stretch jeans, mismatched socks, a dad hat, and wired earbuds (because AirPods? Not for Shia.) A move that crystallizes why Shia is so consistently compelling to me, stylistically and otherwise: No matter how normie he goes, an urgent sense of chaos persists.
And I think… I am also… like that?
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Shia isn’t always the most sympathetic figure, but I find his attempts to do better and be better and self-actualize (even to sometimes middling results) to be endearing and relatable. His style just happens to be a byproduct of his extremely unique existence. For all things combined, I think he deserves the strange little corner he’s carved out in pop culture.
So, do I love when he pulls his sweatpants three inches above his belly button and tosses on an old pair of Uggs, leaving large swathes of ankle exposed? Yes. Do I exult in a hot pink tights worn with an army backpack and Kinks tee? Yes. Is this outfit something I believe to be revolutionarily good and replicable? Yes, yes, yes. To me, Shia is even more than his top-tier anarchist-scum-bro-art-boi style. He’s a just a guy who’s trying to do the right thing in both style and life, but is sometimes fantastically bungling it or being just plain weird about it 75% of the time. But he’s always, ALWAYS willing to try again.
For that, Je t’aime, Shia.
Feature photo by BG017/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images.