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Tom Ford’s Most Tom Ford Tips for Looking as Good as Tom Ford

Whatever you do, don’t step under an overhead light.


Steven Klein

“Beauty gives me great joy, but it also gives me great sadness,” Tom Ford says in his new profile in the September issue of Vogue. But that seems to be just as well: “I always felt that if you’re happy, you’re just stupid,” the self-described “hyper-hyper Virgo” added in between sharing tidbits like the fact that he’s still vegan, though he now makes exceptions for sweets, and that he can’t think when he’s inside houses that are too vibrantly decorated. (“Color distracts me,” he explained, simply.)

Of course, this being Tom Ford, the ultra-perfectionist designer was far from casual while delivering this latest batch of bon mots. (Even that time he did an interview “legs wide open, completely naked” was highly orchestrated—to teach the reporter a lesson about sexuality, no less.) This time around, Ford took a different, far less revealing approach: He not only sat down with Vogue fully clothed, but also went to great lengths to ensure that the left side of his face wasn’t exposed. Read on for more of the designer’s beauty-related quirks that he’s unabashedly shared over the years, here.

Choose one side of your face, and stick to it.

Have you ever noticed that you’ve practically only ever seen Tom Ford’s face from its right side? Probably not, which is part of the genius behind the strategy that Vogue witnessed the designer expertly employ. Ford, who turns 58 at the end of the month, explained that he’s come to think of himself as an image, or a product. And, like any other image or product he’s produced, he’s learned how to display it at its most favorable angle over time.

Ford isn’t alone in this approach: “Kate Moss will give you only one side,” he added. (For another example, please examine the lack of photographic evidence of Victoria Beckham‘s right arm.)

Avoid cameras at noon, no matter where in the world you are.

“I don’t like the middle of the day,” Ford told the New York Times of why he chooses to avoid events as elite as Bary Diller and Diane von Furstenberg’s annual Oscars lunch. “Take a picture at noon, anywhere in the world. You’re going to look like hell—hell. Everybody looks like hell. Unless you’re 18, maybe, or under. Even then you don’t look your best. I like daylight, but not to go out in public.”

Avoid overhead lighting at all costs.

“Why, oh my god, overhead light, where your brow is going to create shadow right there, your nose is going to create a shadow like this, you look like hell, you look like you have no hair, even if you have a lot of hair,” Ford recently fumed to the New York Times. “Nobody looks good in overhead lighting,” he continued. Hence why, if you make a trip to Tower Bar in Los Angeles, you’ll find that the corner table where he usually sits is blacked out: “I told them, ‘You have to get rid of that spot or I’m not going to come here. No overhead lights.'”

Extreme as that may sound, Ford isn’t the only outspoken celebrity vampire hiding in plain sight. Mariah Carey claims to have “an extreme aversion” to overhead lighting, and once proclaimed that elevator lighting is “toxic.”

Make sure your pockets aren’t overstuffed.

This one comes courtesy of Tom Hanks, one of Ford’s newfound (wannabe) disciples. While they enjoy a good chat about film, “of course I still ask him fashion questions like a pilgrim who has climbed a mountain in search of wisdom” Hanks told Vogue. “He has imparted the most simple of answers: Button the jacket, as it slims your form. Use the pockets, as a jacket is like a man’s purse—just don’t get bulky.”

Beware your suit’s cut.

Just because Ford is a “huge fan” of Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg doesn’t mean he’s about to let Mayor Pete off easy. Shortly after first meeting Buttigieg, Ford texted his husband to point out that the mayor’s generously cut suit made him appear rather small. (Buttigieg’s campaign appears to have politely rejected the designer’s advice.)

When in doubt, strip down.

“Being naked is the great equalizer; there are just less ways to screw up,” Ford told W in 2005.

Tom Ford photographed by Steven Klein, styled by Camilla Nickerson, for *W* magazine, November 2005.

Tom Ford. Photo by Steven Klein, styled by Camilla Nickerson. W Magazine, November 2005.

Related: Tom Ford Doesn’t Get Why We Still Won’t Objectify Men

A Brief History of Fashion’s Most NSFW, Controversial Ad Campaigns

For their first large-scale campaign, the designers behind Eckhaus Latta enlisted a diverse group of 30-something couples to not only wear their spring 2017 collection, but have real sex in front of the camera for the photographer Heji Shin, who had produced a similar series of images for a German sex education book for teenagers.

In 1971, a nude (and largely hairless) Yves Saint Laurent posed nude for Jeanloup Sieff to debut his first-ever perfume for his namesake label, Pour Homme.

A 15-year-old Brooke Shields caused a sensation in 1980 when she asked “You want to know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing,” in one of a series of steamy videos shot for the brand by legendary Richard Avedon, which were then banned by TV networks CBS and ABC.

Other than her controversially “heroin chic” ads for Calvin Klein, a topless, 17-year-old Kate Moss also starred in this 1992 campaign for the brand with Mark Wahlberg—one that made her so uncomfortable, she later said it prompted a nervous breakdown.

Rumor has it that Wonderbra’s billboards of Eva Herzigova caused traffic build-ups and car crashes when they went up in 1994.

It didn’t take long for controversy to erupt after Steven Meisel and Calvin Klein cast a crew of apparently underage models, including Kate Moss, for a 1995 Calvin Klein campaign; eventually, CK responded to the outcry over the ad with another ad, a full page in the New York Times announcing it was pulling the original advertisement.

This infamous 2000 campaign from Yves Saint Laurent, featuring a nude Sophie Dahl, drew 948 complaints to the U.K.’s Advertising Standards Authority, making it the eighth most complained about advertisement in recorded history.

Yves Saint Laurent again pared things down for one of his perfume ads in 2002, this time swapping out the designer’s likeness for a chiseled model to go full frontal.

Tom Ford and Carine Roitfeld both solidified their reputations as provocateurs when the designer and stylist drove down the fact that they were working for Gucci by shaving a “G” into a model’s pubic hair for this 2003 campaign shot by Mario Testino.

American Apparel, whose founder Dov Charney has faced a litany of sexual harassment lawsuits, began its run of controversial ads depicting highly sexualized and barely clothed women—an approach that was highly successful in creating conversation, but hardly saved the brand from bankruptcy—with this 2006 campaign.

The concept of “sex sells” barely gets more explicit than in Terry Richardson’s 2007 campaign for Tom Ford’s men’s fragrance, an ad that was banned in Italy.

“Stupid is as stupid done” is how some critics responded to Diesel’s 2010 “Be Stupid” campaign, which featured images of models flashing security cameras, among other suggestive poses. Some felt the images were needlessly sensationalistic while others described them as youthful and rebellious.

Dakota Fanning’s 2011 campaign for Marc Jacobs’ Lola campaign was banned in England after the U.K.’s Advertising Standards Authority deemed it too “sexually provocative” for the then 17-year-old actress, who was photographed by Juergen Teller.

Thanks to a little Photoshop, Barack Obama and Hugo Chavez were just several of the world leaders found making out in a 2011 campaign by United Colors of Benneton, which has a long history of provoking with their ads.

The model Anna Ewers has long been one of Alexander Wang’s muses, but the pair ended up in hot water with this 2014 campaign, in which Ewers is only just barely wearing Wang’s clothes.

This 2007 campaign by Dolce & Gabbana’s came to be known as the “gang rape advert” not only then, when several magazines refused to run it, but when it resurfaced online in 2015.

The U.K.’s Advertising Standards Agency also banned this 2015 Miu Miu campaign, shot by Steven Meisel, for being “irresponsible” in sexualizing an apparently underage (but actually 22-year-old) Mia Goth.

Calvin Klein courted controversy again last year with a campaign that featured a model photographed from under her dress, but the acclaimed British female photographer Harley Weir, whose work has long been interested in youth culture and sexuality, defended the campaign.

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