Style portrait

Will Poulter on fronting the COS FW23 campaign, self-expression and football kits
By Ella Joyce | Fashion | 27 September 2023

“It feels like to some degree or another you’re representing where you’re from,” born and raised in London, Will Poulter’s dress sense mirrors the everyday practicality of living in the British capital. Having fine-tuned a sleek sartorial aesthetic over the years with staple pieces from COS underpinning his wardrobe, in a full circle moment, Poulter is the new face of the brand’s FW23 campaign photographed by Daniel Jackson. 

The British actor is best known for leading roles in Maze Runner, Midsommar, Marvel‘s Guardians of the Galaxy and most recently a brilliant cameo as a top chef in acclaimed Hulu series, The Bear. Aside from his acting credentials, Poulter’s off-screen style is worth a great deal of air time too. Donning the latest, timeless COS collection of elegantly tailored outerwear, relaxed suiting and cosy autumnal knits, Poulter is photographed alongside the likes of Kelela and Curtis Harding. In the conversation below, we caught up with Poulter to chat about his evolving personal style, Arsenal kits and a borderline unhealthy trainer obsession.

Ella Joyce: The new campaign looks really cool, congrats! What was it like working with COS and how does the brand resonate with you? 
Will Poulter: I’m so excited to be a part of it, I sincerely mean that. When I was younger, COS was a brand I always really liked and aspired to because it was that brand on the high street which felt elevated but still accessible. When I was younger, my mum would buy me COS as a birthday present, so the notion of modelling for them is such a crazy thing. It’s a strange full circle moment, I hope I can go shopping with my mum and see the ad on the street or on a cab. That would be a cool experience.

EJ: Do you think growing up in London influenced your personal style? Does it ever change depending on where you are in the world?
WP: Travelling, experiencing different cultures and being in different climates is definitely a huge bonus to what I do for a living. All of that informs how I dress and what I wear, the great thing about a brand like COS and one of the reasons it has always had a place in my wardrobe is the comfortability and versatility of the clothing. There is something for every occasion, environment or weather. It’s always great when you find a brand you feel like you can go to in any given scenario or place. London has definitely had the biggest influence on how I dress. Things that are unique to London always follow me regardless of where I go and I like that, it feels like to some degree or another you’re representing where you’re from and you also feel tied to home regardless of how far away you are. There are trainers I associate with London, they may not even necessarily be popular or sought after where I’m going but I feel like I’ve got my feet on the ground if I have the right pair of shoes on, as cheesy as that is. [both laugh]

“I hope I can go shopping with my mum and see the ad on the street or on a cab.”

EJ: Everyone has one item of clothing they’re obsessed with or have too many of, I’m guessing trainers are yours?
WP: Yeah, trainers are it for me. That’s something I probably have a borderline unhealthy relationship with. I’m trying to expand my shoe vocabulary. [laughs]

EJ: Do you have anyone you consider to be a style icon?
WP: There are a lot. I think Skepta is so well dressed, particularly in the last few years he has really been able to articulate his personal sense of style so well and go between sportswear and luxury in a really cool way, blending the two. He’s also someone I think would look really great in certain COS items too because they do the sports luxe thing really well.

EJ: Fashion is always evolving but I think menswear in particular has really come into its own over the past few years and people have become more playful with it, do you find yourself using it as a form of self-expression?
WP: I really have started to and I think my relationship to fashion has evolved. It’s less about liking something and wanting to wear it, lately it’s become about expressing how I feel and having an emotional attachment to what you’re wearing or representing. Also, I think understanding to a greater degree where your clothes come from and what they represent in a more mindful way is important. That’s been a fun evolution of my relationship to fashion.

“I try to strike a balance between not drawing attention to myself but also not limiting my self-expression”

EJ: Is there anything that inspired you when you were younger that still inspires you today? 
WP: I think things from the 90s, because that’s the era I was born in, there’s inherently just a sense of nostalgia to things that I associate with that time. The films and TV shows I grew up watching, the clothes in Friends – maybe Ross’ leather pants are arguably not the best example in terms of practicality and fashion [laughs], but the clothes were so good other than that. Looking to different eras and seeing the norm for wearing your trousers a little bit higher or wearing a t-shirt tucked in, I notice those sorts of things and bringing that back is less about me trying to conform to what’s trending or fashionable at the moment but just what makes me feel like I’m reliving parts of my childhood or revisiting a period in my life which was characterised by watching some of my favourite things and escaping. To discover that exists within the world of fashion, and you can find these little portals by just wearing your trousers a little bit higher or a particular type of sweatshirt is a really fun little life hack.

EJ: I also read that you love Ian Wright’s style and I’m an Arsenal fan, so I feel like we need to discuss this. [both laugh]
WP: Yes! Absolutely love that, oh my gosh. I just saw Pusha T modelling some new Arsenal stuff which was very cool – another person who dresses incredibly well, his stage looks are amazing. Wrighty is so well dressed, I also just think he’s the nicest guy. I got to do his podcast recently and he’s an absolute legend, I can attest that he’s very well-dressed in person. He’s constantly looking good.

EJ: Football kits are a fashion statement in their own right at the minute.
WP: I tell you what, if COS start doing lifestyle football-style jerseys I will be first in line. I love wearing football kits as just an everyday thing, any excuse to wear my Arsenal shirt.

EJ: Finally, how would you sum up your personal style?
WP: How I see it is potentially completely disproportionate to how other people view my personal style. [laughs] I’m also very lucky that I get to work with an amazing stylist called Rose Forde who makes me look like I know what I’m doing when I’m being dressed by her and then left to my own devices maybe it’s a different story. I think there are a few guidelines I follow when getting dressed, generally speaking, I try not to draw attention to myself so I actively don’t wear anything too out there. That being said, I try to strike a balance between not drawing attention to myself but also not limiting my self-expression and not conforming to standardised expectations of what I should be wearing. Colour-wise, I try and stick to a certain palette, I know that certain colours don’t necessarily suit me, and save for Arsenal shirts, red is generally a colour I don’t wear too much.

With my skin tone, I spend a lot of time being quite red anyway, so it clashes with a lot of the things I wear. I’m easily embarrassed and easily sunburnt. [both laugh] I often make a lot of my footwear decisions based on how crowded somewhere is, what the weather is going to be like and what the terrain underfoot is. The ideal scenario is not too crowded, mainly carpeted, with limited time outside and no rain, that’s where you can wear your nicest shoes. If it’s rainy, if it’s crowded, if you’re going to be outdoors and on tarmac or uneven payment it’s going to be risky to wear those white trainers. That definitely also influences my sense of style.

EJ: You must be a nightmare at a festival. [both laugh]
WP: Oh absolutely. I don’t leave the tent! [laughs]

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