Why Does the Internet Love Amal Clooney?

Has she become our version of royalty?

08.27.15

According to Google’s search feature, Amal Clooney has topped at least six best dressed lists in the past week. There’s a feature on Vanity Fair’s website detailing a gold dress she is wearing in Ibiza and USA Today has really taken to a cream-colored cardigan she wore to carry around a case of Casamigos tequila.

Not covered in these pieces are any number of the criminal law or extradition cases she has likely been working on through the course of the summer. And that’s fine — a metallic garment is far easier on the eye than extensive legal papers. But watching these lists (ushered by Vogue, the anterior Vanity Fair, People StyleWatch and the other multifarious permutations of tabloid magazines) place Clooney on a style pedestal has brought up a question we touched upon last summer: what makes someone a fashion icon?

Emilia Petrarca, who initially posited the question on Man Repeller in response to a New York Times piece that argued Beyoncé was a cultural icon but not one of style, surmised that “if someone’s style embodies any cultural zeitgeist, they can be considered an icon.” Gloria Steinem, a journalist and activist before an amber-lensed aviator-wearer, is a prime example.

But where does this leave Clooney? Has she in some way been forced into the category of style icon when really, as Mattie Kahn put it, she’s “an elegant woman who looks wonderful in mostly unadventurous clothes”? Does she consistently top these lists because before anything else, she’s an aspirational role model (that is, a smart woman with a successful career, who married into fame while never intending to command it, and who has built a style niche that is not at all contingent on her being an “insider”) who also extols a level of attainability? Here is a woman who has racked up clout dependent on her stratus as an excellent lawyer but who, in spite of that, has become publicly known not just as the woman who married George Clooney, but the woman who wears clothes.

The American way is such that we are constantly looking to identify public people as our homegrown versions of royalty. The Kardashians, The Z’s and One Direction pre-hiatus are all proof of this. Amal Clooney is proof of this. But what are we hoping to achieve in assigning these titles? Are they larger reflections of who we’d like to be? Does the emphasis we put on the package deal — lithe body parts, a symmetrical nose and Celebrity-with-a-capital-C cloud the more important traits? That is: honesty, humility, respect, a good work ethic and so forth?

Or maybe it’s something else all together. Does this all boil down to a war called Achieve the Highest Ranking SEO? If so, are we — the consumers who contribute to the analytics — precisely those who feed the beast that favors sellable content and their people? Or is it the other way around? Are we, in fact, feeding the beast, or are we simply hungry and thus eating from the beast?

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  • Bella

    Personally, I can appreciate excellent style without immediately wanting to own it or to purchase All. The. Things. I don’t think that her clothing is unremarkable. each of those 21 outfits are impeccable with just the right twist. Her attraction for media is, I think, that she is beautiful, stylish and has tamed a seemingly eternal bachelor without missing a step.
    What I do think that that the word “icon” has been cheapened to the point where it hardly means anything. There are loads of ladies with glorious style these days, and everyone has seen them at some point due to everyone seeing everything,and so incredibly many have been named an “icon” at some point but will most of them go down in posterity? I don’t think so.
    As for American Royalty, isn’t Amal British? And One Direction too?

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    • Hereshoping Themayanswereright

      “I don’t think that her clothing is unremarkable. each of those 21 outfits are impeccable with just the right twist.”

      Yes!.. my thoughts exactly, but so much better articulated by you.

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  • Great post! I think she always looks lovely. She has something for sure. Gemma xx http://www.jacquardflower.uk

  • “She’s a brain, trapped in the body of a game show hostess.”

    • Leandra Medine

      Where’s that from!?

      • Corey Flood: Diane Court doesn’t go out with guys like you. She’s a brain.

        D.C.: Trapped in the body of a game-show hostess.

  • AlexaJuno

    Every picture got me like WERQQQQQQQQ. She is elegant, powerful, disgustingly chic, and tamed the Cloon. I want to go to dinner with her.

  • Lyric

    I think her career is fabulous, but her style is pretty mainstream and boring. She always looks well tailored and put together, but there’s nothing inspiring about her outfits.

    • AA

      I agree! I prefer say Blake Lively or Michelle Williams or Rooney Mara or—Leandra Medine!!!

    • Alex

      Truth!! I’m kind of bored by her style. Like Kate Middleton. Snooze. I will say Amal has definitely improved of late, her outfit choices are a bit more interesting now. But, style icon? No.

    • I wish we lived in a world where the actual stylist got the credit, instead of the literal hanger that wears the clothes. She looks great, yes, money and a stylist will pretty much do that for you, but she isn’t making any wonderful fashion decisions, most celebs aren’t. We like them because they look shiny, but let’s be honest, if most of us had the time/ income that they did we would be fashion icons as well.

  • Lua Jane

    I think the only reason she is pegged a fashion icon is the fact that she looks the part of fashion industry sweetheart. Classy, beautiful and rail thin, she looks like the woman everyone in fashion and media wants to see wearing beautiful clothes. It doesn’t take special talent to exude that particular elegance, beautiful though she may look.
    Yes we’re feeding the shallow beast by emphasizing her marital status and looks before her actual personal succes and accomplishments, but we’re also feeding an evil sizeist beast that is the most revered deity in fashion. I personally want to see fashion icons that look more like Mindy Kaling or Amy Schumer.

  • pASHionateLEY

    This makes me think of an internal conflict I constantly have. I love fashion, shopping and trying to find my own personal style but I worry that too much energy is put into that. I questioned myself all the time with “Is my personal style even worth it if I am not a human being who has a quality character and treat others exceptionally?” I’m trying for both! >.<

    • Leandra Medine

      You should be able to achieve both – they sort of go hand in hand, right? Personal style for me is so much about honesty, and knowing who you are and feeling good about that person because it is then when you’re able to accurately convey the message you’d like to put out using clothing — I wrote a story about this earlier this summer: http://www.manrepeller.com/2015/05/leandra-medine-personal-style.html

  • Brittany Berckes

    i think about this a lot because i love amal for her career and fashion choices. she also has a seemingly eternally youthful glow that gives me hope that you can be good at your job and not take yourself so seriously all of the time, too. THAT’S HARD TO FIND ANYWHERE, ESPECIALLY IN THE LEGAL FIELD. full disclosure: this could be a complete projection.

    but, i think it’s easy to understand why she’s a fashion icon. she’s smart, successful, conventionally beautiful, dresses well, and personally, i would argue takes some fashion risks (for a lawyer, especially), usually good ones. she also happens to be married to a man the entire world adores. They all wonder: “how did she do it?” Considering most Hollywood bachelors do not marry human rights lawyers, especially ones who aren’t already celebrities. i think everyone’s route to fashion-icon status is different and it’s more about the amalgamation of qualities that you have that makes you attain it, rather than following one particular path.

    i sometimes wonder, though, if the attention she gets is more about her being a symbol of the kind of woman George Clooney married v. the kind of woman George Clooney dated, rather than her. does that make sense? i’m really torn by this because 1) hey, it gives me hope (not much, let’s be honest) that i could marry George Clooney, but 2) i wonder if because she’s not famous and has such a serious and influential legal career, we disregard the career/life choices of the other women he dated in the past, who have mostly been models and actresses. i worry that we dismiss them because of Amal’s markedly different profession/persona and that concerns me.

    then, i wonder is she just a fashion icon because she “pinned him down,” which again goes back to it all really being about George. would any woman who married George automatically be a fashion icon simply because she got him to put a ring on it? it’s very possible.

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    • Bia Campedelli

      I am a lawyer too and your comment gave me a better perspective about the subject. I don’t live in the U.S. (where I imagine their wedding flooded the media…) and I was never much interested in this story, only read a few headlines here and there. I clicked on this post because he title caught my eye: I also never saw her as a fashion icon and never understood everyone’s fascination about her. But I guess I only saw her as a celebrity, and that means I expected more from her fashion-wise. But seeing her as a lawyer (not as a former-lawyer-turned-celebrity, but an actual lawyer, who goes to court and files stuff), made me value her a bit more.

      I couldn’t agree more with the part about looking professional v. looking fashion aware, it’s a dilemma I face daily… I think I fear looking like I spent too much time thinking about my outfits/accessories (which, in my judgemental head, would end up looking unprofessional) so I overthink about overthinking my outfit choices, it’s a self-conscious mess.

      You made me think about the way the media sees her (and, by extension, the general public and even myself)… So people don’t expect lawyers (or any other “serious” professionals) to dress well? Being well dressed is only for the celebrities, bloggers and fashion industry darlings? It struck me that, even though I am a lawyer myself, I expected more from her since I only got to know her as a celebrity, and that, on the other hand, I myself fear looking unprofessional every time I get (over)dressed in the morning. Truth is we judge others the same way we judge ourselves…

  • muiringue

    I think we throw the term ‘style icon’ about so loosely nowadays, that anyone with a public profile is in with a half-chance of reaching icon status. For me, a style icon is someone with a definitive fashion identity that always shows up to the party. Their look can change and evolve, but their sartorial DNA remains a constant. In that sense, I don’t think Amal Clooney is a style icon, but I do think she is stylish.

    I think some of the obsession with her stems from the fact that we know so little about her – we know about the husband and the job, but not a hell of a lot else. Perhaps then that’s why we turn to what we can examine – her fashion choices?? She’s in the public eye, but refuses to indulge that incessant need to know every detail of a celebrity’s life. The more I think about it, the more I can see some parallels with Beyoncé – another woman who tries to evade public scrutiny of her life, yet remains on a pedestal for our appreciation/scrutiny.

  • Carmen Gloria Sarduy

    I would rather see 100 more covers featuring her than another “article” on Kylie Jenner. I think in terms of her fashion the most interesting thing is that she is not a one dimensional character, everything about her shows her as a woman who has many facets and I think that’s a great message for women and is to me the point of fashion – that you can change who you are as many times as you want and can convey that through your clothes.

  • I definitely don’t agree with her as a style icon. She wears expensive, good quality clothing but does she really have great style and creativity? I don’t see that. Same with Kate Middleton. Nice clothes. But are they interesting? I will say ‘nice’ looking at most of their clothing but never ‘wow’ or ‘how cool’. Style icons? Solange yes, Iris yes – Amal and Kate? Not so much.

    http://www.fashionandfrappes.com

  • Catalina

    I vote Amal for the next guest on the MR podcast

    • Leandra Medine

      Oooo. Me too!

  • Aubrey Green

    I would take her Brain over her style, not because her style isn’t good.

  • Can someone explain to me George’s vest in the 10th pic? That thing is taking dad-utility belt to a WHOLE new level.

    • Amelia Diamond

      It appears to have juice boxes in the pockets.

      • Laurel Buchi-Fotre

        Juice boxes? I was thinking it was a costume “bomb vest” and she’s visiting him on the set of a movie he’s shooting.

      • One of the hottest dudes in the world rollin’ with juice?! Love him even more.

  • Brit

    You’re onto something with the Royalty comparison. I can see Kate Middleton wearing half of these looks.

  • YogaJerk

    1. The woman has a body that shows off clothes well: tall and thin.
    2. The woman is uber-wealthy and married to a celebrity, but she’s not defined by wealth or status in the way that Duchess Catherine or Beyonce or Gwyneth is. She is, at the end of the day, a 9-5 working woman (at least…I think she still works?), and in that sense at once both aspirational AND relatable.
    3. The woman is high-profile and photographed EVERYWHERE.

    In short, you can’t find a better person to market fashion for the sake of fashion than Amal Clooney. Don’t get me wrong–she’s certainly beautiful and stylish, as she is one amazingly accomplished individual, but in the end, she’s put on lists because she’s good for business.

    • Lua Jane

      My opinion exactly.

  • ladyoflettuce

    why are those men in pic 1 standing with their hands like that? it looks really dodgy

  • Emilia Petrarca

    She’s the Jackie O I never had! (Also, hi!)

  • Hereshoping Themayanswereright

    There is a certain grace and elegance about her that is captivating.

    She also has an artist’s eye for putting herself together without ever looking silly or over done. She is sexy without crossing the line into sleazy.I usually scroll through celeb gossip pics quickly, but Amal pics always hold my interest and I find myself staring at her so much longer than any of the others. She definitely has some kind of personal magnetism going on.

    • Pamela Kopel

      What an interesting discussion (I feel like my grandmother as I type that)!

      She definitely looks fabulous, but from my point of view a style icon is one who not only epitomizes a culture’s current fashion trend, but also incorporates something a bit fashion forward. Like beautiful scarves as bracelets or dresses. Something a really smart and stylish girl has posted before 😉

      That being said, from the outfits portrayed here, I definitely think Amal is “doing her.” She is an attorney and needs to dress in suits and the like, but with a feminine touch. If I were an attorney, I would feel really confident in a court room wearing one of those outfits. In that regard Amal’s wardrobe is a slam dunk.

  • Elisa Taviti

    She is always so cool, and fashion!
    Although with all her privileges … I would definitely too!! 😀

    With love, Elisa
    http://www.myfantabulousworld.com

  • Great post Leandra. I guess she dresses well, she’s a very elegant woman, but it sure pisses me off that right now, she’s just George Clooney’s wife and all of her work is being ignored and forgotten..

    Well I guess that’s the world we live in..
    Love your website!
    XO
    Aimara
    http://www.waysofstyle.com

    • Jackie @ Kleiden drew

      Thanks for writing this response. I get it – attractive, well dressed people (women mostly) get the attention for being just that. But she’s beyond Vine/YouTube/Instagram/Weekly-Vogue-Post famous. She’s an intellectual and human rights rockstar. But er um, P.S. her husband is still a hot thing. Oh and bright, great actor/director/producer, etc.

  • Maureen Krezel French

    I’m impressed that she can hold a Martini and Clutch in one hand while wearing stilletos. that to me is more impressive than a law degree or celebrity husband.

  • Sarah Hamid

    Leandra you should consider a phd in critical theory at some point ☺️ Enjoyed this piece.

  • I can’t decide if the problem is the willingness of the Best Dressed List victims of sartorial pressure themselves for giving in to what “we” want, or the stupid tabloids for encouraging “us” to think we want everyone to be perfect/perfectly dressed/perfectly dramatic. I think it is the stupid tabloids. Meh.

    • i.e. We are hungry but feeding from a degenerate beast, because that is all that the uber-beast has provided us with. We are spiralling in a vicious circle of self-control of media. I’m done with words now.

  • MM

    It seems to me that her allure comes from her modesty and the impeccable fit of each piece she wears. (I think Kate Middleton’s sartorial success can be attributed to the same two qualities). Each outfit is tailored perfectly but her body is generally covered, which allows the clothing to shine. The “icon” part, I think, comes from her deviation from the current fashion norm (revealing and sometimes even risqué outfits). Whether she will be deemed a style or fashion icon in decades to come remains to be seen, but I’m a huge fan of a smart, hardworking woman taking some of the spotlight in Hollywood no matter what she wears.

  • Meg

    I just wanna know where to find a good pair of flares for the ladies without a 32 inch inseam. Hemming a pair of flares is like deflating a balloon…

  • Karel Paragh

    Very nice post. I enjoyed reading it

  • Ellie

    For me she/her stylist has style because they dress HER so well. Style is more than just about wearing interesting and fab pieces..its about being able to put stuff together in a way that looks great on YOU…the pieces themselves could be unremarkable (im not saying hers neccesarily are) but its all about the ensemble? maybe?

  • GeniusJohn

    Man oh man… What a disappointing artilcle. It started w a question and ended w a question.
    Wasted a minute of my life reading this.