Like Hassan, the reticent masseur he played in his debut film 1947: Earth, Rahul Khanna is a man of few words. Sitting at a posh coffee shop in South Mumbai, where ForbesLife India
meets him for a freewheeling chat, the VJ-turned-model-turned-actor chooses his words carefully. But when he speaks, a few sentences to each question, the articulate style icon turns heads with his clarity of thought, just like he does on screen, playing the suave Yousaf Rana in The Americans, an espionage series set in the Cold War era.
His introverted nature is reflected in his aversion for all things flashy; instead his wardrobe is replete with pieces that are classic and “conservative”. “I want a long-term relationship with my wardrobe. I love the idea of savouring pieces by reusing them over and over rather than discarding them after just one or two outings,” says the 43-year-old.
Like anybody else, Khanna loves owning beautiful and stylish clothes. But he dislikes the process of acquiring them. “In show business, so much time is spent on trying on clothes that when it comes to my personal wardrobe, the very thought of shopping exhausts me. So I try and do it as infrequently as possible,” he says. But once he finds something he likes, he tends to buy it in multiples, in case he can’t find it again.
And if you find that tip handy, consider his masterclass on the 10 must-haves in a man’s wardrobe:1. A point of view
Know your mind. Find the styles, fits, colours and accessories that make you happy—and then stick to them. Cherry pick and adopt trends that resonate with your personality rather than just blindly following every new fad. It’ll always feel better staying true to yourself. You look good only when you feel good.2. A dark suit
It is possibly the most versatile item of clothing a man could own. Wear it the traditional way or break it up: Wear just the jacket as a travelling blazer or just the pants for a smart dinner date. If it’s a three-piece suit, you could even use just the waistcoat to add a bit of panache to a casual outfit. Navy or charcoal grey are equally appropriate for daytime business as they are for evening social dos. But choose a suit made of light, breathable wool that will hold you in good stead for all seasons. 3. The number of a good tailor
A skilled tailor will be able to refine readymade clothes so that they look bespoke. He (or she) can taper jackets to flatter your torso, alter sleeves so that just the right amount of cuff shows and hem trousers so that they don’t puddle up at your ankles. They don’t come around often, so, like a soul mate, once you have found a reliable tailor, never let him go. 4. White button-down shirts
Putting on a pristinely laundered, crisply ironed white cotton shirt is a religious experience and can elevate even the darkest of moods. I recommend having a minimum of two on hand at all times—one with regular cuffs and one with French cuffs for more formal occasions.5. A Bandhgala/ Nehru jacket
Because at some point you’re going to have to attend an Indian wedding. It is also a great option if you want to stand out in a sea of tuxedos at a black tie event. My favourite way to wear a Nehru jacket is the way its namesake used to—with a rose tucked into a buttonhole. 6. A pair of white linen pants
We live in the tropics and balmy weekends are what linen was invented for. It doesn’t get more civilised than a languid, Sunday brunch in white linen pants. Stick to champagne or other clear beverages, though. Speaking from experience, the only people who benefit from the combination of Bloody Marys, animated conversations and white pants are dry cleaners.7. A classic pair of lace-up Oxfords (and the tools to maintain them)
You can tell a gentleman by his shoes. Make sure that’s the message your footwear is sending. Put in shoetrees or stuff them with tissue as soon as you take them off to maintain the shape. Keep them spotlessly clean and blindingly polished at all times. I use an instant shine sponge when I can’t have them professionally polished.8. A drawer full of clean socks and underwear
Hopefully this needs no explanation.9. A plain white linen pocket square
It could be scrunched up for casual occasions, arranged into peaks for a rakish European look or folded into a neat, slim rectangle in a tuxedo. It gives a jacket an incredibly “finished” look and shows you put some thought and effort into your appearance.10. Stories
I love a good story and a lot of my favourite possessions have one. Every time I wear my great-grandfather’s pocket watch or the vintage, silk Christian Dior tie from a friend’s father’s estate or a pair of cufflinks that have been in the family for generations, it’s a nod to my heritage and is a great conversation starter.