When we saw Atlanta fan favorite Brian Tyree Henry on the red carpet at the Tony Awards on Monday night, three things went through our minds: 1) Is that Brian Tyree Henry? 2) Wow, Brian Tyree Henry is nominated for a Tony (we didn’t even know he’d been on Broadway this year)? and 3) Gee, Brian Tyree Henry cleaned up nice.
Now, it really shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Henry was at the Tonys—or nominated for one, best featured actor in a play, for his role in Lobby Hero. After all, the Emmy-nominated Morehouse grad has an MFA from the Yale School of Drama and a growing list of theater credits that includes the famed Shakespeare in the Park and a role as part of the original cast in the still-running nine-time Tony-winning musical Book of Mormon.
But who knew Henry was such a fashion plate? The way he turned out for this year’s Tony red carpet was not only a welcome change from the oversized tees and polos we’re accustomed to seeing him wear in Atlanta, but also a study in men’s styling. The actor stepped out in a dusky-aquamarine evening jacket from Armani, paired with Ted Baker trousers and Magnanni shoes, finished off with a subtly tone-on-tone patterned black bowtie and polka-dot pocket square from Nordstrom Men’s Store.
From his stance on the red carpet, it was clear that Henry was confident in his choice—and that his imagination and ingenuity aren’t limited to his acting roles. “I’m not afraid of color or patterns,” the actor told Vogue, which followed him as he prepared for the big night (complete with a slideshow of his final fitting):
I didn’t want to go with a simple black tux—I wanted to stand out. People who know me know that I don’t care for traditional anything. I don’t care to go out there and look like everyone else, because I’m not everyone else. I care about what makes me look and feel like me. ...
The tux just speaks for itself. I can throw a dope pocket square in there and a bow tie, and just go about my night.
In the article, Henry credits his personal style evolution to being surrounded by stylish women—like his mother and four sisters—while growing up in Fayetteville, N.C. Although the actor would eventually grab attention onstage and on-screen, he also learned to create a little drama with his clothing, shopping at thrift and vintage stores and learning how to create unconventional yet very fashionable pairings, as he told Vogue:
I wanted to make sure I was in color and I was wearing things that popped. I didn’t want people to forget me when I came in a room, and so fashion became a thing that I really held onto. ... I wanted my own kind of flair and style. Fashion allowed me to express myself.
And while he stuck to a conventional tie and pocket square for the Tonys, Henry usually accessorizes with jewelry—often choosing vintage pieces—and has a special affinity for pins, which he told Vogue he likes to wear on his lapel “to add a bit of flair.” In fact, he’s such a fan that he even follows pinmakers on Instagram, name-checking Coloring Pins and Blvck Supply.
Henry also name-checked red-carpet regulars Samuel L. Jackson and actor Alan Cumming as his personal-style gurus, saying of Cumming: “He is just so funky and really just does not give a damn about what anyone thinks about his personal style. But it’s always sleek and so him—and just so out there.”
Henry channeled that same energy to put together his 2018 Tonys look, which he told Vogue was equal parts “fun” and “funky” but, ultimately, also reflective of his acting career:
Sometimes I want my look to be a little bit rude—I want to make sure I continue to keep that kind of flair alive for myself, because we get into patterns and structures that we feel like we’re supposed to follow or because people say that this is how it’s done, but I don’t think that my career has been a reflection of that.