Tuxedos and Toothy Grins: Honouring Diane Keaton

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Annie Hall, 1974(Film still)

In honour of her 72nd birthday, we raise a glass to one of America’s most idiosyncratic style icons

Diane Hall – whose nickname was Annie, hence the famous fictional moniker – was born in Los Angeles in 1946. She wished to be an actress from a young age, playing Blanche DuBois in a high-school production of A Streetcar Named Desire; at 19 she danced at the school of Martha Graham, the legendary modern dancer and choreographer, sang in New York nightclubs, and was an understudy in the play Hair before getting her break in Woody Allen’s production Play It Again, Sam.

It was the start of a 20-year collaboration with the director (whom Keaton still controversially defends in the wake of various allegations), in which Keaton shaped a new type of female lead who was a little messy, complex and neurotic, and demonstrated that such characteristics weren’t simply the domain of her male counterparts. It’s also a foundation on which young directors like Greta Gerwig have built, crafting sharp female characters whose anxieties are wholly their own, rather than a charming quirk for male directors to fawn over.

Seminal Moments

Playing Annie Hall (a role for which she won an Academy Award) was indisputably one of Keaton’s defining moments, and in the process, her brand of boyish dressing informed a new generation in much the same way as Katharine Hepburn and Marlene Dietrich had before her. “I stole what I wanted to wear from cool-looking women on the streets of New York,” she wrote in her autobiography Then Again, “Annie’s khaki pants, vests, and tie came from them.” She worked with costume designer Ruth Morley (Taxi Driver, Tootsie), who shaped the infamous look.

A California native, moving across the country to New York was a milestone moment for Keaton, and there some of her best known characters cemented her own status as indisputable New Yorker. “I love the buildings here,” she told The New Yorker for a profile in 1978. “I love walking. I love the feeling that I have to do things. Everything goes so fast. You go to a supermarket, and no one says ‘Thank you’ or ‘May I?’ – which is honest. It would be all right if they meant the courtesies, but they wouldn’t. You can fool yourself in California, but you can’t do that here.”

Defining Features

Sure, we love Keaton’s toothy grin, her flair for wearing tuxedos, and her long marriage to men’s trousers and waistcoats, but don’t forget the perfect loose curls of the long-suffering Kay Adams-Corleone, who she played in The Godfather parts I, II, and III. Or how about her incredibly covetable silk dress and 70s white wedge combo in Sleeper? Those with a razor-sharp eye will know that Keaton is a hat person. She wears them so well! And in later years she’s been a particularly keen ambassador of the beret, worn pulled down over her forehead in black, grey or white. 

There’s a common misconception that Diane Keaton is tall; in fact she’s five foot seven. Perhaps it’s because much of her career, she’s been seen in relation to Allen (who lacks two inches, and the rest). Despite her propensity for anxious gabbling, she carries herself with grace. “She never tries to minimise her height,” wrote Penelope Gilliat in that The New Yorker profile. “She uses it to achieve a certain elegance, which is courtly, though entirely modern.”

She’s AnOther Woman because…

From her thin-browed 1970s days to the unabashed nostalgic comfort of her 80s–00s back catalogue (Hello Father of The Bride, Baby Boom and Something's Gotta Give) Diane Keaton remains an unwavering and extremely stylish icon after four decades on our screens. Whether consciously or not, she’s someone we (and each new wave of designers, costume designers and screenwriters) continue to reference, whether that’s wearing tailoring with panache or crafting a character. 

Not only that; she’s managed to keep a grounded distance from the often fickle airkissing of Hollywood. On friendship, she once said: “I don’t have a lot of friends; I have acquaintances and people I think are charming, and I like to see them. I like to see Sarah Jessica Parker, I like to see Meryl Streep. I don’t know them – I mean, I made a movie with them, once, and that’s nice – but I know nothing about their lives.”

As with so many high-profile stars, perhaps we’ve had cause to question our undying teenage love of late, but we continue to hold Keaton’s influence in high esteem – and with that, we resolve to grin more toothily to those who are truly worthy in 2018, and walk tall in as many variations of tuxedo as possible.