Man at His Best

Jamie Dornan Talks Social Media, Insecurities And Masculinity

Goodbye Mr. Grey

BY Ian Loh | Nov 9, 2018 | Film & TV

Photographs by Johan Sandberg; Styling by Alvaro De Juan. Coat and T-shirt, both by BOSS.

Jamie Dornan has a look surrounding him. Whether it was because he played superbly well a sadistic serial killer of women in The Fall, or when he took on the role of the wealthy sexual sociopath (apparently with a heart of gold) Christian Grey who finds pleasure in torturing women in the Fifty Shades trilogy. Yet, in 2018, he’s ready to move on. No doubt that he’s not a one-dimension actor. With a filmography (not just catering to the sexual fantasies of housewives) that includes the likes of The Siege of Jadotville, Anthropoid, and his latest, A Private War and My Dinner With Hervé with Peter Dinklage, Jamie Dornan is an actor as diverse as can be.

But the 36-year-old from Northern Ireland didn’t begin his career as an actor—instead, he started off as a model and performed in a band called Sons of Jim. His modelling career took off with high-end campaigns (Calvin Klein with Kate Moss and Eva Mendes, Armani, Dior Homme), and he was even dubbed “The Golden Torso” by The New York Times. Soon after, he realised he “never got over the feeling of being uncomfortable when someone is putting a camera in my face.” So he auditioned hard, again and again and finally got his first film role as Count Axel Fersen in Sofia Coppola film Marie Antoinette (2006). “In TV, you’re playing a character, so you’re losing yourself to that. It’s much easier to do when you’re not representing yourself,” he tells Esquire. Dornan’s movie-stardom may be delayed, but he’s far from anonymous now.

In terms of grooming and style, he’s got it— and with apparent ease. His style is comfort, but not lazy. Whether dressing for the red carpet, the streets or the golf course, Dornan has mastered the art of dressing well. His sophistication and confidence (he’s not shy about showcasing his biting wit and jokes during interviews and talk shows) led him back to his modelling roots as the latest addition to BOSS’ roster of famous faces. Dornan will front BOSS The Scent, the brand’s centrepiece in its fragrance collection. And this time, he’s fronting in a way he feels comfortable. 

Socks by Cóndor; Jersey and shoes by Canali; Jacket and pants by Neil Barrett.

His earliest memory of scent is of his father’s. My dad is the kind of person who never let himself had any stubble, even through the seventies when everyone had mustaches. My dad sailed across the Atlantic 10 years ago; he was on a boat for three and a half weeks and he shaved every day. He is that kind of person who always shaves, and I am the total opposite. But that smell, after his shave, probably Brut or Old Spice, one of those classic men scents, that smell of the bathroom after that is still very strong in my memories. 

He hates shaving. I actually hate shaving. Sometimes I’m doing a job where for three months straight I’ve to be clean shaven every day, and every day it will remind me of my dad. But if I could avoid it I’ll always avoid. 

His favorite smell of home is the ocean. I grew up in a place called Holywood, which is seven miles east of Belfast and it’s right on the water of Belfast Lough that opens up to the Irish sea. And anywhere in the world that I am, when I smell the ocean it reminds me of home. It’s a lovely thing. Because you could be thousands and thousands and thousands of miles from home, and that smell just brings you back. 

He enjoys working with BOSS. Back when I was a model, I did three or four campaigns for BOSS—in 2003, that was my first one. I had a long relationship with them. I’ve always liked the work environment they create, I felt that I could trust them. It just felt like a good fit. For the actual ad [video] we shot, as soon as I knew Drake Doremus was directing it—I am a big fan of his—that made me very excited. I knew it was going to be handled in a very cool way. Drake seems like the perfect fit because he wasn’t going to do it just like how you would expect it. Sometimes fragrance ads can be very two dimensional, they follow a set of formulas, they are really fucking boring to be honest. When I saw the idea of the plan for the ads, I was like, I am absolutely in. 

Shirt and knit by Cerutti 1881; Trousers by BOSS.

He is an old-fashioned man when it comes to social media. I did have an Instagram account for a couple of minutes and Twitter for couple of years a while ago, but never had Facebook. I just never had a huge interest, I guess I am old fashioned. I rather catch up with my friends, sat around the table drinking in an actual bar, or playing sports with them. The real way people should connect has always interested me more. I’m slightly worried how as a society we’re moving further away from that because it can’t be replicated. 

He prefers the real world. Seduction, for me I think, doesn’t nearly work unless it’s in the real world. As much it is expanding, the idea how we can be seduced, I still think there’s nothing quite like a real meeting, where you’re able to touch them or smell them. That can’t be replaced.

His take on fragrance. Can I read something? [Laughs and proceeds to read from notes] I would describe The Scent as... [Laughs] let me do my bit, what I think, I don’t mean it from the notes of it. I think it’s a great fragrance, I think it’s an everyday fragrance. I think sometimes fragrances are presented to you and sold in a way like, “this is a summer fragrance; this is a woody, leathery, winter fragrance.” I think it’s quite easy to say that [BOSS The Scent] can be worn every day on every occasion. I also like… [back to reading from the notes, chuckling] the top notes of ginger and I like the heart notes of Maninka fruit and mocha, plus it has very strong base notes of coco absolute… and it’s an aphrodisiac obviously, like any good fragrance. [Chuckles] 


Shirt and knit by BOSS.

He believes masculinity comes in different forms. Masculinity is so subjective. It could be whatever fits for each person. Masculinity for one person could be smelling great and having a big beard that they put oil in and wearing a tailored suit; masculinity for another guy could be wearing a dress and wig and having all their makeup done and being in a drag show—do you know what I mean? It’s whatever you need to be. It’s feeling good about yourself and whatever you are; whatever that makes you feel the most yourself. I don’t think that is one set, or a one size fits all thing. 

He was a scrawny kid when he was young. I played a lot of rugby growing up, I did well in it. I would be perceived to have been successful at it, but I also always felt small and needed to be bigger and faster to fit it. I guess that was my version of struggle. Growing up, I was quite a late developer, like with hair and all the other stuff. That is a big factor when you’re a kid. I think every single kid has insecurities about something and they are all very real and they should all be listened to, they are all varied in terms of what it could be. That was mine, battling against being the skinny kid—I hated it when I was growing up. And that had a big impact on how I felt as a person, trying to fit in. I still feel like that, I still have insecurities, it’s one of those things that doesn’t go away.

Coat by Dries Van Noten; Shirt by Massimo Dutti; Trousers and shoes by BOSS; Socks by Cóndor.

He is comfortable with his insecurities. Unless it’s an insecurity that is really bringing you down or having a negative effect on you, I think having some insecurities are kind of healthy. To have something to try to work towards or you might sustain for your whole life, I think that’s OK. Insecurities can have a positive effect on you and make push you harder. Most actors are very insecure. That’s what’s great about our job—you can leave all those insecurities behind and you just be someone else, you can be a totally different version of who you are. 

He doesn’t have a role he wants to play. I think it’s wrong to set yourself up for a role. I think it’s the stupidest thing in the world to have a plan in this industry. There are a lot of directors and actors that I admire, and I am always amazed when you see them go, “I want to play this character one day”. Fuck man, what if it doesn’t happen? You are setting yourself up for disappointment. I wouldn’t do that. It’s such a random industry, I could never have foreseen the years that I’ve had and getting those kind of characters. Because you can’t plan much of it. I would never have a certain character that I like to play. 

This article was first published in the Winter '18 issue of Esquire Malaysia. Download the digital version here, or get the print version at your nearest bookstore.