Smooth Operator: The style aesthetics of Sade

Forever iconic.

Sade is an icon for the ages. Emerging with her band in the early 1980s with a sound that blended jazz, Latin rhythms and sophisticated pop – the Nigerian-born, Essex-raised soul queen proved that you could be an international superstar while still retaining your mystery, dignity and class.

Along with her hypnotic voice and sensual anthems – it’s Sade Adu’s signature style that has stood the test of time (Drake is obsessed with her).  With Sade, it’s all about making fashion look effortless – bright red lips, hoop earrings and tailored pieces. Ever seen her airport look? It’s a sight to behold. Forget head-to-toe labels and overdone embellishments, this is a woman who knows how to strip it back to the essentials, and look a million dollars doing it.

Here are the essential Sade style aesthetics.

hoop earrings

No piece of jewellery conveys confidence and cool quite like a hoop earring.  Sade’s signature chunky gold style hoops are the perfect complement to a pared back look.


On and off the stage, Sade knows how to rock a polo neck.  Styled with high waisted trousers and pumps, or a pencil skirt with heels for a sleek silhouette. She revived for the 2011 ‘Soldier of Love’ tour, with an elegant, sheer version.

Red lips

Sade is a master of the bold, opaque red lip.  Combined with kohl liner, strong brows and gleamy skin (with freckles on show) – it has made her a beauty icon.

 white shirts

A sharp, clean white shirt is a staple for any wardrobe.  Sade wore it sharp and tailored with a black blazer for night, and soft and loose for daytime lounging.

sharp shoulders

Sade embraced bold 1980s tailoring.  Somehow managing to make cropped bolero jackets and double breasted blazers look casual and effortless, she favoured avant-garde pieces from Azzedine Alaïa.  Having studied at Central Saint Martins and launched her own menswear line before going into music – masculine tailoring was a strong influence on her styling.

slicked back ponytails

In a sea of bouffant perms, Sade’s slicked back hair bucked the trend of the era.  With the assistance of a whole lot of gel, and sometimes hair pieces – her classic low pony tail oozed class and mystery.  She switched it up with buns and braids, always sleek and the perfect canvas for her strong make-up looks.

double denim

Isabel Marant named a shirt after her because of this unforgettable image.  Denim on denim is not easy to pull off, unless you’re Sade.  Classic Levi jeans, an ornate gold arm cuff, those hoop earrings – it’s a look that pop culture never tires of referencing.