The best Gay Byrne fits of all time

Words: Dylan Murphy

Just over a year on from when he left us, we are celebrating the style of an Irish television Icon.

Just a couple of weeks ago, the Late Late Toy Show took place. In a rough year, it presented a comforting sense of nostalgia and for the first time this year, the country was excited to stay indoors watching the telly. Year on year, it’s grown in popularity, but it has one man in particular to thank for cementing it as a cultural institution.

Gay Byrne was celebrated for a lot: his ability to push the difficult questions, a commitment to challenging societal norms, talking about the topics that mattered and importantly doing all of this for over thirty years on The Late Late Show. In doing so he became one of the longest-running talk show hosts in the world.  

When he passed away in 2019, families across Ireland lost a familiar face. Counted on every winter to bring Christmas cheer to the Late Late Toy Show, he was equally consistent with his festive garms. In Celebration of his life and inspired by his jumpers we decided to review his best fits of all time. Spanning from sharp suits to cosy sweaters, Gay could pull it all off effortlessly.

Major Notorious B.I.G Coogi sweater vibes in Gay’s 1996 Late Late Toy Show appearance. Add some festive colourways to a staple of hip hop culture and it’s a recipe for success. Coincidently, it was the same year Dana Lixenberg took an iconic shot of Biggie in the jumper.

Reassuring to know the Annual Toy Show had the same influence on the cultural zeitgeist of 90s New York as it did on Donnybrook.

Anyone else donned this jumper and they’d be labelled a high street Art Attack presenter, but Gay just has the inimitable ability to serve a vibe no matter the colour.

This cosy sweater was festive, but not tacky. Warm, but not overbearing. The type your cool uncle wears on Christmas day. It speaks to the confidence of knowing what works for you and not wearing something that doesn’t just to fit in.

This is posting Kojaque lyrics rather than Drake’s as your caption personified.

Another flick from The Late Late Toy Show, Gay’s cuffed wrists and oversized sweater walked the line between comfort and style perfectly.

When standing in between a perma-bronzed Shane Lynch and Keith Duffy it’d be easy to show your age. But Gay didn’t appear out of touch when he interviewed Boyzone as part of their first TV appearance back in 1993.

Channelling the same ying and yang energy of a mullet, the TV host flipped the tagline of “business in the front, party out the back” in an iconic Irish telly moment.

Gay’s Christmas sweaters were always more Bing Crosby than last minute Penney’s purchase ahead of a work night out. He matched the sophistication in his presenting with the garms in his wardrobe and this snowy number would’ve broke all kinds of social media records for fire emojis.

The handkerchief, the fit of the suit, the shade of tie… *Chef’s Kiss*

This is a Hollywood fit that’d make Jimmy Kimmel look like Dustin The Turkey.

Shot by Conor O’Leary in the National Gallery of Ireland following a recent refurbishment and as part of a series called 14-23: The First Ten Days, in his later years Gay still looked sharp as ever.

In the modern era, the line between influence and clout has become increasingly blurred. Followers on social media and hot takes on Twitter have become a valued currency in a world that’s become more and more divided.

Gay Byrne was a genuine cultural giant whose influence transcended the flash in the pan dopamine rush dominated zeitgeist of today. Whether that be in the development of a television show that garnered progressive conversations on the important topics in Ireland week on week or the creation of an annual event that connected people over shared experience.

A master of his craft, Gay had a demeanour and dress sense to match that simultaneously dictated a sophisticated tone in conversation. Gay Byrne was an innovator and it’s important we acknowledge that he made waves so others could surf in them.