The Pageantry of Men’s Fashion


Since their existence, male lions, peacocks, mandarin ducks, and several fish species have relied on their crafty females to pick the best looking of the opposite sex to reproduce—something Charles Darwin referred to as sexual selection. These days it seems the fashion world is following but for very different the reasons. In fact, the movement is strong enough to suggest that male designers are giving their female counterparts some competition when it comes to excitement, ornamentation, and overall presentation on the runway.

British menswear designer Craig Green has been making waves for his reinterpretations of the classics with just enough interest to make them desirable, but not so tricky that the average fashion bloke can pull it off. This season—along with reimagined flannels, trenches, and an innovative twist on hippie crochet—Green sent out a rainbow cavalcade of transparent plastic clothing. The assortment included extra fabric flaps and covered the head in a massive scarf-slash-hat that was meant to evoke Green’s idea of glass men: not necessarily fragile, but strong and resilient. Green’s power lies in a delivery method, which conveys the emotion behind the clothes almost much more than the garment.

Just ahead of Milan Fashion Week, Jeremy Scott at Moschino went full-on Roman pageantry when he showed his men’s Fall and women’s Pre-Fall show at the famed Italian film studios Cinecitta. Always known for his theatrics, this latest outing for Moschino was a Fellini film come true and took the idea to the next level with a fantastic spectacle of Roman glory with, you guessed it, popular Roman themes motifs. Think Roman soldier bodice-plate tops, a red feather trimmed officer’s helmet, and numerous coin prints. Some suggested it reflected world politics, apropos given the Fellini-like circumstances of the political arena today.

With its recent acquisition by Michael Kors, a few wondered if Donatella would dial herself back, but Versace was still full-on Versace in Milan. The hyper-sexy charged atmospheric show—which also featured women’s Pre-Fall (a common runway format during the men’s calendar)—was loaded with female supermodels 2.0–Kaia Gerber, Bella Hadid, and Emily Ratajkowski. The collection itself featured a touch of Italian punk, lots of bright, neon colors, and a mix of prints and materials for an overall magpie mood. An apparent partnership with Ford popped up on leathers and hoodies, furthering the macho male energy of this show-y group.

Meanwhile at Philipp Plein, the relative fashion outsider, whose use of a Bedazzler is unparalleled, celebrated 20 years in the business. The designer who led the overt, in-your-face gimmicky runway show brigade actually dialed it back it to a more subdued affair, probably thanks to the music. Brandon Flowers opened the show singing classic Killers songs “Human” and “Mr. Brightside” and the line-up was toned down from the typical crystal encrusted styles (the particular brand of showmanship that Plein is known for was almost non-evident.)

As men’s French style tends to generally embrace flourish, the increasingly flamboyance at the Parisian shows came as no big surprise. For his second outing as men’s artistic director of Louis Vuitton, Virgil Abloh borrowed a page from one of pop music’s biggest showmen: Michael Jackson. Not only did his set pay homage to the King of Pop’s „Billie Jean“ video, but the stylings of the clothes did as well. “We are the World“ multi-flag printed woven separates, heavily-embellished crystal shirts, silk satin military-inspired shirts with plackets favored by Jackson, and T-shirts with the infamous loafer and sock toe stance position starred in the show. Dev Hynes of Blood Orange and other musicians sampled classic Jackson tunes in a jazzy mood, giving the spectacle an urban edge.

The other sophomore effort at LVMH came from Kim Jones for Dior Men’s, who redefined the men’s suit last June giving it an elegant bent with soft draping, pastel colors, and silk fabrics. This season, he proved once more that elegance and masculinity can go hand-in-hand. Case in point for Fall Winter 2019: wool cashmere suiting spliced with silk satin and often in the form of long waist sash was undeniably glamourous. His collaboration with artist Raymond Pettibon on shirts and sweaters were canvas-like using an innovative knit process. The innovation wasn’t just left to the clothes though. Opposite the École Militaire, models stood at attention still as could be while a conveyor belt brought them down the runway so that clothing was able to be studied for its grandeur much closer without the distraction of movement caused while walking.

Another highly spectacularized show on the men’s calendar in Paris was Hedi Slimane’s first full menswear collection for Celine. Slimane is polarizing like no other designer but most agree no matter who signs his paycheck, Hedi does Hedi. No big surprises here with the retro punk looks that had an English rockabilly slash Teddy Boy feel mixed with some ’80s Italian tailoring moments. But despite his usual fashion, he found a most dramatic backdrop to stage this debut in a big black box erected on the Place Concorde looking out via a large clear plastic window onto the Champs-Élysées towards the Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, and, of course, the Luxor Obelisk as his retro-looking band of boys marched to the modern punk music of Crack Cloud as laser beams filled the box.

Balmain showed a seminal collection that not only felt youthful, it felt like youth trying to convey a message. At the Tennis Club of Paris, the set was a giant silver square floor with massively arched ceilings, which allowed models to walk in a square box. The collection riffed on Victor/Victoria ideas with mash-ups of traditional striped sweaters, biker, jean, and tuxedo jackets spliced into one garment worn with skinny legging-like trousers in most cases. Combat-style boots, trainers, and berets gave it a ’80s street style mood when the likes of Katherine Hamnet reigned. A further nod to this rebellion was the expressions on T-shirts, outerwear, and bags including “You’re Truth is Not Mine,” “You Only Know My Name Not My Story,” and “I’m Under No Obligation to Reply,” marking a commentary on the new social media societal dynamics.

It ended with several models flanking corners of the square to face the audience while the rest of the models marched to join Olivier Rousteing for his final bow. Throughout the show, the designer begged the audience to do a double take in certain cases to identify the model. Blurring these lines is a larger movement in fashion and society because that is exactly how Gen-Z likes it. In Balmain’s case, a souped-up men’s runway show is really just fashion today. Call it the #MenAsWell movement of fashion; why should women soak up all the glow that the advent of reality tv and social media shined on the industry?


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