Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Monday, 21 January 2008

Gentlemen's corner

Here is a picture from the Prada menswear show AW8. If you were to take a shirt and slit it down the back and then gird it with some horizontal braces and put it on Agyness Deane, I can guarantee that two things would happen: a) Victoria Beckham would be wearing the self-same shirt the following week b) a month later I would be standing on the tube looking at hordes of teenage girls shivering with cold backs.

And yet I can also guarantee that you are not going to see this shirt on anyone. You will, in fact, never see it again. Why? Because men are not mugs. They don't wear stuff like this, they get women to wear stuff like this.

But at last the worm is turning, according to the Guardian:

Now, female designers are getting their own back. At the menswear shows in Milan last week, two labels built in the image of their female figureheads put out autumn/winter collections that suggested things are only going to get tougher. After her show, Miuccia Prada told critic Suzy Menkes that her theme had been "the things that men usually do to women - it's revenge!"

Prada's male models had walked out in flashes of flesh-coloured fabric, trousers with frilled tops that looked like tutus, vests that stopped at navel height, and pants that poked above the tops of trousers like so many women's g-strings did for a spell in the late 1990s. A couple of days later, Marni, headed by designer-founder Consuela Castiglioni, put men in turtlenecked jumpers that ended just below nipple height and tops that zipped up at the back, ensuring that you would need a good strong woman's helping hand to get in and out of them. The designer even indulged in a bit of pointed name-calling - Marni's fur-coats were made of weasel.

Nice try, Miucca, but all the boys I know in their early twenties are still devoted to the perfectly draped low-slung baggy jeans and the perfect t-shirt. They found their uniform aged 15 and they have stuck to is, as has the man I mentioned yesterday who, having adopted the levis, t-shirt, leather jacket and boots ensemble worn when he climbed into his VW van back in 1968 to drive down to raise the Pentagon with Abbie Hoffman, has seen no reason to alter his style as he nears 60.

The extraordinary conservatism of men and their clothing is a twentieth century phenomenon. For a thousand years men dressed as peacocks. Now they don't. They dress for function. With some colour sense. Personally I find it quite boring, but perhaps it says something about a crisis of masculinity as a response to feminism - butch it out. Or maybe not. Others can offer their own thoughts on this matter, below.


Phyllis said...

I think this is actually a very witty visual pun on something I see in stores the time: the mannequin with the well fitted shirt, and when you see it from the back it's all pinned.

Linda Grant said...


I have, on this very rare occasion deleted your comment. This is because you extrapolated from a real person, and a very dear friend of mine, behaviour which is far removed from his character. The article you cite may indeed describe a type, but my friend isn't that man.

Overpriced Designer Man Bag said...

I wonder when fashion conservatism started among men. Post-Andrew Jackson -Civil War?

Toby Wollin said...

My apologies, Linda.

Flavia said...

Male conservatism when it comes to dress (at least in the States) is a more white phenomenon, and even there it depends on the social/ethnic group. I lived in Harlem for a few years, and the men there--both black and Latino, but especially black--tend to have serious style. The nature of that style differed by age, with many of the older men wearing fedoras and sharply tailored coats so on and the younger men wearing sometimes astonishingly vibrant, perfectly color-coordinated but more casual ensembles.

Now that I think about it, I've probably gotten more compliments on my *own* clothes from unknown black men on the street--whether in Harlem or elsewhere--than I have from any other men, including those I actually know.

Deja Pseu said...

I think the 70's was the last era in which white, middle class men actually wore some fairly "peacocky" getup. Disco fashions, jumpsuits, velour tuxedos... maybe it's a case of once bitten twice shy?

Thomas said...

Prada 2008 was an abomination, and no amount of "meaning" or "purpose" will change that. It's pretty easy to design clothes that make men look ridiculous and Prada proved this. What a farce.