“My, but hasn’t Billy grown!”
If clothes make the man, then the prevailing male fashion trend makes men look like school boys. Surely you’ve noticed? The current vogue mandates that grown adult males appear like adolescent boys squeezing into suits they wore — unhappily — to their cousin’s wedding two summers ago. Straining buttons; abbreviated sleeves; clownishly short jackets paired with the equivalent of toreador pants, all of it reminiscent of September’s school uniform just barely making it through to the June finish line. Cary Grant, wherefore art thou?
Fashion visits indignities upon the susceptible and men are not immune. We women can look like buffoons, but somehow, the male fashion victim is doubly ridiculous.
Designer Alexander McQueen summed it up best when he said that male fashion ought to be about subtlety. You know: understatement. A man should look like he spends his time in the gym, not at the mall. Better yet? He should look like he spends his time at the UN. Or on a stallion. Or rescuing very small kittens from very tall trees. Anything but looking like he had the pole position for the Boxing Day Sale at Barney’s. Like McQueen said: subtlety. A fashionable man ought to look masterful, comfortable and artless. Pastel tuxedoes and backward baseball caps were cringeworthy enough but I bet they weren’t uncomfortable. Given the amount of jacket buttoning and unbuttoning evident on the late night talk show circuit, I’d wager the Too Small Suit look of 2015 is an ordeal for the wearer. Best feminine equivalent? Bimbos having to yank overly short skirts down from chronic northerly migration. So chic.
Cary Grant, wherefore art thou?
The rule of the pendulum suggests that 2016 ought to see a return to time-honoured design principles. From Aristotle’s Golden Proportion to Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man; from today’s genuine sartorial authorities to the scientist of neurobiology: there are rules for not looking like a doofus.
Apparently, our brains are hardwired to respond to a certain ratio. That ratio is 1:1.618. It’s represented as phi (not pi) and informs architecture and design of all description. Essentially, the math hinges on rectangles and squares; proportions that inherently please the eye. This ratio has its applications in fashion, in general, and men’s suits, in particular. The Art of Manliness website site reminds men that a suit jacket ought to drape over the curve formed by the buttocks. Esquire magazine’s official position regarding masculine fineries advises knuckles should line up with the bottom of a jacket and that sleeves look best when they fall where the base of your thumb meets the wrist. And any tailor worth his chalk adheres to the “half-inch of linen” rule for shirt cuff exposure.
If the Golden Ratio was good enough for the pyramids and the Parthenon, it ought to be good enough to safeguard us all from indefensible fashion edicts in 2106. But as we all know, history is a lousy teacher. High school yearbooks make better teachers than history, especially where fashion is concerned. Given my disdain for the Too Small Suit, I poked around to see what’s was going to replace it in 2016. Oy! Men’s fashion is about to take a giant leap. Make that a grand jeté. While not entirely uncharted territory — think back to Louis XIV, the Sun King — it qualifies as a notable divergence. Some say Caitlyn Jenner is the prime mover in this new expression. Some say the inspiration is the movie, The Danish Girl. Either way, here’s what the Class of 2016 will be groaning over at their reunion in 2026 if Big Fashion has its way.
That’s right. The big word for men’s fashion 2016 is lace. Chantilly, battenberg, guipure: high fashion has men looking like doilies. An extreme departure from customary motifs for men and only the most pioneering will attempt it. Rather than Moschino’s ultra-sheer Chantilly lace men’s body suit, expect to see sly pops of lace on tailored shirts. Maybe a bit of passementerie on a jacket. Maybe a little tatting on a tie. Maybe a lot of remainders on the clearance racks.
It only gets frillier:
Floppy bow-tied shirts, foulards and scarves. Frothy shoes laces, even: bows! And let’s not forget table runner length scarves. Looping, hammock-ey ensigns inspired by Jack Sparrow or medieval jousting matches. Scarves — a useful item taken to illogical extremes.
What else has 2016 got in store for the lads? Prints like you’ve never seen ’em before. Replicating prints on shirts, ties, suits and shoes … simultaneously. Map-like prints. Wallpaper prints with life-size fruit and flowers. On tropically hued sateen. On inky silk barathea. On arctic piqué cotton. Imagine a suit in turquoise chintz. Now imagine richly plumed birds and maybe an emerald lizard arrayed across a knee or a shoulder. Imagine sitting next to a toddler on a bus explaining the flora and fauna colonizing your business attire. Show and Tell Fashion; that’s what Gucci has served up. As has Hermès, Dior Homme and Saint Laurent.
Expect also to see stripes. And jumpsuits. Expect to see striped jumpsuits. Expect to see no man you know wearing striped jumpsuits. At any time. After all, not even prisoners wear striped jumpsuits anymore.
If these fashion edicts find traction, by this time next year, I’ll be nostalgic for The Too Small Suit of 2015. Runway fashion is an abstraction, of course, but even if only the Overly Long Scarf finds purchase, I can imagine poor William — Billy — stumbling on portable drapery. The bigger risk will be Billy meeting his death untimely, in the manner of Isadora Duncan, a trailing scarf and a wheel axle.
Again: Cary Grant, wherefore art thou?