London menswear discovers sex

Masculine sex appeal and undercover erotism: how London menswear is getting dirty

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Photography by Quentin De Wispelaere Topman Design SS14

A strong undercurrent of eroticism seemed to run through the shows on the first day of London Collections: Men. Whether muted in liquid, shiny techno fabrics that gave off a subtle fetishised air or displayed loud and proud in second-skin lace, threatening to burst under the power of bulging biceps, Sunday had plenty of sexual subtext. 

It doesn’t get much more in-your-face than Astrid Andersen, who has championed the electric contrast between what we have come to associate with masculine strength and feminine fragility, set within her hyper-glamorous streetwear universe. This season, bridal-worthy white Sophie Hallette lace was stretched out as a skin-tight bodysuit on her athletic beefcake man, and six-packs glistened with sweat through sheer t-shirt inserts.

Andersen isn’t the only menswear designer exploring ideas of masculine sex appeal through different ways of subverting, reappropriating and not least normalising the use of fabrics traditionally associated with womenswear’s vocabulary. Bobby Abley’s debut on the MAN runway also joined the conversation with gossamer-thin organza sweatpants. But here, the sensuality of the see-through fabric was given a slightly twisted edge thanks to deliberately twee bird motifs and teddy bear prints, taking the flimsy fabric out of its pretty zone and into much stranger territory.

And while Topman Design’s cowboys were in no way of the Tom of Finland variety, their fluid silk Western shirts and louche coated cotton trousers also spoke of something erotic, similar to that of Jonathan Saunders’ sheer printed shirts that gleamed with perverse beauty under the spotlights at the Film Museum on a backdrop of shiny, red PVC strip curtains.

Elevating porn to artful heights, Richard Nicoll and artist Linder Sterling’s joint new counter label S/HE was dotted throughout Nicoll’s show and hit a strong note in the shape of seventies porn prints mashed up with serpents and hawks on bomber jackets and rubberised sweatshirts. Brilliantly suggestive yet seemingly innocent, they made for a very fitting end commentary to Sunday’s sexcapades.

 

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