From A$AP Rocky in his ‘Babushka Boi’ look, to Timothée Chalamet in a Louis Vuitton harness, attitudes towards red carpet dressing – and dressing in general – are changing
Do you remember when Jonah Hill wore that amazing black suit to the 2018 Met Gala? Or Riz Ahmed’s all-black Prada Emmys look? No, me neither – because they were boring, vanilla choices: to quote Ja’mie, private school girl: “Sorry, no offence, but it’s true.” Historically, men’s red carpet fashion has been monumentally more dull than women’s, with most guys opting for a tux, a tux, or… You know... A tux.
Now though, things seem to be changing, as more and more male celebrities are taking red carpet risks both big and small. Consider these recent examples: Timothée Chalamet and Michael B Jordan in those Louis Vuitton sex harnesses (which Chalamet claimed he thought was a bib, lol). A$AP Rocky in his silk Gucci scarf, declaring himself a ‘babushka boi forever’, and Jared Leto, who was one of the few men at last year’s Met Gala that actually made a sterling effort to stick to the event’s Catholic theme.
And there are those taking it further, too. Who could forget Ezra Miller’s Moncler x Pierpaolo Piccioli puffer gown and that goose feather Givenchy Couture cape; Jonathan Van Ness’s subversive sheer top and skirt combo, as made by his friend, stylist Alison Brooks; or, more recently, Cody Fern in a full Margiela look finished with a pair of Tabis, which saw the mainstream media, quite predictably, go into meltdown.
But why now? While Van Ness, Miller, and Fern are unapologetically queer, ten or 20 years ago it was much less common to see openly gay men celebrating their sexuality in the mainstream media, either through their art or the clothes they chose to wear. Where artists like Will Young were told to re-record tracks because they ‘sounded too gay’, now the likes of Frank Ocean, Troye Sivan, and Olly Alexander are asserting their queerness on the world’s stage, and proving that being gay and achieving mainstream success aren’t mutually exclusive.
Over the course of the last few years, as more and more openly gay men step out into the public eye, and attitudes toward gender and masculinity shift, there’s more space for experimentation than ever before. And, as we all know, it’s a universally accepted truth that where the gays go, the fashions will follow: bringing some much needed sartorial spice to the otherwise heteronormative pop culture soup (sorry straights, it’s just science).
“As more and more openly gay men step out into the public eye, and attitudes toward gender and masculinity shift, there’s more space for experimentation than ever before. And, as we all know, it’s a universally accepted truth that where the gays go, the fashions will follow”
The menswear landscape itself has radically changed, too – no longer synonymous with stuffy Savile Row suiting, it’s exploded into something young, vibrant, street-led, and pop cultural, with the global menswear market expected to outperform womenswear for the first time in 2020.
Following in the footsteps of the LGBTQ+ community, heterosexual men are more invested in fashion than ever, and in turn are becoming more open themselves: more open about liking fashion, more open in regards to gender, and, perhaps most importantly, more open to experimenting with different lewks. Just look at Michael B Jordan, who could not fit existing ideals of masculinity more if he tried (seriously: his pecs in Black Panther literally broke one girl’s retainer), or Gen-Z guys like Jaden Smith and Luka Sabbat who, unbound by fusty ideas of how men should dress, wear everything from LV skirts to rare Raf vests.
At last month’s SAG awards, Jordan showed up in one of Virgil Abloh’s LV harnesses-slash-bibs, just like Timothée before him. Though he opted for a piece which has its aesthetic roots deeply ingrained within gay culture – given their obvious precedence in the leather scene – he wasn’t magically turned gay (surprise!), nor did it make people think he was having some sort of crisis of masculinity. It was just something he chose to wear, without connotations. It was fun. In other words: no. Big. Deal.
Aside from shifts in attitude in regards to gender and sexuality, there’s also a slightly more cynical reasoning as to why men are loosening up and gaining confidence when it comes to dressing up, and deviating (finally) from the oh-so-boring, black-tie norm, which lies in social media, and more specifically memes. At a time when memes are becoming currency and visibility is key, men are realising they need to step their game up if they want to get noticed. Following in the footsteps of the likes of Lady Gaga in swathes of Valentino and Rihanna dressed as the actual pope, the red carpet is a battleground for attention, on which to fight for likes, comments, and the holy grail: memes (just ask Ezra). And let’s face it: a straightforward suit just isn’t going to cut it.
As London-based stylist Harry Lambert – the man behind Harry Styles’ amazing Gucci and Harris Reed looks – explains, a riskier approach is not only one hundred percent more fun, but also, much more rock ‘n’ roll. “The red carpet is where a lot of iconic fashion moments happen, but men have been traditionally seen to play it safe. But there’s no fun in that,” he explains. “I love a well-tailored classic suit, but we’ve seen it all before. There’s something exciting in seeing someone take a risk, and there’s confidence to be found in trying something new: being loud, being rebellious. Challenging the expected is being more and more respected.”