Paris Men's Challenges The Meaning Of Masculinity
Mon 25 Jan
It feels a little trite to be writing about the idea of masculinity during menswear; arguably, it should go without saying. But this season, designers challenged the meaning of masculinity in interestingly varied nuances. Not just ‘men in skirts’ and a world away from the unsolicited hubbub of Harry Styles in a dress for American Vogue’s December 2020 issue - brands at Paris Fashion Week Men’s AW21 re-appropriated tropes of masculinity.
This season, brands such as Virgil Abloh’s Louis Vuitton and Hed Mayner, passed direct comment on style archetypes. Abloh’s fourth show, and arguably his best yet, was a progressive vantage at how our gender and authority is perceived through our appearance. Longline pleated skirts, the preen and proudness of the 80s New York aesthetic, 70s fluidity, organza brooches and the impeccable casting - including Louis Vuitton’s first black trans model, poet Kai Isiah Jamal. Those are potent gestures alone, but in the context of a brand and creative director associated with hyper-masculine hip-hop tropes, it’s compelling - a sign of change. Hed Mayner, the new super-star of tailoring, re-appropriates the typical tailoring masculine tropes to carve out and pay homage to the many nuanced, layered styles of gentlemen and characters he has encountered. Draping, muted tones, interlacing cape-like swathes - this season was a notch-up from last.
On the flip side, Charles Jeffrey has been a purveyor of a-gender since the brand’s inception; his garments are created with character and fluidity in mind. This season’s lookbook saw each long-line parka or tailored tartan two-piece pictured on models across the gender spectrum. JW Anderson similarly presents his garments on male and female models. Rather than creating a central idea of masculinity or gender, his focus on craft and texture is paramount. These pieces are as if works of art - any wearer can be part of that exhibition.
Both Andersson Bell and Kim Jones’ Dior captured an effeminate undertone in their collections. For Bell, their AW21 collection had notes of Francesco Risso's Marni, with the 70s sensibility in patchworks, angora knits and sliced and slightly flared tailoring. With a youthful twist - Bell is one to watch. Jones’ Dior frequently looks to the house's couture counterpart for inspiration, with past collections pulling in opera gloves and impeccable silks. This season, Jones, alongside a collaboration with artist Peter Doig, nodded to the New Romantics; an era when fearless forms of masculinity manifested in Boy George and Marilyn. An undoubtedly stand-out collection.
This season above all else, brands acknowledged the broad-spectrum of masculinity. In some cases, it was an unpicking of the many variations and layers that masculinity presents itself in, in others, it was to do away with the idea of masculinity altogether. For sure, the tropes of male machismo felt instantly outdated. Consumers want the full spectrum of masculinity mirrored in their looks; no-one is one note, so why should our garments be? While it’s not (or shouldn’t be) groundbreaking when a brand pulls in typically feminine ideas, it is forward-thinking that designers seem to listen and answer the undoubtedly varied clientele it has.