In classic art, men are depicted as large men who wear little clothing because their bodies have been trained to bear the weight of literal earths. People like Atlas and Hercules stand as icons of masculinity, their athleticism interwoven into their maleness. Little has changed with the depiction of men as brutish muscle monsters. Gay and straight magazines from GQ to OUT boast this man as the everyman. His every day is sports and weights, athletic shorts and basketballs. That is what being a man is.
That, sadly, is a myth. That image of a man is not real, save for the few people with the time and energy to devote to the self and the gym.
I am not that. I know one person who is like that and I rarely see him because he is a beef wrapped block of man. The rest of the men I know have athletic inklings but they by no means have the luxury or careers that demand they dress athletic. That idea is a cliche of maleness.
So why, why, why were the majority of the inaugural New York Men’s Fashion Week shows dominated by athletes? This isn’t referring to the models who, yes, are athletic: I’m referring to the style of clothing. Elastic waists giggled around the hips, sloppily attempting to boast tailoring and formality. Spandex underwear enabled sweat to wick but did little for actually advancing daily style. Clothing was made to help men jump and hop without fabric getting in the way—but are men just streetwear hungry runners who only wear sneakers? Is this manliness in 2015?
Absolutely not. This is a stereotype that designers have apparently become entranced with, a trend like Health Goth catching their eye and their not seeing that it is particle in fashion space. Rag & Bone seemed like the biggest offender as their collection was almost entirely an absurd black and white Sports Illustrated editorial. Thaddeus O’Neil and Saturday attempted to bend male form only to get caught in the surf. Public School gussied up skaters. Richard Chai‘s otherwise great show was annoyingly undercut by sneakers and sneakers and sneakers. Even Duckie Brown‘s flowy, feminine show was spoiled by tied spa waists.
When athletics weren’t a focus, you landed in other annoying, tired man tropes. Calvin Klein thought utilitarian, workman cargo pockets were an added bonus to otherwise sleek looks. Ralph Lauren predictably stuck with suits and, while Michael Bastian‘s showing was a sleek delight, the collection was more of the preppy same that Lauren did. Perry Ellis, John Varvatos, and Todd Snyder did a bit more of similar suiting: Perry advancing plain, Varvatos giving douche, and Snyder getting into the armed services. They all felt repetitive in their own regard. Even Thom Browne‘s blue suits were exhausting.
If these collections are reflections of our sex then we have unfortunately been stereotyped and distilled down to something surprisingly sexist: we are the brutes who move, who make with the body, and who only work in suits. We are ready to arm wrestle and build, brutes without sensitivity outside of a navy blue suit. That is so fucking boring. Most of the shows run into each other like a long sentence, where the same words are used over and over again. Everything is too loungey and too lazy, like pajamas these designers picked up on the way back home from a tropical vacation.
It’s boring. It’s uninspired! If this is our fashion week, we fucking missed the mark. Not everything was bad, though: Opening Ceremony was exaggerated, casual rhythmic fun; Orley did super well subverting masculinity by bearing stomachs and using doily crochets; Rochambaeu, while athletic, created whimsical, delicate future wear; Robert Geller added a very subtle creative, cross-gender drama to his collection; and—Surprisingly!—Coach‘s playing with color and patterns crashed into refreshingly plain, everyday man forms felt like the most now and wearable of all the offerings (that they wonderfully had female models wear). Even the unwearable offerings like Gypsy Sport were at least juxtaposing what men could wear. I will take their thrift store Hood By Air by way or R.E.I. kids section over the chliches.
Everything was good, yes—but the majority of the shows were underwhelming. It’s been done before, by better designers who weren’t exclusively focused on men. Maybe this is an American thing? Maybe this is reflective of our collective inability to move beyond differences and think that, yes, we are not always defined by our gender, class, abilities, etc. We men can be more than athletic uniforms and suits. Men are not this constantly athletic! If they are, I can guarantee you they are not this fashionable. There need to be more extremes, more thrills in what men can be. Also, elastic waist pants and shorts do nothing for the ass.
One of the reasons why it may have taken so long to have a men’s fashion week is because it felt too obvious, that there didn’t feel like there would be enough design in menswear for designers to offer something worth a week: it’s all the same. So? The resulting fashion week was exactly that. It was more of the same. It was boring. If this is men’s fashion week is, then men’s fashion week sucks. Sportswear is not the future of men’s fashion.