Sep 14, 2010
What do you want to be when you grow up? A pilot? A soldier? A mountaineer? Honestly.
I was leafing through the New York Times Men's Fashion supplement yesterday -- conveniently timed to coincide with Fashion Week here in NYC. I was underwhelmed.
Men's fashion today is about playing dress-up. It's like somebody dug through the costume shop of an old summer stock theater, or a trunk in Grandpa's attic, and threw together some outfits.
(click pics to supersize)
We can dress up like the Mad Men cast in 1960s suits and vintage accessories and play advertising executive...
or Alaskan fur trader...
or British dandy.
or Steve Urkel.
Here's my hunch: when it comes to men's fashion, 95% of men couldn't care less. Of the 5% that has any interest of all, 10% of those (so we're talking .5% of the total) follow fashion in any meaningful way. (My point: nobody cares.)
The elephant in the room is that most American men can outfit themselves for both work and play at the Gap. Men's fashion, at least in the United States, exists in a self-referencing bubble. The same cannot be said of women's fashion. A lot of women wear that stuff -- or at least take their cues from it, and not only in New York City.
Then there are the ads in this NY Times Fashion supplement:
There's more advertising than editorial, needless to say, and most of these are the same global brands you find in all the women's fashion magazines, the ones owned by LVMH and PPR.
How many men wear these brands? How many men can afford these brands?
And what is this? Why is this man's ass crack on display?
Then there are those "family portrait" ads...looking eerily like something out of either The Addams Family or a throwback to the old Ralph Lauren spreads of the Eighties but with an ironic twist and a more multiculti cast. So tired.
This men's fashion supplement seems to exists solely as an afterthought, a bone thrown to the Times' big fashion advertisers. No wonder it feels D.O.A.
What does it say about American men and the roles they play today, and masculinity in general? Why isn't there a cable guy or a Best Buy sales associate in the mix?
Contemporary Men's fashion is a trip down memory lane -- or a masquerade party. The telephone lineman, the aviator, the mechanic, the hunter, the motorcycle-riding rebel, the cowboy, the fireman...basically it's an expanded version of the Village People.
Wise readers, do you agree?
How about the men in your lives? Do they follow fashion?
If they have a clearly definable personal style, where does it come from and what is it based on?
If there's ultimately no need for men's fashion, why does it exist at all -- or does it (really)?