Author: Ben Tuthill
These are dark times. We made it through the Mayan Apocalypse more or less unscathed, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t entered a bleak new era of human history. The end may be less imminent than it was a month ago, but already there are signs that something bad is coming. We can ignore those signs like we always do, or we can open up our eyes for once and pay attention.
In late December 2012, street-style originator Bill Cunningham released a compilation of photographs featuring young men wearing what he calls a return to the court styles of 17th-century Europe. Cunningham found otherwise normal-looking young men all across Manhattan dressed in baggy shorts or skirts over skin-tight leggings. He posited that the trend was prevalent enough to evince the first rumblings of a potential shift in the silhouette of American menswear: “To my eye, the peacock – the male peacock – has escaped his cage, and I don’t think anyone’s going to be able to corral him or get him back into the cage of conformity. He’s on his own now, and he’s flying high.”
Cunningham wasn’t the first one to notice. That honor goes to Scott Schumann of “The Sartorialist,” who as far back as May 2011 posted a picture of a young man on a basketball court wearing a wife-beater, oversized (“almost skirtlike”) athletic shorts, and black compression tights. He compared the look to the runway styles of Givenchy, Rick Owens, and Raf Simons. “I’ve always said that sports is at the forefront of what ‘real men’ (read: macho men) would wear,” he wrote.
It sounded like a threat. Just you wait. Something is coming. I thought it was crazy. Schumann was out of touch. The guy in the picture didn’t even think he had a good look.
Fashion Week 2011 came and went. The avant-garde houses showed look after look with shorts, tights, and skirts. Everyone clapped but no one thought anything of it. You can’t take Paris menswear too seriously.
In December 2011, Kanye West appeared onstage with Jay-Z wearing a custom-made Givenchy skirt. The world blinked. But it was Kanye West. He replaced his bottom teeth with diamonds. Nothing to be taken seriously.
That winter saw the rise of A$AP Rocky, a New York rapper with a penchant for drape-y black ensembles in the style of Rick Owens and Ricardo Tisci. Others followed: Theophilus London, Waka Flocka Flame, Pusha T, Tyga. But those were rappers. Rappers aren’t real people.
In May 2012 Scott Schuman posted two pictures, one of a man in a long quilted kilt and the other of what looked like a business man wearing baggy black shorts over tights. He labeled the post “The Shape of Modern Menswear.” The commenters were confused. “This is a pretty silly look,” said one. “This look literally terrifies me,” said another.
Summer 2012 saw menswear bloggers – probably the most reasonable people in fashion – turning away from traditionalist tucked-shirts and moving toward a flowier silhouette. Men who once endorsed full suits as casual wear turned to tunics and long shirt tails under jackets and cardigans. The unspoken look of the summer was an untucked button-up with the bottom few buttons undone, leaving the hem of the shirt to float up, dress-like, in the wind. Pants stayed slim but shirts got looser. The center of gravity moved from the waist to somewhere in the upper thighs.
In November, Schuman publicly threatened his girlfriend that he was going to start wearing leggings with shorts.
In December Cunningham released his exposé.
Just before Christmas I went to a concert and a saw a morbidly obese man wearing a massively oversized untucked dress shirt that hung down to his knees, and I thought to myself, that guy has a look.
Now I’m looking at a picture of A$AP Rocky, taken a few weeks ago, wearing what is literally 100 percent a sundress and wondering why I’m not wearing one too.
When I think about the well-dressed men throughout the ages, the first person who comes to mind is Arnold Shortman from Hey Arnold.
Menswear doesn’t change quickly. It takes years of relentless bludgeoning before a trend catches on. Step one is to convince the people who watch runway shows to accept a new silhouette. Once that happens a few brave men will try it out and the rest of us won’t make fun of them for doing it. After that it’s just a slow roll toward prevalence, public awareness, and universal acceptance.
They broke me down. I’ve accepted it. Something is coming. Toss out your suit, confess your sins, and stock up on cans. This is the end.
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