Listen up glamazons and haute couture darlings — the fashionistos are taking over.
Look no further than the camera flashes on the red carpet to see this sartorial change at play.
At this year’s Oscars, Timothée Chalamet ditched the customary black-and-white tuxedo, opting to go shirtless alongside his sequined Louis Vuitton blazer, accented with delicate lace cuffs. Sebastian Stan brightened up the Met Gala red carpet in May with an exuberant fuchsia suit by Valentino. And Lil Nas X brought campy flair to the MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday, rocking a black, feathery skirt and matching headpiece by Harris Reed.
“2022 may be the first year in recorded history where male celebrities have stolen the spotlight from female celebrities on the red carpet,” says Dirk Standen, dean for the School of Fashion at Savannah College of Art and Design.
This growing diversity makes for what Standen calls “a golden age of men’s fashion”— for celebs and non-celebs alike.
“I don’t think there’s ever been such a wealth of options in terms of labels and designers,” Standen says. “Celebrities and regular consumers are expressing their individual style in exciting new ways.”
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Standen says while celebrity style may still wield a certain power, social media has given everyday men a voice in the evolution of menswear.
“Obviously, those red-carpet images go around the world on social media and of course they have an influence, but at the same time you see a lot of these trends start on TikTok and work their way through society from there,” Standen says . “It’s much more of a two-way street than one thing influencing the other.”
Fashion nanoinfluencer Cruz Rendon has used social media to create a platform for their vibrant, gender-nonconforming looks, which also take inspiration from their Mexican heritage.
“Anyone can be a tastemaker now, and all it really takes is your phone, a camera, and your own confidence and sense of style,” says Rendon, who’s amassed nearly 4,500 followers on Instagram and scored brand partnerships with UGG and Amazon Fashion.
Such bold individuality is rubbing off on Hollywood too, says Barnette Holston, a fashion influencer based in Washington DC with upwards of 70,000 followers, as seen in the unique looks of male celebs like Jeff Goldblum and Lakeith Stanfield.
“If you look at how Hollywood celebrities used to dress, they kind of used to be managed by the movie industry,” which would “want them to have an image that what they saw on screen is what they did in real life,” Holston says. “There are guys (now who) are more courageous and willing to take those big fashion risks.”
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Throwing out the gender rulebook
Gone are the days of T-shirts and jeans or neckties and dress slacks dominating the men’s racks.
In November, Kid Cudi turned the red carpet at the CFDA Fashion Awards into a bridal affair with his wedding dress-inspired outfit. During his iHeartRadio Jingle Ball performance in December, Lil Nas X rocked a metallic silver plaid skirt. And in June, Bad Bunny boldly paired a black mesh top and two-tone plaid skirt for a concert appearance.
“Celebrities, especially musicians, have always incorporated what was traditionally considered feminine articles of clothing in their wardrobe, and often that was done to shock or at least be provocative,” Standen says. “But today’s stars are doing it in a much less forced and more natural way. They’re not trying to break the rules: They’re saying the old rules no longer apply.”
Celebrity stylist Tiffany Briseno, who works closely with pop singer Shawn Mendes, says they’re inspired by gender-bending style icons such as Freddie Mercury, Jimi Hendrix and Robert Plant.
“They all had their own sort of individual style, and a lot of them were free in expressing that, so that is what we’re drawn to,” Briseno says. “They did break the mold in those times and … especially as a musician, you wanna just do something that is authentically you.”
Stylist Tiffani Moreno says genderfluid ensembles seen on the red carpet help expand “people’s imagination of what people can do in everyday fashion.” Moreno, who’s styled actor Cole Sprouse, says the “Riverdale” star “really likes to play with fashion” and is open to her “feminine approach” to styling.
“It doesn’t just have to be T-shirts and jeans or just a plain suit,” Moreno says. “It can be something that’s wide-legged with ruffles and a silk shirt underneath. It could be something that’s a really bright color.”
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While you may see this playful wave of men’s fashion pop up on the red carpet or on your newsfeed, you may have a harder time spotting it at your local strip mall.
Lucia Cuba Oroza, assistant professor of fashion design and social justice at The New School, says despite this increase in experimentation, mainstream menswear remains “very heteronormative” and “very binary,” as the fashion industry at large continues to promote conservative societal norms.
“There’s still a tremendous amount of work to be done … opening up a greater amount of channels to engage in a conversation about diversity,” Oroza says, specifically in terms of “the opportunity clothing gives us to engage in recognizing our own self in society .”
London-based fashion designer Thomas Newbury says this lack of access can contribute to men’s hesitance to embrace cutting-edge fashion because they don’t have the recognizability or mass appeal of celebrities.
“If you want something that isn’t so stereotypical, you then have to go into the women’s section of the store, which for a lot of men is much scarier, so it then looks like there isn’t an audience for it when there might be, but if it’s not available you can’t buy into it,” Newbury says.
Briseno says the “disconnect” between nontraditional menswear and its availability in commercial fashion is also apparent at the celebrity level.
“To find these very unique and more editorial, avant-garde pieces for my clients, I have to go directly to the designers that I know that are doing them, because if I went to a Nordstrom or Bloomingdale’s and I go to the men’s section , some of the pieces … just don’t exist there,” Briseno says.
But perhaps there’s hope for this gap to be bridged one day. Rendon says though “there wasn’t a lot of expression within your own four walls” during COVID-19 isolation periods, interest in expressive fashion is growing as the world continues to reopen.
“Now people are out in the world and able to be a little bit more playful,” Rendon says. “People are eager to really show up as their true selves or express themselves creatively, so we’re going in a direction where whimsical, fun silhouettes are becoming the norm.”
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