In this age of political correctness, men and women are supposed to be treated as equals. However, in the same way that sport remains predominantly male-orientated, the focus of the fashion industry is still largely angled towards ladykind. Whereas Kate Moss, Gisele, Manolo Blahnik and Vivienne Westwood are essentially household names, most people will struggle to name even a handful of male models or designers of menswear.
And yet, in response to men taking more of an interest in personal grooming and styling in recent times, fashion houses and retailers are beginning to regard male fashion as a more important component of the industry. The emergence of ‘metrosexuals’ may appear to have happened quite suddenly but, in fact, there were trendy men long before the advent of ‘Nivea for Men’ moisturisers and manbags. Here, we pay tribute to those responsible for some of the key moments in the evolution of men’s fashion.
Charlie Chaplin was a celebrated director, composer, musician and screenwriter but his legacy is most likely to be his memorable on-screen character, The Tramp. Considered an icon of the silent film era, The Tramp’s tight coat, oversized trousers and shoes, bowler hat, and bamboo cane are instantly recognisable. Louis Vuitton has cited Chaplin as the main inspiration behind his Spring/Summer ’09 men’s collection so be sure to get working on those toothbrush moustaches, boys.
Legendary actor James Dean epitomised the ‘live fast, die young’ motto, dying in a high-speed road collision, aged 24, after his just three credited film roles. Despite his brief time at the top of the Hollywood roster, Dean delivered one of the most enduring images of the 1950’s when attired in casual red bomber jacket, crisp white T-shirt, light-wash denim jeans and hardwearing boots for his role as Jim Stark in ‘Rebel Without a Cause’.
The Fab Four’s contribution to popular culture was by no means limited to music. Their experimentation with bright colours, floral patterns, Indian and influences in the latter stages of their career were certainly influential but, in the style stakes, they will probably be best remembered for their fitted collarless suits, ankle-length boots and mop-top hairstyles.
Enigmatic musician David Bowie has enjoyed a career spanning multiple decades. One of Bowie’s most memorable projects was an album he recorded as alter-ego, Ziggy Stardust. An androgynous rockstar from another planet possessed of unnaturally red hair, effeminate choice of dress and an ambiguous sexuality, the Stardust persona is regarded as a major exponent of the glam-rock style of the 1970’s.
Victoria Beckham frequently graces the pages of fashion magazines but her husband, David Beckham, is arguably the biggest style icon. Regarded as the patron saint of metrosexuality, the footballer admits to sculpting his eyebrows, occasionally wears nail-varnish and owns a jewellery collection that would put most female fashionistas to shame. The mohawk hairstyle he sported during the 2002 World Cup prompted millions of copycat cuts but his infamous wearing of a sarong back in 1998 will surely be his fashion legacy.
Indie hipsters The Klaxons spearheaded the so-called ‘new rave’ explosion of 2007. Centred around recycled 80’s fashion, new rave style often incorporates fluorescent colours, glowsticks, skinny jeans and jagged hairstyles. The Klaxons’ fashion philosophy seems to be “the more ridiculous, the better” and practically any fashion faux pas they make can be justified by claiming they were simply being ironic.
A blog-tailored version of a feature published in DCU's The Look Magazine, December in 2008 (minus the sub-editor's grammatical gaffes.)