Wednesday, July 30, 2008

NYC Street - A Ritual Walk Around Union Square

Drop crotch shorts and pants seem to be synonymous these past seasons with certain NYC boutiques and designer names both big and small. When the above gentleman was asked where he found his, he simply replied “Indonesia.” No designer label. No boutique. Now, granted, today you are just as likely to find designer brands in Indonesia as you are at New York fashion week, but this does bring us back to reality when we consider where our fashion inspirations really come from. It’s important to remember that throughout history design has borrowed heavily from whatever cultures appear “exotic” during its era. We can easily see this with the Rococo, Victorian, and 1990s obsession with anything Chinese-inspired. When we look back on these eras, these infatuations look silly or, even sometimes, culturally ignorant. As we browse today’s avant-garde shops filled with eastern-inspired shapes and African-based textiles and patterns, we’re excited to see new and innovative garments within reach but at the same time do these pieces display ourselves as an era with little cultural understanding or is it alright to enjoy the fun and novelty inspired by a far away place? Do these pieces promote understanding of other nations, or do they reduce their culture down to a simple motif? If we wear drop-crotch pants this season, do we need to know their history from the Indian dhoti all the way up to MC Hammer, or can we just focus on our individual perception of the piece and today’s trend?

It’s unusual to see these same cultural issues still existing during an era of globalization and digital information, but at the same time it’s nice and humbling to know that we do still live in a place where there can exist a certain mystery and wonder within our world.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

San Francisco Street

Images by Vanguard - San Francisco

I have no particular analysis for these ensembles. I appreciate them greatly and paired them because they both seemed to have a certain cirque du menswear aesthetic. Enjoy.

More New York street photos coming soon.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Runway - Walter Van Beirendonck: Fall 2008

It’s a shame to limit Walter Van Beirendonck’s work to just a few images from the current season. As one of the original Antwerp Six, he has been prolifically designing artistic men’s garments longer than most of the fashionista’s pictured on this site have been alive. However, we must start somewhere, no?

Although the latex undergarment suits for this season’s line uncomfortably remind me of a rubber doll convention (don’t Google that if you’re on a work computer). I can see the general idea diffusing down in some ways (i.e., tight colorful gloves, pieces with extreme sheen) into the fashion scene. Latex aside, many of his pieces – despite focusing on social and political statements before wearability – could still be appropriate for streetwear. Some of his garments use the technique we discussed below of exaggerating typical men’s fashion to create a statement while still making a piece for everyday. And while wearing a strap-on to the grocery store may raise more than a few eyebrows, Van Beirendonck’s slightly less literal exploration of male body identity becomes more favorable when camouflaged into his printed motifs.

It’s important to point out that Van Beirendonck is also searching for new male silhouettes. Although we have discussed this idea many times, we have mainly focused on doing so through the creation of draped pieces for men. Instead, here we see the use of padding and structuring. Typical forms exaggerated through the addition of padding while corsetry is carefully introduced into pants to create a highly structured and unusually flattering male silhouette.

Finally, we must point out the intellect behind his creations. Rather that following trend, Van Beirendonck is known to focus on statements ranging from safe-sex to sustainability to male body image in order to create his lines. The burka-inspired veiled hoods of this season’s line signal ideas about today’s globalized culture and gender roles. So, although wearing his pieces may not immediately signal you as “in,” they will provide you with a deeper image and perhaps a deeper philosophy. Don’t you just love a smart designer?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

San Francisco Street

Photos by Vanguard - San Francisco

So, if the idea is that we can transform typical pieces enough to fill them with new ideas and individual identity, then the question is: how far do we need to transform or reinvent typical pieces in order for them to achieve this new idea?

Above we have a dress shirt – a symbol of men’s fashion – but here it is Raf Simons-ified. This piece is inflated beyond possibility. Hanging down to the knees and exaggerating the sheerness of men’s white button downs to near transparency (does it piss off anyone else that you can always see through white dress shirts?). Here, the symbols have stayed the same: collar, white fabric, button down, tails, cuffs. But through their exaggeration the form itself has been changed.

Above we have two more typical men’s fashion pieces: the hoodie and baseball cap. These pieces, however, change the material and construction in order to set themselves apart. The form of the hoodie has not changed, but by piecing it together with boldly contrasting colors it is changed enough to alter our perception of the piece. In a way, the lines created by the piecing allow the hoodie to be at first perceived as a different form altogether. The baseball cap is a form nostalgic irony by keeping it the same archetypal symbol but finishing it in and unexpected yellow patent leather.

I like these photos for their accessible inspiration. Yes, the garments pictured are designer, but any person in any town with any sum of money can easily reproduce these ideas in many ways with a bit of hunting and some time at the sewing machine. Meanwhile, by keeping basic and typical forms, it allows men even in towns and villages with the smallest fashion perception to express themselves with less potential of being ostracized or burnt at the stake by the townsfolk.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

San Francisco Street

Images by Vanguard - San Francisco

I know what you’re thinking. Blazers? Dress slacks? This is not Vanguard. Although these items are an unlikely find for us, I wanted to present them in a way that is expressive and distinctly not 'GQ.' The two men featured here have found ways to create a strong, individual statement with traditional men’s pieces while also appearing very well put together.

In the first photo, note how the high waisted and full dress pant is accentuated by the pocket chain. The juxtaposition of this pant with a tight blazer creates a unique silhouette.

The man below also alters the traditional silhouette by layering loose, unstructured pieces that appear to drape together. This creates richness, depth, and movement. The open neckline not only shows off his tattoo, but exposes and emphasizes the human beneath these layers.

Both men make use of contrasting textures. We see gauzy fabrics, corduroy, fur, and elements with sheen such as patent leather, metals, and nylon. This keeps the outfits interesting and rich.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Runway - Raf Simons: Spring 2008

This should probably be my last plug for a Spring 2008 line as that season is now being quickly clearanced away and we can already see what is being created for next year. I do want to focus, however, on this one show as I believe it to be a pivotal point for Raf Simons. In the past few years, Raf has clearly been thinking more and more about dressing men outside of the box and in new silhouettes. Spring 2008 finally hit a point of devotion towards innovation as his line explored truly new forms appropriate for today’s man. We see this innovation only continuing to grow and evolve for this fall and the upcoming spring.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

San Francisco Street - Transfer

The following images by Vanguard - San Francisco.

The idea of the “appropriate” amount of skin a man can display has a huge impact on the amount of new forms and shapes that can be invented for men’s fashion. This influence is commonly discussed in women’s clothing (think of revolutionary flapper-garb and the ever changing skirt length) but we can, and do, see the same thing happening in menswear. The seventies and eighties are known for short shorts, bulgingly tight pants, and an abundance of exposed chest hair. Going into the nineties, however, these elements were all sharply removed and we saw the introduction of “relaxed fit” pants and shorts that would rarely run higher than knee height. This modesty provided us with new silhouettes for men but, as the pendulum quickly swings towards less modesty this summer, we should see even more emancipation in possible shapes for men.

The ever-deepening v-neck tee served as a good indicator for an attitude of exposure edging on, but few could have guessed the explosion of short-shorts coming from every side – on the runway, chain stores, vintage – even to the point of magazines denouncing any short (aside from knickers, of course) that are not clear above the knees. Along with shorts, a sea of new sheers and lose tanks – which seem to criticize covering the upper portion of men – have recently come into play. Place the catalyst where you will (global warming, vintage nostalgia) but one thing is sure: this reinvented exposure of the male body will provide a steady stream of new shapes and pieces that today’s man can add to his wardrobe.

This also creates a fantastic environment for menswear designers who want to experiment with new pieces and ideas that reveal more of a man’s body without their designs so quickly and negatively denounced as “flamboyant” as they probably would have been only a few seasons ago. This is going to provide menswear with a fantastic flow of new possibilities.

Fashion agendas aside, the exposure of the male figure could not have come at a better time when we consider larger men’s social issues. In times that may be characterized by mainstream teenage use of steroids and the growing visibility and discussion of male body dysmorphic disorders, will this sudden fashion trend allow also for visibility of how the “true” male figure is proportioned or will it only further feed the insecurities of today’s already vulnerable men?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Global Street - San Francisco

Currently I am meandering through San Francisco – thus no updates – but I thought I would take time to plug the local San Francisco street fashion scene. Although now apparently defunct, the archives of Street Fancy is one of my favorite spots on the web. Their blog has a strong focus on men’s style and, as you can imagine, men’s fashion in San Fran is anything goes.

The following images are from Street Fancy.