fashion masculinities robertl

Fashion Masculinities: The art of menswear. La mostra al V&A | Style

Men in the cities, 1981, graphite on paper, a work by the American artist Robert Longo (Thaddaeus Ropac collection) exhibited in the Fashion Masculinities: The Art of Menswear exhibition

There is no other item of clothing that is the symbol of male dress like the jacket and the confirmation comes from the transversal use that different generations and cultures currently make of it: a goal achieved in the path, started many years ago, to shake off images and prejudices.
In the late 1980s, when there was talk of a necessary change in men’s fashion, Issey Miyake told me that all fashion would change “when the jacket has three sleeves.” Back then, the words of the inventor of the yo-yo dress without dimensions or volume seemed a bit obscure and the result of the usual imaginative prediction of conceptual designers.

Today, however, his prophecy has come true: the third sleeve of his jacket has become his loss as a symbol of bourgeois men’s clothing, an emblem of the uniform of patriarchal power and its unchangeable representation. Of course, a blow to the explicitly male status had already come in the early 1980s, when Giorgio Armani’s fashion allowed many women to join boards of directors wearing his trouser suits. But even that, in reality, was proof of an all-male dominant symbology. As was the black jacket that Coco Chanel had created in the 1950s inspired by the one worn by the staff of an Austrian hotel and then ended up representing the tweed suit, feminine par excellence. The signs that something was changing forever, however, came only after the first decade of 2000 and precisely with Chanel when, in 2012, Karl Lagerfeld published the first volume of The Little Black Jacket in which what was “la petite veste noire” (the small black jacket indispensable in every female wardrobe that Hedi Slimane borrowed for his Dior Homme collections in the early 2000s) breaks the boundaries not only of images but of feminine shapes and proportions and appropriates the general imagination of men and women.

fashion masculinities smith

Singer-songwriter Sam Smith in Alasdair McLellan’s 2020 photography exhibited in the Fashion Masculinities: The Art of Menswear exhibition

The book became an exhibition itinerant and, in the more than 110 photographs, New York, Paris and Milan were able to observe the variants of a garment that, born in men’s tailoring and while apparently remaining faithful to its shape, had made itself available to extraordinary mutations and migrations like no other garment clothing. It is true that, already in 2008, Miuccia Prada made a high fashion version of it, building it with needle-punched silk fabrics and introducing the “oblique double-breasted” designed by Christian Dior for women in the 1950s, but it is precisely in 2012, who by adding decorations, stripping it of the sleeves and reducing it to a double-breasted waistcoat with lapels, transforms it into a parody of male power in the very collection that was supposed to celebrate that form of power. Since then, the journey has gone fast and it was easy for Kim Jones at Dior Men in 2019 to make the «oblique suit», the double-breasted jacket with the buttoning moved to one side observed in the Maison’s archives, the signature of her debut. And not only that: Jones is more daring by bringing the symbol of the 1947 New Look to the men’s collection of Dior, the Bar jacket, born as an emblem of femininity because it tightened the hips and enhanced the breasts: with the Dior Men collection for the winter of 2022 , the Bar has become a male “regular” also in the form of a coat. From here we understand how, in the collections for Balenciaga, Demna has been able to make the jacket, with its extraordinarily modified shapes and proportions, even an evolved variable of a street style that does not look at any origin, no conservative roots and no standardized rules of the delusions of “order and discipline” that often, and in a recurring way, take over the referees of men’s fashion. The destiny of the jacket, therefore, has changed forever because thanks to its imaginary “third sleeve”, it has changed the meaning of the signals that fashion periodically gives itself to overcome itself.

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