menswear and its sexual allure
Greg French investigates the pec-tacular rise of sex appeal in London menswear.
Fashion, as Vivienne Westwood once said, is all about eventually being naked. That's pretty difficult to think about when its sub zero temperatures outside, and an abundance of outerwear trudges down the runways of London Collections: Men. However fashion and nudity - or sex as Dame V is actually getting at - have of course been bed pals for the foreseeable past (and foreseeable future). Sex sells. Look at the recent Bieber bulge for Calvin Klein or that M&S video with a nearly naked David Gandy giving us the death stare to a soundtrack of a beating heart.
Interesting then that this season, that age old gimmick of cracking out the six-pack seemed to have subdued a little. Granted, the season doesn't allow for much skin on show, yet the cover-up has become quite noticeable. Take for example Astrid Andersen - whose spring/summer15 boys had gone from pecs-out peacocks to hooded hunks, complete with fur trapper hats and French berets. The trick? Menswear is able to play with the libido without having to raise the hemline or deepen the v. The autumn/winter season, if we are to consider Westwood's statement, is about the suggestion of what lies beneath.
No one gives better sex than LC:M resident Tom Ford. Famed for using porn stars in his advertising campaigns and that notorious shaved pubic hair G during his stint at Gucci, it's no secret that Ford is an open advocate of getting your rocks off. The Tom Ford man is every bit as sexy as his woman, with the difference being the silk dress is replaced by immaculate tailoring, high roll necks and oversized fur lined aviator jackets. The effect is effortlessly masculine, without the gauche display of muscle or leg. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that Ford himself never wears underwear, which enables him to build such seductive quality into the garments we can see on top. Likely then that, like his shows, access is granted by invitation only. And boy it's an invite that everyone's desperate to get their hands on.
London itself is a city famously built on sexual-liberation. From the swinging sixties, to the basement clubs of Soho, it's a cultural hub that's dressed up, or down, for political, social and sexual reasons all at the same time. As such, LC:M presents, unlike its neighbouring runways in Paris and Milan, a varying ideal of the male form. Look no further at the rise of Anti-Agency or street casting as proof of varying and multi faceted presentations of masculinity. And that's because we are a capital that is so proud of its diversity; where the people in the collections are just as important as the garments themselves.
As such, London based designers aren't afraid to rebel against the rules and regulations of men's and womenswear without compromising the sex appeal of the clothing. Moreover, it refreshes fashion for a generation that has never before been so free to explore and celebrate their sexuality. London loves to raise an eyebrow and keep it there. They'll pin it, hairspray it or stitch it to do so. Sibling's stand out show on Saturday is just an example. Ripped models were pretty in pink, with candy coloured hair and ferociously vivid suede Chelsea boots. The classic menswear pieces were all there - ties, rugby socks, tailored separates and bombers. Yet they were mixed in with traditionally provocative feminine dress; an open sequined cardigan or a high-rise kilt. It was the fusion of all those elements that made the boys as sexy, if not more so, than the immaculately tailored models over on the Hardy Amies runway.
The styling of London's model army is also of heightened importance. From Lee Roach's straight-out-of-bed hair to Alexander McQueen's sodden, wet look men, the stories conjured are more seductive than other fashion capitals, which tend to feel more commercially driven. Sex is, in some way, all part of the fantasy of fashion that those designers conjure, so the richer the story telling, the stronger the desire.
The theory of the gaze on the fashion runway is certainly of note. Freud wrote that "libido-driven 'looking' is a core element of the sex drive". In short, the majority of us want to look good in order to project a specific image of our own sexuality. That might be via a shocking pink skirt, or a flawless bespoke suit from Savile Row. The expectation however remains the same, which is to be sexually desired by those that we sexually desire. Previously in menswear, and indeed still mostly in Paris and Milan, it was the idea of masculine strength that was fetishised - the power and might of the male body. Just look at Versace or DSquared2. When you look past the homoerotic undertones, it's the male form that is celebrated in all its chiseled glory, used to sell the concept of sex to the viewer.
This however, no longer seems to be the case in London. Whilst indeed those six packs will keep heads turning, the real sex appeal in London menswear seems to lie in its sexual liberation. It's broken so many rules; trousers have been mixed with skirts, tweeds mixed with jerseys, and monochromes rivalled with colour. Let's face it - what's more sexy than having the option to be exactly who you want to be. I think I'd choose that over abs any day.
Text Greg French
Photography Piczo and Ash Kingston, backstage at LC:M spring/summer 15 and autumn/winter 15