the return of the return of the male jumpsuit
The male wardrobe is built on foundations of functionality so why isn’t one of the most functional of staples more widely worn. If anyone can persuade men to don jumpsuits, it’s Miuccia Prada.
"They are my new obsession. Probably because they are simple," Miuccia Prada mused backstage after being asked about her spring/summer 18 jumpsuits. They might be her latest obsession but it's the second time she has turned her hand to them in a men's collection. "I am so obsessed with jumpsuits, I can tell you the last time Prada showed jumpsuits — Spring 2008. Do you worry for me?," Charlie Porter asked in his Financial Times show review. I'm old enough and Miuccia-magnetised enough to remember them in all their geometric glory too. The sight of their return to Prada's latest men's show provoked a flashback to an opinion piece Charlie wrote for the Guardian following their debut, Are you ready to jump? The jumpsuit is simple, practical and the height of fashion he proclaimed and duly declared it was time for men to get over their prejudices and, "Don the workwear that lets you live". His argument rang true then and almost ten years on, still echoes true today.
From jeans to joggers, the male wardrobe is built on foundations of functionality so you'd expect one of the most functional of staples to be more widely worn. Although, he donned them himself -- supplementing his roomy Dickies version with versions from Gosha Rubchinskiy and Richard Nicoll -- his jumpsuit call-to-arms (well, bodies) was largely ignored. So much so that their appearance at Prada spring/summer 18 was just as powerful and as provocative as it had been a decade before.
"Prada hadn't done them in such a long while," Charlie explains over a crackling mobile conversation during a quiet moment between shows. "I think the purpose they served in the collection was to provide that jolt." Miuccia thrives on providing fashion's jolts. As fans, critics and consumers, we long for her sartorial and sensory shake-ups. The wider public require a little more encouragement.
For a garment invented in 1919 by a Florentine Futurist, the world has been slow to embrace jumpsuits. As he shared his design with the world, Ernesto Michahelles declared it as, "The most innovative, futuristic garment ever produced in the history of Italian fashion." Delighting in its democratic potential, Ernesto even published the pattern in Italian newspaper La Nazione, making it accessible to the greater public. "Perhaps a reason why they're considered weird is that they're like one of those Utopian ideals that don't quite translate to the real world," Charlie wonders.Despite this one-piece garment being adopted into the everyday reality of everyone from astronauts to Andre 3000, blue-collar workers to Busta Rhymes and the Beastie Boys, sightings of men wearing them outside of garages and space shuttles continues to shock.
Jumpsuits and their shortsleeves siblings the romper are still seen as a weird proposition for men to wear. "Men are so used to separates," Charlie explains. "I think there is something weird for men about wearing something so completely one tone and one fabric, from top to bottom."
Months before Miuccia provided her latest fashion jolt, the Kickstarter campaign for RompHim garnered the attention of keyboard warriors, lol merchants, content-hungry journalists and the bemused masses alike. Echoing Ernesto's daydreams, ACED Design's design was launched with the aim of starting a "fashion revolution" and male rompers briefly took centre stage in early conversations around what men might be wearing this summer. In addition to trending on socials and firing up the meme generators, the Kickstarter campaign smashed its pledge goal of $10,000 -- at the time of writing, it has surpassed $353,000 from over 3,000 backers -- and the first run of pastel-hued designs sold out in less than a week. While the campaign could be deemed a success, the prevalent reaction was pointing and laughing. "Just me, in a RompHim, with a fidget spinner, and a grande Unicorn Latte. That's what I want the world to remember about 2017," tweeted @MikeWehner. Then came the memes. There were many, here are five that we remember before Twitter was overwhelmed...
"There is that shaming aspect to menswear, men love to humiliate friends and joke about clothing." Inspired by the bros, Vice commissioned Devin Pacholik to put a Zara denim romper through a series of everyday tests and asked the public-at-large for their thoughts. Despite the odd "you look a bit too much like Dexys Midnight Runners for me," the approval rating was surprisingly high. The comments received on social media were less favourable. Now, we might forgive you for chuckling over the approach of the all-American, swaggering bros behind RompHim because there's more than a whiff of adult-sized toddler about their designs but you can't laugh at Miuccia's mastery of the utilitarian. Honestly, there can be no snickering in her sartorial sermons.
"The great thing about the Prada ones is they're super butch -- they were macho in their cut," Charlie agrees. "There's a slight gather at the small of the back, so they hold a shape over the shoulder and they have a check pocket which exaggerates the shape of the shoulder. Which is then exaggerated by the styling with the pushed up sleeves. When the person designing the garment has thought about creating a masculine shape, they work." There's no chance of you looking like a giant baby or a lost mechanic in Prada. For the brave, Miuccia offered the comic strip jumpsuit and for the curious, navy and beige versions. All styled with rolled-up sleeves because this is ready-for-action attire. For the wavering, Miuccia's answer was to combine short-shorts and tops that achieved a romper look, but remain subtle separates. Now, the short-shorts seem to be short on the catwalks that matter this season. Everyone from Gosha Rubchinskiy and his top of thigh grazing 90s football kits to Rick Owens and his sculptural head-turners,hemlines are higher making short-shorts that bit more shocking and suggestive for spring/summer 18. As jumpsuits might not be the most provocative takeaway from the season after all, are you ready to jump? Give in to pure Prada persuasion.
Text Steve Salter