It's officially zaddy season

AW22 suggests fashion's youth obsession is on its way out. In its place? An appreciation of the fine older gentleman.

by Alexandra Hildreth
04 February 2022, 11:41am

We’re calling it: middle-aged masc is officially hot. Skater boys: out! Men with substance, and even more substantial wallets: in! Of course, this is something you’ll have noticed if you were following the AW22 menswear shows, in which silver-haired stallions — or zaddies, as they’re better know — took the runways by storm. At Prada, actors Jeff Goldblum and Kyle MacLachlan and models Szubert Przemek and Rudy Verwey stole the show. Elsewhere, designers like Bianca Saunders, Martine Rose and Kid Super co-signed the new decree with their casting choices. And if that wasn’t enough proof, longstanding zaddy faves Hermès and Yohji Yamamoto restated their commitment to catering to men of distinction — men who have weathered the passage of time and emerged all the more intelligent, powerful and cultured for it.

Granted, this was hardly the first time that silver foxes have appeared on the catwalk. A decade ago, Prada’s AW12 show featured Adrien Brody, Gary Oldman and Willem Dafoe in military-inspired tuxedo jackets. This season was a welcomed nod to the infamous outing. For Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons, these actors, in this Body of Work, as the show was titled, are their “interpreters of reality” at its highest form. Through casting and classic tailoring, paired with their representation of workwear, “elegance becomes a means of celebration or imparting significance,” for the co-creative directors, according to their show notes. What’s even more significant are the fan edits of Jeff Goldblum in huggable poufs of fluffy shearling. 

Still, this recent wave of appreciation we’re seeing for vintage gentlemen is noteworthy, particularly against the backdrop of fashion’s ubiquitous fetish for youth. It’s a phenomenon echoed beyond the runway, too — a quick scroll through TikTok or Instagram and you’ll no doubt come across countless sugar daddy memes and clips of Gene Kelly’s character in The Pirate; Eric Dane, a certified zaddy for millennials as McSteamy, now stars as Euphoria’s Cal Jacobs; and then there are  those paparazzi shots of Willem Dafoe (often referred to “Willem Dripfoe” or Willem Da Goat” on TikTok) and Daniel Day-Lewis, which have resurfaced to elicit a collective sigh of desire. 

This season, Martine Rose redressed older men in her life with the clothes of their youth. The London-based designer drew from her memories of clubbing in London for her AW22 collection, creating a wardrobe for the cool zaddy: silk trousers, pastel windbreaker sets and sultry blue collar workwear suits. Meanwhile, Bianca Saunders’ debut runway show in Paris took archetypal garments and imbued them with tailored rigour — the off-centre zippers, wrapped jackets and accent stitching on the denim. The diverse range of ages in the lookbook and catwalk imagery respectively reasserted the notion that these designers’ work is appreciated by both new blood and those with earned, discerning taste. 

Bridging the gap between the old and the new generation in fashion is often born out of a deeply shared respect between designers that manifests at all levels from casting to design. Anita Bitton, who casted for Glenn Martens’ Y/Project debut collaboration with Jean Paul Gaultier, comments on the importance of creating a community of all ages. She notes that “too often we underestimate the friendships formed inside all industries, and this was a primal friendship connection”. In the case of this collection, we saw a friendship struck between the newer kids on the block and the OG enfant terribles, wearing a mash-up of Gaultier’s AW95 cyberpunk body print and those oversized, asymmetric Y/Project silhouettes. 

Fashion’s recent appreciation for zaddies isn’t just limited to casting, though. It’s also making itself known in the clothes themselves. Yohji Yamamoto has always made garments for cool zaddies. This season, it seems like the Yohji man has reached ultimate enlightenment (cushy retirement?) and you can tell. His tornado-swept hair and impeccably worn-in suit implies wisdom and the kind of relaxed ease and confidence that comes with age. At GmbH, Serhat Isik and Benjamin Huseby drew upon memories of gentlemen of an older generation — a suite of sharp, tailored looks nodded to Serhat’s recollections of his father and friends donning their best suits for Friday prayers, while this season’s faux astrakhan outerwear was an homage to a “beautiful man who’s really dressed up,” Benjamin told us. The GmbH man takes pride in both his appearance and the longevity of the pieces he owns.

Though it only takes one investment item to whet the zaddy appetite, it takes a lifestyle overhaul to truly quench the thirst. And it’s precisely this way of living that London-based label Arnar Mār Jōnsson looked to this season, creating a wardrobe inspired by what they call ‘maestros’ — the leisurely silver foxes they spotted on recent trips to Italy, sat reading the daily paper and sipping espressos in sunny piazzas across the north of the country. The wardrobe is based on layerable classics — a shearling vest, an oxford shirt, earthen-hued cords, a windbreaker with adjustable hems — that remain multifunctional and durable, produced locally in Italy with both custom and recycled fabrics. Arnar notes that this season they “invested time to develop a full wardrobe, so our mid layers, vest and shirt were very important when looking at those guys and what they were wearing.”  This man is dressed for both his countryside estate and his pied-a-tèrre and every vacation home in between. 

Luxury fashion is aspirational, and owning that many homes with that many layers to match is certainly an attractive goal. For Gen Z, what could be more appealing than the dream of financial security and the hardest fits? Well, perhaps a handsome zaddy sweet enough to give all to you.

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