Masculinity in the Age of Gucci

New-york-fashion-week.jpgconor-mcgregor.jpgIs fashion-consciousness becoming a marker of traditional masculinity?

My current style obsessions are unlikely characters. Tattooed, buzzcut, and resplendent in their bad attitudes, designer Justin O’Shea and UFC posterboy Conor McGregor are not only the best dressed men at the moment, but the best dressed people, period. They are having an inordinate amount of fun with clothes and have honed in on really interesting personal styles – excruciatingly perfect tailoring with a hint of chavvy toughness that is a delight to behold. Australian O’Shea leans a little more biker and fearlessly incorporates truly insane patterns and ’70s silhouettes into his daily looks, while Irish McGregor is more of a dandy who loves flashy accessories, especially from his beloved Gucci, and uses style as conspicuous consumption tool to communicate his wealth, professional success, and brash confidence.

Typically, the well dressed men of today are urbane, wearing beautifully tailored suits of muted colors — think Johannes Huebl. These men look refined, but their clothing is ultimately utilitarian and not a form of self or creative expression. O’Shea and McGregor on the other hand are peacocking with their clothes – pocket squares! fashion glasses! fur! – in a way we don’t typically see with men. Is theirs an expression of enlightened thinking about masculinity and fashion?

There are no two ways about it – O’Shea and McGregor are tough guys. McGregor beats people up for a living. They are in insane physical condition, tattooed to the hilt, and exude an air that indicates that they are not to be messed with. They are not droll, artistic, Oscar Wilde-type dandies. They are knuckle-cracking, beer swigging dandies. It is unusual, then, for them to be so committed to and downright giddy about their clothes – a quality that is typically imagined as a distinctly feminine grace. How are they both so traditionally masculine, and at the same time, total fashionistas?

I think a significant amount of credit for this ought to be paid to Alessandro Michele of Gucci, who is making menswear fun. Gucci’s quirky luxe fabrics, zany patterns, and quirky appliques, are both playful and tasteful, making it so much more enjoyable for men to get dressed. This fun factor and coolness of the brand might ease any generalized anxieties about appearing too “feminine” by enjoying fashion.

There is a history, too, of tough guys loving clothes. Teddy Boys in the 1950s, Mods of the 1960s, Punks of the 1970s, and rappers through to the present day were all obsessed with the details of their clothes; Mods in particular spent hours doing their hair and tailoring their pants to be as narrow as possible (Colin MacInness documents this well in Absolute Beginners). Communicating a certain cultural stance is paramount in the way these subcultures approached clothes. For MacGregor fashion is certainly part of his larger-than-life persona, but I think both he and O’Shea want to communicate confidence and uniqueness over any sort of cultural or political stance. Their love of fashion very personal: it’s tied to self-expression and completely unmoored from any kind of group “look”.

This injection of self-assurance and individuality into imaginative dressing makes me hope that instead of creating a Guccified subculture, O’Shea and McGregor are instead the beginning of a shift in cultural attitudes towards menswear and men enjoying clothes. Perhaps one day masculinity will be equated with sartorial fun and confidence – and not just clothes as a status symbol, but real enjoyment – instead of a shyness and around spending time and effort on appearance. In the meantime I will be scrolling through these guys’ Instagrams until my I go cross-eyed and imagining what it would be like to date them. And go shopping with them.

Ecce! One million photos.

D&G’s Modest Proposal


Following on the heels of an H&M ad campaign that featured a model clad in a hijab, today Dolce & Gabbana announced a collection of hijabs and abayas aimed at fashion-conscious Muslim customers.

This is absolutely brilliant business strategy every way you slice it.

While other designers like Donna Karan have done capsule collections aimed at Muslim women during Ramadan, Dolce & Gabbana’s line looks to be a permanent addition to their label, making them the first luxury line to cater to this large demographic — a Reuters report claims that Muslim shoppers spent $266 billion on apparel and footwear in 2013, a figure that is projected to nearly double by 2019.  This line will be a smash hit, especially among the ultra-rich, because it is true to D&G aesthetics — dramatic Sicilian lace, quirky patterns, and baroque accessories — and I predict other designer labels will be following suit shortly.

This is also a great step towards inclusiveness in the fashion industry, which often seems like it’s built upon exclusivity. Additionally, it’s in line with D&G’s recent brand messaging, which suggests that the brand is for people of all ages, genders, and races, by including nonnas in ad campaigns and bambinos on the runway. This message is reiterated by the types of images Stefano Gabbana posts to Instagram with the hashtag #dgfamily and #dgwomenlovemakeup — images uploaded of real women with their makeup products and real families from all over the world with the Dolce & Gabbana branding added to the photos to look like a campaign. Some are glamorous, but many are not, and the result is refreshing, and not at all cloying. Still, it’s fair to note that all of the families that I saw in the gallery are heteronormative, and the D&G “women” only loving makeup is somewhat troubling. D&G has made a great stride forward with their hijab and abaya designs, but still has a way to go.

I’m looking forward to industry responses to this new line. Burberry might like to incorporate similar pieces to reinforce their inclusive messaging and because of how Muslim culture has become a part of Britishness today. I’d love to see Karl put his take on something like this, and it would be a logical step for Hermés, considering their signature accessory. Stay tuned, too for echoes of this on the runways next month — I have a feeling Celine-y modesty might be very in come February.