Godfrey Gao to Yeezy: 2015 in men’s fashion

While traditionally women bought underclothes for their male partners, now certain male consumers think nothing of spending up to US$470 for unmentionables. — Picture by Deidre Schoo/The New York Times
While traditionally women bought underclothes for their male partners, now certain male consumers think nothing of spending up to US$470 for unmentionables. — Picture by Deidre Schoo/The New York Times

NEW YORK, Dec 20 — High-end underwear

With traditional dyads dropping all around them, men gained on what used to be known as the opposite sex in their passion to become the new women. While traditionally wives and girlfriends bought underclothes for their male partners, now certain male consumers think nothing of spending up to US$470 (RM2,015) for unmentionables. True, the Hanes three-pack is unlikely to go the way of the dodo. Yet with nearly US$3 billion spent last year on luxury underclothes, guys in sexy boxer briefs are getting all the likes on Instagram.

Eveningwear

Just as startling as the undie revolution was a parallel resurgence of formal wear. After years of struggle, the market for evening clothes rose again on the strength of consumers, possibly inspired by red-carpet paragons like Ryan Reynolds, Bradley Cooper, Ryan Seacrest or Eddie Redmayne, abandoning the sour smell and sad-sack look of prom rentals in favour of owning well-priced penguin suits from one of the many labels crowding the field.

The market for evening clothes rose again on the strength of consumers, possibly inspired by red-carpet paragons like Redmayne abandoning the sad-sack look of prom rentals in favour of owning well-priced penguin suits from one of the many labels crowding the field. — Picture by Monica Almeida/The New York Times
The market for evening clothes rose again on the strength of consumers, possibly inspired by red-carpet paragons like Redmayne abandoning the sad-sack look of prom rentals in favour of owning well-priced penguin suits from one of the many labels crowding the field. — Picture by Monica Almeida/The New York Times

Social media

Out in the digital ether, canny image manipulators exploited social media to recast themselves as cartoon characters (image maker Nick Wooster) in dropped-crotch trousers or else Instagram catnip (model Lucky Blue Smith), in the process racking up product endorsements and ad campaigns. Many of the countless models padding around fashion capitals with portfolios tucked under their arms were at least as handsome as Smith. Yet he was the one who nabbed the choice magazine spreads and campaigns for Moncler and Tom Ford, less on the strength of his looks than his 1.7 million Instagram followers.

East meets West

And yet it wasn’t all a matter of exerting influence on the basis of whom you don’t know. Despite an economic downturn in China, emerging markets in Asia continued to drive sales of luxury goods; along with the growth appeared unaccustomed opportunities at Western brands for models of Asian descent. Only a decade ago, most Asian models could barely get arrested at a fashion go-see; suddenly, runways and ad campaigns alike were populated with chiselled hunks like Godfrey Gao, Philip Huang or Jae Yoo. And let’s not forget Paolo Roldan, a shy Filipino hunk who vaulted to fame in a full frontal pictorial in French Vogue and went on to be cast by Givenchy designer Riccardo Tisci, who called Roldan his muse.

Instagram peacocks and upscale underwear were but two phenomena from 2015, as guys seemed to be paying special attention to how they looked. — Picture by Guillaume Roujas/The New York Times
Instagram peacocks and upscale underwear were but two phenomena from 2015, as guys seemed to be paying special attention to how they looked. — Picture by Guillaume Roujas/The New York Times

Best foot forward

It was hard to know whether the sneaker fiends lining up outside Foot Locker at unearthly hours for the release of Adidas Yeezy or Nike Air Jordan VI planned to wear them or archive them, though it was probably the latter, considering the mania for and eBay value of limited-edition kicks. Just as difficult to gauge is how that one-time emblem of touristic bad taste came perversely to be taken up by designers like Tomas Maier of Bottega Veneta. Yes, we are talking about sneakers with sandals. That development was almost as alarming as the land-office business generated by Gucci’s fur-trimmed slip-on loafers. Although introduced a year earlier at the runway debut of the Gucci designer Alessandro Michele, sales of the US$1,000 scuffs were strong enough in 2015 to spur a phenomenon more commonly associated with women’s accessories: the waiting list.

The new man

The fragile anatomical, cultural and conceptual security of masculinity as traditionally understood came under attack from all quarters, whether in Michele’s hugely influential full-scale men’s wear show for Gucci (a lace blouse with appliqué parrots to go with that man-bun?) or a Rick Owens runway show in Paris that had even jaded fashion editors falling out of their seats. There at the contemporary art museum, the Palais de Tokyo, the designer sent models sauntering onto the runway draped in tunics strategically cut through with peepholes revealing their wearers’ vulnerable dangly bits. — The New York Times

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