Skip to main content

The Slim Suit - Where Sex and Power Converge

President Barack Obama | Source: Max Herman/ShutterstockSlim enough?
In menswear, sex and power have been converging, evidenced by the mainstream adoption of the kind of slim suiting pioneered by Hedi Slimane and Thom Browne, says Cameron Wolf.

Sex, Power and Suiting

BY CAMERON WOLF 11 AUGUST, 2014 - BUSINESS OF FASHION

LOS ANGELES, United States — Fashion has a long and entangled history with the enforcement of power and social position. The middle and upper classes have always dressed to differentiate themselves from the working classes, often flaunting the fact that manual labour is not part of their agenda. This is true of today’s “white collar” workers.
Indeed, communicating belonging to a certain social tribe — as well as individual differentiation within that tribe — are key functions of fashion. The other obvious function is looking good, which often means looking sexually attractive. But, for men, rarely have fashion’s primary functions — sex and power — overlapped so much as in recent years, since Hedi Slimane and Thom Browne shifted the way men (and I am thinking, here, of mainstream men, not just fashionistas) perceive the most powerfully coded weapon in their closet: the suit. (Remember, as Glenn O’Brien wrote, in a terrific column for Vice, “Fashion is always ahead of the curve, and the alpha male is often way around the other side of that tricky bend.”)
The slim suit is that rare menswear trend that has captured the attention of the cool kids, the GQ cover stars and the mainstream corporate guys alike. Browne claims that when he launched his label, everyone was so dressed down that his form of dandyism was actually “the anti-Establishment stance.” Either way, the result has been a more slender and sexier men’s silhouette than the roomier cuts of the past. Thom Browne’s look was inspired by the suits of the 1960s, but Browne explains: “I always thought the jacket was shorter. In actuality, it wasn’t so short. The trousers weren’t as slim as they seemed. In my head, it was different.”
“Going full-on Thom Browne short isn’t for everyone, but there’s no denying the impact of this wave. The average suit at J.Crew or Club Monaco is cut considerably shorter than it was five years ago,” readsGQ’s current Guide to Suits. What’s more, these days, prescriptions for tailors are practically handed out with the receipt of a new suit: cut out excess fabric — and that means everywhere; in the legs, the arms, the chest, everywhere.
The suit has always been about power. And, historically, power has been associated with suits that do not emphasise a man’s body. In the 1940s, for example, zoot suiters brandished the extra material of their suits during a period of wartime fabric rationing. Yet, the slim-cut suits of today are clearly about spotlighting a man’s figure and making him appear more slender and sexually attractive — as well as powerful.
Various labels, often applied with scorn — including “metrosexuals” and the more recent “yummies” (young urban males) and “spornosexuals” — have been used to describe men who explore dressing and personal care as a means of emphasising their sexuality, something that was previously seen as being essentially feminine. And, indeed, the influences of clothing for women (the traditional objects of sexual desire) are appearing more frequently on the runway, notably at JW Anderson, Duckie Brown and Bottega Veneta. Indeed, it was Bottega Veneta’sTomas Maier who recently told Style.com that men were “taking over the female role.”
But the slim suit is where sex and power converge — a natural blend of a man’s need to be powerful and his new desire to be seen as sexy. And why not? Today, even the American president is something of a sex symbol. And the difference between the long, loose cut of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush’s suits and the slimmer suits worn by Obama captures the magnitude of the menswear earthquake.
Being powerful has never looked so good.
Cameron Wolf is a freelance writer and editor living in Los Angeles.
The views expressed in Op-Ed pieces are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Business of Fashion.

Popular posts from this blog

Beware of Wombats & Other Vampires

You are surrounded by dangerous WOMBATS. They’re everywhere. Sometimes they hide in plain sight, easy to spot. Other times they are well camouflaged, requiring heightened awareness to identify them. You need to stay alert, it’s important to avoid them. WOMBATs resemble ordinary, productive tasks. However, they are vampires for time and resources, weapons of mass distraction.WOMBATs are seductive. Working on a WOMBAT feels productive.WOMBATs are bad for your career.WOMBATs are bad for your business.WOMBATs infiltrate your work day (and your personal time). Strike them down.WOMBATs may be be ingrained in your company culture: “We’ve always done it that way…” WOMBAT Metamorphosis Alert: A task or project that wasproductive in the pastcanevolve into a WOMBAT in today's environment.Your comfort zone is populated with WOMBATs.More on comfort zones, here.Some people are WOMBATs in disguise. Stay away from them, they are vampire WOMBATs.If you don’t control your WOMBATs, your WOMBATs will…

How Randa and the Fashion Industry are Adapting to DIY

The term 'Do It Yourself' has turned into a phenomenon over the past decade and is continuing to gain momentum, especially in the fashion industry. From interactive design stations at Topshop, to custom shoes at Jimmy Choo, every level of the fashion industry is dipping their toes into the pools of DIY.

"Many industry insiders think it is just the beginning. Ask about the future of fashion, and the answer that is likely to come back (along with the importance of Instagram and the transformation of shows into entertainment) is personalization," says Vanessa Friedman from the New York Times. 

Fendi Models Walk on Water

Sunset at the Trevi fountain in Rome, where Anita Ekberg once frolicked in Fellini's "La Dolce Vita;" the location was reimagined as an ethereal, transparent runway for Fendi's 90th anniversary fashion show.
According to legend, in 19 BC, Roman soldiers, driven by thirst and desire, were led to fresh water by a beautiful girl: At that location an aqueduct and great fountain were built. Two millennia later, not much has changed. 

Apropos of fan expectations, models including Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid appeared to walk on water, wearing gossamer garments evocative of the Fendi"Legends and Fairytales"  water nymph theme.