Fashion is nothing without the crazed hunger of its fans. William Klein’s semi autobiographical snapshot of the mid-1980s French fashion scene Mode En France (made in 1984) looks a lot like 2013. It follows a legion of people as they ramble through the grey suburbs of Paris dressed head-to-toe in Jean-Paul Gaultier. We see them standing in a queue, raucously raking though glossy magazines, waiting to enter peepshow booths that become confessionals where models contorted into small-boxed sets share their deepest insecurities. The voyeurs’ wild pack mentality is fired up with an unrelenting desire for everything fashion.
For William Klein’s seedy confessional booths, today we have countless YouTube clips shot backstage at the shows accessible to every suburban bedroom across the globe. The Internet is crammed with vacant ‘likes’ and cries of ‘amazing’ forcing any critique of fashion truly underground. Lifeless street style websites recording looks from Bermondsey to Beijing mean that the streets we’re taking inspiration from aren’t exclusively ours anymore – they’re the world’s. How much of our own style can we own? The streets are stuffed with men wearing good fitting jeans, neat merino sweaters and polite, brown brogues. The democratisation of fashion has become its venom.
The concept of dressing to fit in – an anti-punk mentality – has replaced the use of fashion as a means to present ourselves as individuals. A year ago, Kurt Anderson wrote in Vanity Fair that we were going through some form of devolution. The cultural landscape from music to art to design had flat lined; “popular style has been stuck on repeat, consuming the past instead of creating the new,” he warned. “The 00s, the 90s, even a lot of the 80s—looks almost identical to the present.” Post the menswear autumn/winter 2013 offerings shown in London, Milan and Paris and whilst prowling the rails of spring/summer clothes as they begin to arrive into stores, "Fashion appears to have reached an impasse" as Kennedy Fraser once wrote in her New Yorker column in the 1970s.
A culture of blending-in has washed over contemporary menswear. We’re drowning in a sea of cotton shirts staunchly ‘made in England’; natty, French work wear jackets and the sluggish veneration of subcultures we were never a part of.
We must avoid being sucked into a style chasm by the constant fetishisation of the past, with magazines and stores dedicated to giving men cookie cutter style advice, rather than license to try anything new. Men like to take an interest in their clothing and no matter how extreme, JW Anderson’s recent menswear collection suggests that the metrosexual periphery might be dissolving. Maybe his bustier dresses and frilled bloomers are what modernity looks like. Post the media myth of the metrosexual, we shouldn’t be striving to fit in, but learning how to stand out.
Published on amodernmatter.com, February 2013
JW Anderson Mens S/S 2013