Archive | February, 2011

Brian Clarke

26 Feb

As modern day men we are constantly evolving, ever re-designing ourselves and shedding our skins and trading them in for the new, shinier series. Enters Brian Clarke, Clarke is reigning in the boundaries of men’s fashion and creating an edgy, modern day gentleman with a look that Brian himself describes as “understated and confident.”

Brian Clarke has spent virtually his entire working life in the fashion industry – it’s in his blood. After a short spell at the London College of Fashion, he worked at Berman’s Nathan’s theatrical costumiers. Here, he honed his bespoke tailoring skills. However, it was when he worked as assistant designer/pattern cutter for Katherine Hamnett that the fashion bug really took hold.

After several years of hands-on experience, Brian eventually decided to go it alone. His first independent forays found him styling and designing clothes for pop videos and film wardrobes, but an eye for a strong commercial presence was to reveal bigger ambitions. Brian soon had his own flourishing line, stocking many of the capital’s trendier boutiques and soon opened his first store in London’s Soho stocking his own name label.

The store was more than just a shop; it rapidly became a social institution for slick dressers from the worlds of film, music, art and the city of all whom were looking for the inimitable Brian Clarke style. It was an instant winner and encouraged others to tap into Brian’s design talents.

Wind on five years and after a stint developing a menswear label in Japan – Brian Clarke makes a return to British menswear, with the Soho shop launch and online boutique to follow later this year.

“This season was really about a dying breed of old English gentleman – but one that ditches his horse for a Harley!” The Spring/Summer 2011 ‘Oxbridge Rebel’ collection fashioned from Clarke’s compelling imagination of his ‘repressed gentleman’ muse. Taking his influence from the old Etonian mentality and the dying breed of gentleman, the collection fights to hold onto those traditions held dear, whilst forging forward and staying relevant in our ever-changing society.

Whilst English heritage throbs throughout this seasons collections core, with a hazy jolt to summer afternoons punting along the Cam, there is also a tougher undercurrent that threatens to undercut the collections’ tranquility; Bib-fronted pinstripe shirts with matching dickie-bows are toughened up by diagonal zipped nappa leather jackets in black and deep plum, plaid shirts are paired down with cropped-below-the-knee suit trousers and twisted brogue ankle boots. Meanwhile the show stopping, royal blue cotton/nylon two-piece is finished with button-fastened cuffs and a wet-look shimmer that sets it apart from its day-suit rivals. Brian has skillfully teamed his latest collection with the latest new era male models. “Masculinity is changing to accommodate fashions ever-evolving definition of masculinity, but I think this is great news for men’s fashion which is getting more and more interesting with every season.”

The ‘Oxbridge Rebel’ prissy and takes ‘suited and booted’ to a new level – whilst tipping his hat to the modern progression of the gentleman’s new attire.

“I’d like Brian Clarke menswear to grow organically and to consistently grow season on season. Suits with great cuts and hidden detailing, knitwear and some great leather pieces for AW11. And the online shop launches this month at www.brianclarkemenswear.com” utters Brian with a cheeky smile and an even cheekier plug to his re-launching website.

I’m definitely excited to see what Brian has in store for us and his contribution to the ever-changing face of masculinity in the coming seasons.

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I heart a good sale

16 Feb

New jumper from the topman sale

I heart P & P

8 Feb

I heart P & P

How much are we loving my new shirt…

8 Feb

in love with my new shirt from upper guys, been craving it for too long!

Moth ball

6 Feb

Moth

5 Feb

An editorial im working on at the moment.

Gender role theory

1 Feb

Women generally play the main role in written work on fashion and social identities and men normally fall way behind when it comes to fashion, aesthetic and identity theory. However, I believe that fashion and appearance is one of the biggest indicators of male social status and masculine characteristics. In my opinion, although social identities and gender identities are generally discussed as separate matters, they are integral to one another.

In modern, western society we tend to wrongly assume that adornment, extraversion and display, in dress are the traits of women and femininity.  Western Men seem to have taken on a role that stands apart from that of the male in most other species, by somewhat fading into a background of grey whilst the female of the species is the figure that stands out aesthetically. Elsewhere in the world, as in the animal kingdom, it is the male that parades around sporting the most fabulous and flamboyant of plumage to attract the attention of potential mates and scare off any prospective rivals.

British men in the 18th century such as Beau Brummell, who was credited with introducing and establishing the modern man’s suit, claim to have taken five hours to dress, and used large powdered wigs, skin whitening make-up  and recommended that boots be polished with the best champagne. Western men were, if not as flamboyant, even more so than women until the late 19th century. (fig 1) In modern day Britain, a man wearing the very same attire to that of a masculine, well established man of a high social status in the 17th century would be stamped with anything but a masculine label.

In Central Africa, young men intricately and carefully scar their bodies; some even insert beads and metal rods under the scars in decorative patterns.  Others tribes have immensely detailed tattoos covering their entire body, a sign of masculine endurance and a beauty ideal for that culture. (fig 2)

In some Amazonian tribes, young men traditionally have their lips pierced and stretched to hold a wooden plate. The plate size is slowly increased which shows a sign of maturity when they leave the guidance of a woman and enter an age of masculinity. The final size of the plate depends on the particular males’ social status within the tribe. The same type of body modification and flesh stretching is popular in western society today amongst young males in certain sub-cultural groups as a fashion accessory. These males are generally not the ideals of masculinity portrayed in western media and pop culture.

The Wodaabe tribe from the Sahel, with migrations stretching from southern Niger, through to northern Nigeria and northeastern Cameroon, conduct an annual festival which reverses the conventional western beauty pageant that sexualises the female body. The young males of the African tribe spend numerous hours, sometimes even days, decorating their faces and bodies with yellow, white and red pigments and encircling their eyes with elaborate black lines. The men dress in long robes and wear hats, turbans and jewellery embellished with huge, colourful feathers and beads and paint their lips black or blue.  The men then stand in line and flash the whites of their teeth and eyes whilst the marriageable young women inspect them and make their choices. The Wodaabe courting ritual resembles that of a bird of paradise that flashes brightly coloured plumage whilst dancing to attract an appropriate mate.

Over the last decade there has been a dramatic increase in the number of images of men in popular culture. Where as in the past, images of women dominated advertising and magazines, increasingly men’s bodies are taking up the inches on billboards, fashion shoots and high circulation magazines. However, it is not simply that there are now more images of men circulating, but that a specific kind of representation of the male body has emerged: namely an idealised and eroticised aesthetic showing a toned, muscular, young body.

In the 1980s, however, the retail market for the male expanded vastly and the image of the ‘new man’ was created. This man was still pictured as a muscular, athletic male, however, somewhat over-masculinised and images of men holding babies, cleaning and partially nude, a huge jump from the image of masculinity and how a ‘man’ should behave prior to this. The 80s also saw a sub group known as the New Romantics emerge. New Romantics back tracked and took their inspiration from fashions of the 17th century. Men wore a lot of make-up and very avant-garde clothes.

In the 90s, advertising campaigns towards men were over-masculinised even more so, for example Jean-Paul Gaultier’s Le Male perfume advert, which featured two very similar, almost identical looking, muscular men, clad with tattoos and wearing tight fitting, stereotypical  navy attire. (fig 3)

Since then men’s lifestyle magazines have emerged, littered with such advertisements, which in many senses look quite similar to one another. The look is certainly a generic one involving well toned, muscular men. These images are most often and most clearly seen in advertising imagery, for fragrances, underwear and shaving products. In addition to advertising, there is a very recent industry in men’s magazines, which have very similar representations on their covers. These are extraordinary publications you can buy them month in, month-out, and they are absolutely identical.

In the last year, advertising and marketing towards men has started to change, showing a new ideal of male beauty in the form of skinny, young boys with long, generally curly hair and pale skin. Boys that, to some extent, represent the male version of a Kinderwhore such as Ash Stymest and Josh Beech (fig 4). In my opinion this is having a dramatic impact on how men dress and make themselves up and also the type of man that is attractive to the younger generation. I believe this could possibly be the next ideal of masculinity and male beauty.

The point I am making is that the identity of men and masculinity has differed dramatically through-out time and even more so between varying cultures. However, the portrayal and perception of masculinity is, and has been, the same within each cultural group. Whether it is shown through centuries of reoccurring rituals, religion or media and pop culture for modern western society, masculinity is an aesthetic form of beauty ideal for men that can stay the same for centuries or change as quickly as passing trends in fashion.

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