I'll be post a new article tomorrow on how media images shape male gender ideals and gender roles. These images have been destructive in the past, but things are possibly shifting in a way that can be helpful.
Polo Ralph Lauren coat, $1,095 at Holt Renfrew. Hat from Banana Republic.KEITH BEATY/TORONTO STAR
Metrosexuals can pack up their designer slim suits and androgynous waifs in skinny jeans and deep-V T-shirts better hit the gym to bulk up their biscuit chests because there is a new male ideal in fashion.
He is rugged: hyper-masculine, hirsute and brawny. He looks like he can swing an axe, build a cabin, start a fire with only rocks. And he is the icon now worshipped by designers and retailers.
A review of the fall menswear collections feature trends fuelled with testosterone. There was a resurgence of clothes associated with salt-of-the-earth characters defined by labour intensive jobs: tough denim shirts, chunky wool sweaters, all-terrain hiking boots. And of course, that emblem of the working-class hero, the flannel plaid shirt, continues to gain popularity in fashion.
“There is a return to basics, workwear, classic design and iconic things,” says Jeremy Freed, editor of the Canadian men’s magazine Sharp. “There is a real interest in recapturing something that has history and heritage, and something that feels authentic.”
Retailers, too, are tapping into tried-and-true products, pursuing a wardrobe of heritage brands that stand for durability, performance and endurance. Labels like Red Wing, Barbour, Filson and Woolrich are enjoying a renaissance. Some are even collaborating with streetwear labels for limited edition designs, following the footsteps of Woolrich, which paired up with Converse for a leather and plaid wool boot.
And fashion chains like Club Monaco are quietly interspersing Levi’s jeans, desert boots and wax-coated Belstaff jackets amongst their cashmere sweaters and tailored wool suits.
Why the gold rush of heritage-rich looks? “Things move so quickly now — especially with technology, media and ways of doing business — that it’s hard to feel anchored,” says Freed. “Fashion’s response to that is to look back and say these things were great and are still great today.”
Martin James of the Yorkville menswear boutique Uncle Otis agrees.
“That’s the beauty about these brands. Once a guy buys a Red Wing boot, he doesn’t need another. The only reason he’s coming back to get another is because he wants a different colour. They are that good. They never go out of style.”
These manly looks are heralding a change in the men shown in advertising and fashion magazines.
For the past decade, skinny teenagers dominated the men’s runways and advertising.
But this month, mature males grace the covers of three influential men’s fashion magazines: Vogue Hommes featured 54-year-old model Matt Norklun in its issue dedicated to the mature male; VMan, the rugged Josh Brolin; and Another Man, the heavily wrinkled Keith Richards.
Inside, Vogue featured fashion spreads of elderly Sicilian men, lithe 63-year-old Iggy Pop and a bevy of male models from the 1980s posing with their adult sons. VMan listed the ages of all the men in their issue; half the 62 models featured were over age 30.
But the new esthetic isn’t all tough: Beneath the rugged exterior is a well-rounded renaissance man, and it’s actor Brolin, who graces the covers of Sharp, as well as VMan, who does this best.
“He reminds me of those icons like Steve McQueen,” says Freed. “He rides horses, he grew up on a ranch and he collects contemporary art. He is an interesting new masculinity. Now men have a lot of freedom to redefine masculinity in their own way.”