David Byrne’s Noh inspired suit for the 1985 Talking Heads concert movie Stop Making Sense. Designed and worn for a particular dramatic effect, the costume’s immense scale obscures the wearer inside, as if to erase their presence, creating a otherworldly if not alarming effect.
A band of Los Angeles boys pose in their contentious zoot suits of the early 1940’s. Already a popular style for a few years, the iconic suit was essentially outlawed in the face of the WWII L-85 order which prohibited the use of excessive yardage in clothing. To wear a zoot suit was considered explicitly un-American and that is exactly why Latino and Black American youths, displaced socially and economically from any kind of American identity, wore the suits as an act of rebellion. In the summer of 1943 a riot broke out sweeping Los Angeles’ s barrio. A mob of U.S. servicemen enraged by the flagrant display and by their own bigotry stormed the streets beating any minority youths wearing a zoot suit, going as far as stripping them naked and burning their clothes.
The indomitable silhouette of the 80’s was defined by a large and broad shoulder and for menswear it was tied most closely to Giorgio Armani. The “Armani” shoulder would define a whole concept of masculinity in menswear, stretching into the ’90s, where by the end of that decade it would be abandoned for a slimmer line.
F/W 2011-2012 collections from Prada, Dries Van Noten, Damir Doma, Z Zegna, and Yohji Yamamoto
There wasn’t much in the recent menswear collections in Milan and Paris in the way of novelty, perhaps that’s the essentialist effect on men’s fashion; no trendy minimalist declarations, just no-nonsense clothes. But it helps make anything out of the ordinary, like a new proportion, become immediately apparent. Prada made a big statement (pardon the pun) with broad shoulders and large expanses of fabrics. The idea resurfaced for a look or two at Dries Van Noten and Z Zegna. At Damir Doma, the shoulder was softer, a silhouette the designer has been presenting for several seasons. A former Raf Simons assistant, Doma has quietly exploded in menswear and has convincingly reintroduced the idea of volume to a generation that was all too happy to abandon the engorged model of masculinity of the ’90s — a generation that would be the first to scrutinize any perceived throwback. And at Yohji Yamamoto, where the designer’s broad but softened shoulders and voluminous shapes have been a staple for almost 30 years, it was his oversized but relaxed silhouette, in the midst of these new but peculiar shapes, that looked incredibly fresh.