Most people think that men don’t really care about what they wear or how their outfits look, but this is actually false. For centuries mens fashion has coincided with politics and social changes. There is even an exhibition at the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences looks at mens fashion over the course of 300 years.
Back 300 years ago, men always wore suits. They were worn at formal events and at work, or even just to show their status. Suits came with knee breeches and a waistcoat of silk or stain if you were well off. ‘Macaronis’ in the 18th century were a group of rich men who broke social norms when speaking and dressing. They were short suits in outrageously bright, clashing colors. They did this mostly to tick off the conservative Whig party.
What the suits are made of is another political statement. This is because silk back then was the most wanted fabric. The English usually were in woolens and fine worsteds, silk represented luxury. Wearing imported fabric’s from overseas was such a big political statement that often men had their clothes stolen and burned.
Aside from clothing, men’s hair also has been a political statement. Powdered wigs were worn by men to show their social status, and to cover up the balding issue due to poor hair hygiene. In France, rebellious young men known as “Incroyable” would wear tight leather leggings, mohawks, boots or laced shoes. This was extremely different because men tended to wear buckled shoes. An unknown fact about Mohawks was that the style symbolized the support of the French during the revolutionary cause.
This hair style became popular again during the 1970s by British Punks as a way of rejecting perceived excesses of mainstream.
Today men’s fashion is used to make political statements on and off the runway. This year during the New York Men’s Day event, models for Robert James’ show walked down the runway in shocking clothing. Some held signs reading “Bridges Not Walls.” Others with words like “terrorist” and “refugee” on their cheeks and foreheads.
At the end of the end, the German designer wore a sweater of his own with the word “Immigrant” on it.
Whether it was daring suits or rebellious hairstyles, fashion always has and always will be political statements for men.