In The Interview, James Franco’s oafish Dave Skylark explains to his best friend/producer Aron Rapoport (Seth Rogen) that he cannot use his CIA-issued equipment to infiltrate North Korea because “Kim Jong Un is a superfan! He knows I take fashion risks!” Throughout the film, Skylark can be spotted sporting a near-floral Gucci bag (the CIA-issued number was dismissed as “phugly with a capital phug”), an eggplant coloured suit, a tie-arch bordering on Romanesque.
Fashion and film have long gone hand in hand – often, the two exist in a kind of chicken and egg relationship. Recall the brief, unfortunate excitement for full-length leather jackets that followed The Matrix? Recall the planck-length lapels and sharp three-piece worn by Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Inception?
Between this stylish chicken and egg, though, there is an apparent absence of “edgy” (as it is widely termed) menswear in the fashion of films. Rick Owens (and a number of other notable brands including Supreme) got their start in LA in 1994. His angular leather jackets, swishy jersey trousers, and the brownish-grey hue of “dust” -a colour he more or less invented – are instantly recognizable in the personal wardrobes of many Hollywood names. For a look that has captured the imaginations (and wallets) of fashion risk takers the world over, it seems unusual that it is absent film.
“Okay, maybe he’s just not well known enough?” Between ‘94 and 2007, Owens’ cult brand percolated at the avant-garde of fashion, turning heads and raising eyebrows in small areas of London, Paris, and New York. But, around 2007, something changed. Owens crossed over into something resembling the mainstream. A few years later, shoe collaborations with Adidas put his unique aesthetic somewhere within the theoretical reach of the mass market.
Where, apart from on street style blogs and celebrity backsides, do these clothes show up? They show up on Young Thug, A$AP Rocky, and 2-Chainz. They also show up on Kanye West now, to be fair, but as Yeezy was coming up, he famously bumped Ralph Lauren Teddy Bear jumpers before getting his Boris Bijan Saberi on. A$AP, however, dressed aggressively edgy while he was still in his mixtape era – pre-celebrity, or at least in its very earliest stages. In the mixtape that shot him to fame, the song Purple Swag contains the lyric – “only thing bigger than my go is my mirror/money get taller, clothes get weirder.” Only rappers – who purpose-build themselves to grab all your attention – have managed to combine couture and film. Music videos, then, are a unique cinematographic space in giving a platform to outlandish menswear.
This is not the whole story though – Rick Owens’ famously revealed, recently, that his favourite article of clothing is a flannel shirt of little particular distinction – not a black leather skirt, or a t-shirt twice the length of his body. These outlandish clothes are not just created for everyday wear, in other words, but rather they are meant to be seen – in 1994, getting dressed (for men) finally became a work of art in itself. Rappers demand your attention, so they gild the aesthetic lily. A cinema costume, though, is not meant to demand attention – it is meant to be a smaller part of a larger character. In other words, no good costume designer would create an outfit of all-Rick-everything, unless it was supposed to be a part of the character.
Still… who doesn’t want to see Leo and Ryan in ‘dust’?
Images: Victor Soto