When people talk about changing fashion styles, they usually mean women’s garb. However, the evolution of male attire is equally diverse as illustrated at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and their new exhibit, Reigning Men Fashion in Menswear, 1715–2015.
Reigning Men, which opens Sunday, April 10, illuminates how much fashions have changes for men. The frills of French court clothing, the tailored classy looks of Savile Row, 1960s colorful styles, Asian inspirations, and even military wear on display illustrate key influences and societal changes in the past 300 years.
The clothing displayed, including appropriate shoes and other accessories to complete the look, draws from LACMA’s considerable collection with approximately 200 different looks, some of which are hard to believe were ever in vogue (particularly recent examples). Noting that LACMA has one of the strongest American and European menswear collection on the West Coast, the museum’s CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director Michael Govan added, “ Reigning Men is an exciting and rare opportunity to examine the comprehensive history of men’s fashion, and we are thrilled to share the collection and scholarship with Los Angeles and beyond.
It takes a while to get the hang of the exhibit, walking into the first room visitors are hit with a cacophony of colors and styles, from 1800s French court attire to a Zoot suit to a Ramones jacket. The exhibit is not arranged chronologically. Instead, themes and clothes that illustrate them is how the displays are grouped:
- Revolution/Evolution explores the sartorial ways men expressed their individuality from the anti-authority French Incroyable looks in the 1790s to the icon 1950s American attire of Levi’s and Converse All-Stars to London looks from the 1960s.
- East/West sartorial influences are in the second room. The display shows Eastern-inspired robes that Western men wore and styles that show Japanese, Indian and Chinese influences. These include designer renditions like Jean Paul Gaultier’s Mao-influenced jacket and Dries Van Noten’s recent line with an Indian motif.
- Uniformity examines clothing through the years for military, work, business and formal wear. There are familiar items here like the classic Burberry trench coat that has changed little since World War I and Ralph Lauren’s 1970s replicas of an idealized American West. The military uniform section also shows how camouflage was incorporated into other attire.
- Body Consciousness features body-shaping garments as well as body revealing ones. Clothing since the early 19th Century has tried to change the male form as well as the female. There were corseted underclothes, shoulder pads and other tailoring tricks to remold men. Swimsuits in the exhibit include an early 20th Century two-piece bathing outfit, a Tom Ford for Gucci male thong (circa 1997) and the Fastskin Speedos top swimmers adorned in 2008.
- The Splendid Man highlights garments with abundant detailing or decorations. It also includes interesting textiles, leather and furs, animal prints and embellishments.
- While shoes are painstakingly tied to each outfit and convey the norm for the garment, the last room has glass cabinets with a wide variety of shoes displaying creativity in footwear too.
The fashionable exhibit combines history, art, fashion and fun. The Reigning Men Fashion in Menswear, 1715–2015, survey of male attire’s evolution will be at LACMA through August 21.
Written and Edited by Dyanne Weiss
Preview Visit to Exhibition April 8
LACMA: Reigning Men: Fashion in Menswear, 1715–2015
Los Angeles Times: It’s ‘Reigning Men’ at LACMA: Here’s your sneak peek at the fashion exhibition
Photos by Dyanne Weiss