Saturday, March 31, 2012

Men: How (& Why) to Find Your Inner Gaultier

Museum visitor fascinated by the projected face and
conversation between man and mirror.

At the Gaultier show, it's worth spending a few quiet moments watching and listening to this projected mannequin as he has a conversation with his reflection in the mirror. Is he a narcissist? Not any more than the rest of us. Who hasn't stood in front of the mirror and asked themselves how they looked, whether they looked tired, or was their outfit working? But this man is pushing the limit of what men normally wear. He has on a button-down shirt and tie, but wears a beautifully feathered lace corset and bustle over it. "I feel exposed" he tells his reflection. The reflection responds that man didn't always wear a suit and tie. In other centuries they wore ruffles, lace and skirts. "Garments don't have gender. Express yourself!" "Your image is a game, be fluid and free!" "Be yourself!" "You have a number of faces, just like a Picasso." After the words of encouragement, the man responds to his reflected image, "By, the way, you look very handsome." "So do you," the refection answers.

The Modern Man collection, 1996-1997
Lace corset bustier with cock feathers. 

The mirrored self-image that talks back.

Last Saturday when my friend Karen and I attended Gaultier's conversation with Suzy Menkes at the de Young,  Gaultier said he started doing men's clothes in the 80's because he was for the equality of the sexes. "It's an injustice, men's jackets have a pocket for the wallet because he pays. Stupid times, but the times were changing. Men were traumatized by an education trying to make them like John Wayne."

A masculine man pushing the traditional gender envelope by wearing items normally thought of as feminine can be extremely sexy. And it's not only JPG exploring this. Think about Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean with his ruffles, long hair, earrings and black eyeliner. Every woman I know think he's hot!

In the show's catalog, Florence Muller writes: "Beyond the shock waves sent out by this inversion of virility's status [when JPG showed men in skirts] it gave men a new right, the right to express their fragility, their power to seduce, their sensitivity. This was the advent of the couture man, whose wardrobe was enriched by soft, delicate, colorful materials possessing a refinement and variety lacking in the traditional three-piece suit." I concur.

The Modern Man collection, Men's pret-a-porter, 1996-1997.
Romantic brocade riding coat with black leatherette pants.
(Apologies for the blurry image! But it's such a dashing ensemble,
I had to include it. When I go back to the show I'll take a better one.) 

Gorgeously beaded.

Great pecs and lace, a sexy combo. 

Tight tattoo T and exotic jewelry.

Rock Stars collection, Men's pret-a-porter fall/winter 1987-1988

Tweed skirt and boxy leather jacket.
If you squint, it looks a little like a Chanel suit. 

Gaultier on the men's skirt: "My first skirt for men was constructed like a trouser: with two legs cut fairly wide and a panel of fabric covering them in front, like the aprons worn by waiters in Parisian bistros. Throughout history, many very virile men have worn skirts, from samurais to Scots, who have always worn kilts. I don't believe that fabrics have a gender, any more than certain garments do. I've always presented the skirt in a very masculine way, on the "manly" models wearing thick socks and heavy boots. That might explain why heterosexual men have taken to it more than homosexual men: they didn't have to prove their masculinity. That said, I could never have anticipated the effect my men's skirt would have on fashion...The men's skirt has nothing to do with drag." from The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier, p. 214. 

Gaultier wore this himself!

The window of the men's suiGENERIS, a very cool San Francisco consignment shop in the Castro. The women's shop is a few doors down. I found a Gaultier charcoal grey pleated skirt (and a bunch of other great things) that I wore to the member's preview at the museum. More on this shop later. 


  1. Hmm. . . methinks you've lived in SF too long! (wink,wink)

  2. WOWZA. Those are some show-stopping man threads!

  3. You’re right Naomi! Living in this city that embraces self-expression, I’m accustomed to seeing extremes in dressing. Growing up in New Orleans and loving costumes probably has something to do with it too! While those Gaultier looks are extreme, I take it as a reminder that a man should be able to wear what feels good, true and expressive to him. There are so many rules and expectations about what men wear. Suits, jeans or sweats are not the only choices. I’m sure that for many of them a suit and tie is not usually an expression of personal style.

  4. What a great post. First of all, I cannot wait to visit the Gaultier exhibit when I come to visit in June. Secondly, I love the insights on JPG's view of men's fashion. I come from the midwest where I still hear men say, "I would never wear pink (insert any interesting color)!" Seriously? I can't relate to these type of gender issues and don't understand why it feels like we don't make progress in this area. Everyone should be able to express themselves in a way that fits their own inner-self. Not sure if you caught last week's Glee but one of the young men performed as his inner-self during a competition. He was a stunning woman who stole the show - cheers! You have inspired me to wear my coral pants to dinner tonight ;-)