The men at the Met were bold and bonkers – but at least they made an effort
What’s that noise? Just the thrum of some sartorial snoring, because a Google Image search into Met Galas past is telling in just how stiff and stagnant men’s dress codes used to be. Here’s Cher in a feathered, crystal-dusted showgirl extravaganza, and the gown’s creator Bob Mackie beside her in black tie as if he’s attending a local Rotary Club dinner. Surely Gianni Versace – the founding father of va-va voom Italian sex appeal – would take things up to 11 and then some? Seems not – the dusty tux prevailed.
From Andy Warhol to Valentino, the most famous society gents have always played it safe in black tie. The men were little more than props for the leading ladies, same-same monochrome statuettes helping goddesses up those hallowed stairs. Thank God for the likes of renegade designers Alexander McQueen and Marc Jacobs, and late Vogue staffer André Leon Talley for representing us with more outre male peacockery.
Come 2022, and traditional black tie has been relegated to the back of the wardrobe – don’t even think about anything as bourgeois as a bow tie; an anything goes approach pervades. The scene on the red carpet at Monday night’s event could have been a staid affair, because the theme ‘Gilded Glamour’ lends itself to a rather mannered approach. Instead, the tailfeathers were well and truly shaking, because the men almost outshone the women in their razzmatazz and general sense of joyful expression that’s all too often lacking in men’s wardrobes. First out of the starting gate was ‘Jardro’ aka the fashion coupling that is Jared Leto and Gucci designer Alessandro Michele – who wore matching cream embroidered tuxedos with pink bow ties, shades and matching tumbling tresses. The twins in the Shining, but make it fashion.
Granted, these two style experimentalists love to tread the path less familiar – the eccentric Leto (whose ‘people’ once asked that I do not move or sip water during an interview with the star in a blacked-out room) – previously attended in a cherry red gown holding a rendering of his own head. But it was an indication of how far men are willing to push boundaries today that even the most classic dressers upped the ante considerably; look at squeaky clean All American guy Joe Jonas in a spliced up rendering of a traditional morning suit courtesy of Louis Vuitton, with a lace ‘train’ and sparkling vest.
Kudos too to 43-year old Oscar Isaac; at an age when most Hollywood actors are happy to disappear into the safety net of a classic black tuxedo, the Dune star has become synonymous with skirts, and did so to handsome effect in Thom Browne. Likewise, 43-year old Succession star Jeremy Strong has been shaking things up on the red carpet, attending the Met Gala in a crushed velvet Thom Browne suit decorated with medallions, dangling scarf in lieu of a tie. Even the most preppy and collegiate of style freshmen have been dipping their toe into experimental waters; the dashing Euphoria actor Jacob Elordi wore a suit by Burberry embellished with crystal renderings of the house’s prancing horse emblem.
This isn’t a new phenomenon, but it’s certainly more pronounced. There’s been a growing confidence and sense of fun in how men approach the red carpet in recent years: Harry Styles at previous Met Galas in lace and pearls, Billy Porter – who turned up to the Met’s ‘Camp’ themed gala as Nefertiti on acid – even at the more staid Oscars, more men have been taking risks – the late Chadwick Boseman in a crystal cape and Timothee Chalamet in glittering suits san shirt.
Chalamet wasn’t in attendance last night, nor rapper Lil Nas X who wore a gold suit of armour to the Camp cavalcade, but there were plenty of pretenders to their sartorial thrones. Young British actor Paapa Essiedu in a plush velvet suit by Dior Men. Lenny Kravitz wore a lace corset in a mish-mash of gender stereotypes. Gossip Girl star Sebastian Stan in a baggy blouson and trousers – with trainers – in neon pink, while Patrick Schwarzenegger wore a blush peach Lanvin straight from the O.K. Corral and British actor Riz Ahmed wore a workwear inspired ensemble by 4S Designs, created by a designer who migrated from El Salvador to New York, the choice highlighting the ‘immigrant workers who kept the Gilded Age going’, according to his stylist.
Political statements and the frothy finery of the Met Gala might seem like unlikely bedfellows, but sometimes it works – New York Mayor Eric Adams wore a tux decorated with messages about ending gun violence. It was fitting too that rapper Kid Cudi and designer Victor Glemaud paid homage to one of the grandes dames of the Met Gala – André Leon Talley – in their capes and twinkling slippers.
Tom Ford recently complained about the silliness of the event: “I wish it hadn’t turned into a costume party,” he said last month. “[It] used to just be very chic people wearing very beautiful clothes… You didn’t have to dress like a hamburger.” Quite – and Ford wore a stately morning suit of his own design to the gala, looking every inch the debonair matinee idol – but the experimental men of the Met are fast becoming an attraction to outshine the leading women.