Thom Browne has taken his fantastical, theatrical visions of male dress to new heights with his SS20 runway collection and there are so many varied influences that it’s difficult to note them all; think Marie Antoinette meets the US’s National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball (MLB) and National Basketball Association (NBA). (Browne actually dresses the FC Barcelona football team.) Oh, and dancing, too: the American Ballet Theatre. In his show notes, the designer says he imagines himself as a host at “my Versailles country club”, but to us it felt more like the fête champêtre of Alain-Fournier’s Le Grand Meaulnes.
In this fashion fusion of 18th-century severity, sports and ballet, sent down the runway are Bermuda shorts with built-in jockstraps, high-cut seersucker tutus, seersucker shorts, football padding, corset-lacing, pointy-toe correspondent shoes, wildly mismatched sports socks, barely-there skirts (which sat like a rumour above matching codpieces), and even drop-waisted skirts and bouncing cage skirts. Jackets are oversize and quilted, though some with shorter arms, in a style not unlike Browne’s iconic above-the-ankle trousers. The designer even goes marine at one juncture, showing capes and coats embellished with seahorses, whales and starfish. And for sheer exuberance, the mile-wide pannier and turned-up trousers feel more like spoofy cosplay than couture – what if men had dressed like women in the 18th century, he seems to be positing.
Browne rides the sports analogy across the gamey gamut of accessories, too, with bustles shaped like American footballs, round bags like soccer balls, and balls and bags galore. There are lattice-worked NFL-shaped helmets, headbands and seersucker panniers worn on the shoulder, redolent of American football’s protective wear. “I’ve always used sports as a reference,” explains Browne. “And playing with the severity of the 18th-century reference, grounding it in sports, was a way to bring it into the men’s world.” Part home run, part estate run wild, this is one magical, adventurous costume party.
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