The black suit epidemic: why is men’s red carpet fashion so boring?

By and

When it comes to famous red-carpet events, such as the Met Gala, the Oscars, or the Golden Globes, the men’s looks are often side-lined by the bright colours, intricate necklines, and billowing skirts of their female counterparts. Therefore, it is unsurprising that fashion journalists have a tendency to focus broadly on what the women are wearing. Men are often simply commended for their ‘classic’ look, with little elaboration. So why is it that men continue to opt for safe options on the red carpet? Is a change about to come? And what can we expect from the future of men’s red-carpet fashion? 

There is no standard when it comes to women’s fashion in the twenty first century, whereas there is for men.  This is, typically, why the men of Durham are never seen racing around in pursuit of something to wear to a ball, whilst women feel a need to message group chats to ask if they can borrow friends’ dresses, or frantically scour the ‘occasion wear’ tab on ASOS a week before. Likewise, it is uncommon for female celebrities on the red carpet to wear the same item twice. It appears that many, especially older, male celebrities stick to more traditional looks in a presentation of masculinity. To them, the triumvirate of a black bow tie, tailored black suit, and white shirt signals an embodiment of male sophistication. Overtly masculine men therefore are discouraged from taking risks with their designers out of a fear that their masculinity would be under threat. Examples that come to mind, such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Cruise, rarely stray from this long-established formula. Maybe this is because throughout history, fashion has long been viewed as a feminine activity, instilling the notion that men should not care about their own fashion sense, leaving many often opting for simple silhouettes or staying behind the scenes as designers or photographers. This consequentially has resulted in today’s designers devoting more time and attention to women’s fashion, resulting in a limited range of options when it comes to men’s red carpet looks.  


To them, the triumvirate of a black bow tie, tailored black suit, and white shirt signals an embodiment of male sophistication

There is still an unequal pressure on men to conform in these environments, which is to everyone’s detriment, but certain events such as the Met Gala are themed to challenge the perception that men’s fashion has to be boring, and yet many still fail to deviate from their traditional suits. In the case of celebrity couples, men are often a black-tie-clad accessory to their elaborately dressed partners, who dazzle like peacocks. It is tiresome to say the least. However, it is refreshing to see some men buck the trend in the name of fashion, in 2018 Harry Styles blew the fashion world apart when he cemented his place as the maverick of the male fashion scene, his evolution into gender non-conformity led to a new type of red-carpet appeal as he repeatedly took inspiration from traditionally feminine silhouettes and made them his own. Through enveloping himself in soft pinks and perfect pearls, he became the first male figure to grace the cover of Vogue, and there was no better way for him to dress for the revolutionary occasion but by sending fans wild wearing a full-length gown. Since then, a few other male celebrities have attempted to follow suit, such as Donald Glover and Billy Porter, but more often than not these celebrities garner disproportionate amounts of praise for wearing a white blazer as opposed to a black one (Paul Mescal we are looking at you). Despite the occasional excessive flattery of some looks, it is encouraging to see how receptive both critics and the public alike are to challenges to the status quo when it comes to men’s formalwear.                  

In the case of celebrity couples, men are often a black-tie-clad accessory to their elaborately dressed, who dazzle like peacocks

Pop culture trends have also been conducive to changes in what men wear on the red carpet; and the influence of recent films, like Barbie, should not be understated. It was not only Margot Robbie (the real life Barbie herself) gandering attention at the movies’s various premieres, with Ryan Gosling pathing the way, we witnessed many male stars channelling their inner Ken, donning cropped jackets, pattern shirts, and perhaps most importantly: Pink! The influence of Greta Gerwig’s film, and its commentary on masculinity and the patriarchy, started a much needed conversation  amongst audiences around the role of gender within society, and has begun to inspire both men and women to embrace and appreciate one another, although a little controversy has been sparked, the film has irrevocably changed popular attitudes surrounding the expectations of gender norms, it is reassuring to see a reflection of this message being translated into the ethos of the designers who created looks both for the film and its numerous premieres.            

We remain optimistic that we are at a turning point in men’s red-carpet fashion. Discussions of masculinity have, amongst the younger generation, well and truly entered the mainstream, so we are confident that we will continue to see more exciting looks which will reinject some life both into the celebrity fashion scene and within our own wardrobes. Maybe one day we will see Tom Cruise rocking a floral sarong at the Oscars, witness Jason Mamoa channeling his inner Ken, or even spot Leonardo DiCaprio taking a look out of Harry Styles’ book – or at least we can hope.


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