Surely you’ve seen that meme circulating right now—the one that goes, “Men would rather [do some absurdly difficult task] than go to therapy.” Men would rather start a band, get impeached, become the greatest golfer of all time, spend ten years coming home from the Trojan War…than go to therapy. It’s a gallows-humor twist on a horrifying reality: male aggression, especially white men’s suppressed anger, is at the center of so many of the world’s problems right now.
Men’s fashion, meanwhile, is in a golden period. But designers only glancingly acknowledge that their customer base is in the midst of an identity crisis. Shayne Oliver was maybe the closest to touch on it, with his macho BDSM vibe at Hood By Air, and Demna Gvasalia always hits it in Balenciaga’s biannual fright fests of global domination. But other than these oblique overtures, designers have mostly ignored the monster festering in the western world, instead pushing men towards gender-neutral clothing, privileging notions of softness and vulnerability, and encouraging freedom of expression and individuality. Maybe they feel it’s an American problem and so it’s none of their business, or maybe they believe it’s more empowering to reward good behavior than experiment with bad. But genius ideas are far more likely to come from experimenting with bad behavior, and genius ideas are what Rick Owens almost always delivers.
On Thursday, Owens took on what’s become fashion’s last taboo: “A ROUGH SKETCH OF OUR BARBARIC CONTRADICTORY TIMES,” as the designer put it in his show notes. (Owens writes in all-caps, and so we shall respect the maestro’s stylings.) I saw the show in three distinct scenes: big, sexy, dumb provocateur; Jack Dorseycore; and paranoid, world domination-hungry monster. The first portion featured Owens hotties, in tighty-whities and huge-ass coats, stomping around with “look at me, because my outfit is screaming and my dick is nearly out” bravura, and droopy knits with holes that gaped open like yakking mouths, or were squinched shut like, um, you know. (“LOUD AND DUMB CAN ALSO BE CONCISE AND ELEGANT,” Owens said, reflecting on The Ramones.) The third section took the oversized coats that Owens first showed last January. Then, he used them to play with the narcissistic exuberance of online performance. Now, he turned them into giant kingmaker blazers, like ’80s Armani power suits on steroids.