It’s hard to track how long the fashion world has been courting with the fop. Make no mistake, the fop has long been an ethereal presence in clothing since the 17th century, but as of late, there’s been a resurgence in the fanciful world of the flamboyant and extravagant. But when, realistically, could this overhaul to men’s style have come about?
If one was being realistic, you could probably look towards when Hedi Slimane took over at Saint Laurent. Gone were the structured, uber-masculine looks of suits and trousers and blazers, and in came rock-and-roll skinny jeans, cropped jackets, and – gasp – leopard print! It was all very fanciful, almost peacock-ish, in its approach to style. Of course, with Anthony Vacarello’s recent creative directorship at Saint Laurent, this androgynous aspect was called into question. But not for long – after all, at his recent debut show in Paris, he sent a single male model down the catwalk, in a pair of billowingly-wide trousers with a sheer black shirt which was fluid and almost feminine. And yet it was also just as unapologetic as Slimane’s androgyne aesthetic. It encapsulated the shift in to what fashion is now injecting into its menswear – a full blown flamboyance, one that, whilst championed by the ever-clever Dries Van Noten for years, has not had its time in the sun for a hot minute that turned into a hot – or rather, cold – few years.
But Saint Laurent has not been the only Spartan of the fop. Look towards the most obvious example – Alessandro Michele’s Gucci has revolutionised the way men are dressing. Bright pinks and greens are joined by heritage-inspired souvenir prints, wide legged 70s silhouettes reign supreme, and let us not forget the magic of the mop-top hair that dominated the catwalk when Michele debuted his first collection. It was as if the fop was having its own Renaissance, and it was a sight to behold. Then came Vetements, with its more urban take on the fop, with oversized hoodies emblazoned with witty quips and similarly as androgynous details. Dolce & Gabbana and Versace, too, have long held the more fanciful aspects of fashion in their grasps, employing bright colours and extravagant prints, not to mention drop-dead-gorgeous male models.
But it was this past September, when Burberry showed its first ‘see now, buy now’ collection that the fop did truly rear its head in a manner that essentially cemented the style into the zeitgeist. High-necklines and ruffles married cropped military-inspired jackets – nothing relatively new, per say, but when done by the global powerhouse that is Burberry, people start to take notice. And whilst the show only took place in the past month, the mainstream has tapped into the fop in an intrinsically accessible manner from the get go.
Many high street retailers appropriated the patchwork details and streetwear influences of Vetements, but it was at Topman and Zara where we saw souvenir prints and bright colour take the reigns, dominating their racks of merchandise, being devoured by the general public in a frenzy to seem ‘on trend’. Little did they know, however, they were merely playing into the work set in motion by Slimane and Michele, introducing a new generation of young men to what ‘style’ truly is all about – experimentation with shapes and colours, to find what truly speaks to you.
And thus is why the concept of the ‘dainty boy’, the ‘fop’, prevails even more so than ever. It speaks true to not only a shift in the culture of fashion and style, but one in sexuality and being comfortable in one’s own skin. Because if you can be comfortable wearing the bright colours and exuberant prints of Michele’s Gucci, or the flamboyance of Dries Van Noten, or the androgynous nature of Slimane and Vacarello’s Saint Laurent, then surely you can be just as comfortable in your sexuality? And thus is the power of the fop – the ability to be comfortable in fashion without a care for one’s social visage is one not to be trifled with.
After all, who can judge a man for wearing his printed blouson or cropped military jacket when he looks THAT good in it?
Words // Colin Dawidziuk