Let’s take a moment to step back and see how fashionable men are looking at this moment in time. You’ve probably noticed a proliferation of thick moustaches - well away from the month of Movember - alongside lean and toned bodies all clothed in fitted, retro sportswear. It’s hard not to see his counterpart mirrored from the late 70s or early 80s. An era of disco, gay liberation and pre-AIDS.
Left - How men are looking today - lean, toned and a hair top lip - Gone is the bearded and tattooed hipster
This isn’t just gay men either. Young straight men and homosexual men are almost indecipherable in how they look, today, bouncing the trends off one another and have the confidence to do as they please, rather than worry about being labelled either way.
I was recently in a gay pub in East London. In walked three young guys all proudly sporting cropped hair and thick moustaches. I thought it was interesting how they looked like the same young men from nearly 40 years ago. I wondered why all these things: the clothes, the body shape and facial hair styles, had all collided back to this one point in time. And, then I thought, maybe it’s because we’re entering a Post-AIDS era?
Right - Two Supermen, 40 years apart - Henry Cavill & Christopher Reeve
Thanks to medication, HIV can be prevented and people who do have it can no longer pass it on. Medication such as PrEP (Pre-exposure prophylaxis) can stop HIV from taking hold. It is highly effective for preventing HIV if used as prescribed and it recently became available on the NHS.
Consciously or unconsciously, it feels like we can finally celebrate this time because we’re no longer scared of it. Previously, looking at the images from that era had a heavy melancholy knowing what was to come and how many men didn’t make it out of that decade. But, it feels like that has lifted. It’s a mental freedom that the fashion industry is clearly relishing and focusing on this hedonistic era and image of hyper-masculinity.
Popular Instagram accounts such as ‘TheAidsMemorial’ celebrates the lives of men who lost their lives and it’s interesting how contemporary these images look. Publications such as ‘Gayletter’ play with retro homoerotic imagery and books such as ‘Fire Island Pines’ , is a collection of Polaroids from 1975-1983 of men holidaying in Fire Island in Long Island, New York, and they look like a contemporary men's swimwear shoot. Recent films like ‘Tom of Finland’ focuses on the illustrator who drew the fetish/leather side of gay men and can be seen throughout the recent AW18 collection from Moschino.
Left - Photography book - Fire Island Pines by Tom Bianchi
This is obviously centred on the gay community, but gay men influence straight men, so quickly now, and vice versa.
“In the inimitable words of power PR Samantha Jones of TV show ‘Sex and the City’ (fictional, of course) "First comes the Gays, then the girls and then the industry"!says David M Watts, Editor & Publisher, Wattswhat Magazine.
"Gay men have historically been regarded as trend setters when it comes to fashion and style. However, the resurgence of male erotica imagery making its way into mainstream fashion has more to do with lazy millennial designers looking back and copying 80s and 90s imagery rather than using it as inspiration to create something new,” says Watts.
Right - Moschino AW18
Contemporary films, documentaries and TV shows such as Ready Player One, Stranger Things, The Assassination of Gianni Versace and Antonio Lopez: Sex, Fashion & Disco - Read TheChicGeek review here, keep us continually coming back to the 70s and 80s.
“I think nostalgia is a feeling which anchors us in a constantly-changing world, and that period between the late-Seventies and mid-Eighties, pre-AIDS crisis, pre-Section 28, and the birth of the Gay Liberation movement, is sometimes seen by gay men as a golden age of hedonism and queer sexual politics. Hence the continued popularity of the music and style from that period,” says Lee Clatworthy, Writer and Press and Media Officer for Sparkle - The National Transgender Charity.
"I think this style has filtered down to the mainstream because of the availability of cheap flights to cities like Berlin, which has a large queer art community, but is also a focal point for innovative electronic music and club culture at present.” says Clatworthy.
Gone is that built, steroid-fed and hairless muscular body of the 90s and in its place is a more natural yet Instagramable toned shape. It’s more youthful and suits the current fitted style of men's clothes.
Trying not to fixate on the moustache too much, but it’s definitely one of the defining factors linking the two eras, one thing to know is, it’s not the twiddly gin-drinking Victorian type, but the solid Magnum PI style. The many years of Movember would have played a part in its return, but it’s most probably a reaction to the hipster beard.
Left - GQ Style SS18
“I would say guys wearing the moustache are normally stylish and looking to stand out a bit more in a world of beards. It normally means they are confident in themselves too.” says Tom Chapman, Founder of the Lions Barber Collective.
“I think the obsession with facial hair as a whole has been with us for a few years now, but people are starting to feel confident with a furry face and beginning to experiment with different shapes. There are so many choices when it comes to the moustache which can be easily changeable and stylable.” says Chapman.
Right - Selfie from Pinterest
“The thicker, denser looks with less styling have definitely come from those 70/80 icons such as Freddy Mercury and Hulk Hogan and I would say that young men are most definitely influenced by iconic TV and films. They have a powerful way of making something feel cool or stylish.” Chapman says.
While this ‘PrEPpy’ look has already been strong, particularly amongst East London gay men, it is definitely being pushed out into the wider male aesthetic. As we move further away from the bearded hipster, this seems to be its cool replacement. It is starting to influence straight males who won’t even know where it’s come from.
Or, it could simply be just a lot of young men with moustaches. It’s only a theory!
Left - Clearly influence by Tom of Finland, GQ Style SS18 showing the lean, toned and tached male look
Read more expert ChicGeek Comments - here
Guest Post - When we think of the examples set by Hollywood stars, things are fairly different for men and for women. Both men and women look up to general standards of beauty, of course, to the extent that many have suggested it’s a problem. Hollywood stars are often extraordinarily attractive, and it probably isn’t healthy for us to hold them up as realistic standards. Nevertheless, it’s going to happen. And it’s interesting to consider how it happens differently for men and women.
For women, beyond traditional beauty standards, there is a lot of consideration for fashion. Costuming for famous actresses gets a lot of attention, and throughout award season red carpet looks are devoured and analyzed by everything from small blogs to high-end lifestyle magazines. Women look to actresses for fashion inspiration, perhaps as much as for general beauty. For men, however, it often stops with physique. This is not to say that men don’t notice well-dressed actors; typically, however, it’s a given actor’s physical prowess that gets the most attention in a movie.
This begs the question: are there modern fashion icons for men in film? Or are actors simply inspiration for us to hit the floor and do some crunches until we look like members of the Spartan 300? Personally, I’m not sure that there are many actors or characters men traditionally look to for style – but there probably should be. Consider these men and characters, for instance.
If there is a current movie star who’s considered to be fashion example for men the way that, say, Frank Sinatra was several decades ago, or even George Clooney was a decade ago, it’s probably Ryan Gosling. Yes, Gosling has also made waves with his physique and general good looks, but for about 10 years now he’s made a point of taking roles that see him dressing stylishly. Much of the film Crazy, Stupid, Love even concerns his teaching Steve Carell how to dress and present himself. It’s reached the point at which Esquire even did a write-up of Gosling’s best-dressed roles. Suffice it to say Gosling is typically a fashion-forward example.
It would be easy to think of Cavill as little more than a muscle man. This is the case for any man who takes on the role of Superman, and particularly these days the image of a muscled hero in tights appears in more than just film. A likeness of Cavill (more or less) can be found in the “Injustice” video games, and a Man Of Steel-themed slot online stars Henry Cavill as well. In a way, his muscled physique is the character. But give the modern Superman films another watch and you’ll see that Cavill also puts on a clinic in how to dress – both as a casual, humble young man before her learns of his powers, and as the sharply dressed Clark Kent when he’s in disguise.
This is the rare instance in which it’s quite clear that a male actor is a fashion icon. Daniel Craig has fully embodied the persona of James Bond for several years now, and as is characteristic for actors playing 007, he’s looked extraordinarily sharp doing it. Craig rivals Gosling as the actor who most clearly advocates for stylish tailored suits – which look great on any man, famous, fit, or otherwise.
Hiddleston is still best known (in all likelihood) as Loki in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Thus, many of us hear his name and picture him in a sort of green cape holding a scepter, or something of the like. But in other films, Hiddleston has exemplified various states of male stylishness. In Midnight In Paris he gave a somewhat low-key performance as F. Scott Fitzgerald in which he looked like a terrific example of a Gatsby era dapper gentleman; in High-Rise and The Night Manager he appears like a modern GQ model. Indeed, this may be why Hiddleston is the only actor on this list that GQ saw fit to include in the top five of the 50 best-dressed men in the world. (He also comes up frequently as a candidate to succeed Craig as Bond.)
Bradley Cooper’s style is more difficult to describe, and a single character example doesn’t really do him justice. But when you think about his career, he’s made a lot of different styles look good, which makes him a sort of model for all guys. In The Hangover he shows how fairly casual attire can look great with confidence. In Limitless he dresses sharp (at least for part of the film). In Wedding Crashers he goes fully preppy, and in Silver Linings Playbook he looks good in everything from jeans and a football jersey to a dancing uniform. Cooper’s not a study in clothing, but rather, in confidence.