If not one of my favorite looks of the New York Spring 2011 Men’s collections, Yigal Azrouël’s one-piece, short-sleeved “jumpsuits,” with their lower halves cut well above the knees, remained a standout, if for no other reason than it reminded me of a romper. Which, in fact, it is.
The idea of a romper for men should not be so outlandish. They were, after all, created with boys in mind. The style, if we can call it that, goes back to Victorian times, when the garment was designed as playwear (ideal because of the mobility it allowed within the dressing/undressing ease of a one piece) for boys, and boys only—though eventually the practicality was extended to little ladies as well. In the '50s, the romper became stylish for not-so-little-ladies, and during the last half-decade has experienced a resurgence, found on runways from Vena Cava to BCBG, thanks in no small part to American Apparel, who more than anyone have made the sexy, playful romper ubiquitous.
While the romper for men (I’m officially dubbing it a “stomper”) may not offer the same pin-up appeal, it looks rather appealing. If not exactly dashing, it’s a fun subversion of the workwear theme, which will be hard to escape next spring—and on the right guy it could look almost cool.
But will boys want to romp as well? The appeal of the romper is that is makes sexy girls cute, and cute girl even cuter—few menswear items have “cute” in mind as a goal. To wit, Azrouël refuses to call the look a “romper,” saying, “I think ‘romper’ is a bit diminutive for these types of garments; jumpsuit seems more appropriate and functional. They are new shapes for men, while maintaining their masculinity.”
Perhaps, but the fact that the one-piece has short legs and short—or no—sleeves kind of kills the functionality aspect (a jumpsuit tends to protect our bodies from chemicals, fire, etc—these would only function in this regard if you weren’t too concerned about your arms, knees, ankles, and thighs). And saying something was inspired by workwear doesn’t make it any less romper-ish; Sasha Grey’s group scene in the (coincidentally named) movie Fashionistas Safado may have been inspired by the Algonquin Roundtable, but it’s still a gang bang.
When I pressed Azrouël’s people to explain how this “jumpsuit” was different from a “romper” in anything but name, they listed menswear design details such as hidden button plackets, and reinforced topstitching, which can easily be found on rompers made for women as well.
Last year, Timo Weiland made a similarly named onepiece, but with fewer macho aspirations: “We called it a onesie worksuit, but the inspiration was a dandified Edwardian; the purspose was definitely not functionality,” says Weiland, adding that the look was definitely not one that sold.
Whether we call it a onesie, a jumpsuit, or a romper, Weiland and Azrouël may just be ahead of the times. The recent workwear-heavy collections are any indication, boys will be men, not boys, next spring. But we should keep in mind that after work comes play. So who’s ready to romp, er, stomp?