It's been a long 12 months, and before we kick 2019 to the curb, we're looking back at all of the most memorable, game-changing fashion and beauty things that went down. Follow along with us as we look back at the year in review.
Half a lifetime ago, otherwise known as Jan. 6, Timothée Chalamet arrived on the Golden Globes red carpet wearing Louis Vuitton, showbiz as usual. But wait: Chalemet and Virgil Abloh, the house's men's artistic director, had other plans in the form of a shimmery, embellished harness, worn in lieu of a suit jacket and over a tailored black shirt and trousers.
What came next was a textbook breakage of the internet: an absolute detonation of unhinged memes, blog posts, parody accounts and tweets, like this one: "Timothée Chalamet always looks like he's from 1531 and 2403 simultaneously and I respect that type of energy." So do we.
It's (somehow) (only) been 12 months since, and I'm pleased to report that the state of menswear has been...great, actually! With Chalamet and consistent contributions from the likes of Billy Porter, Harry Styles, Chadwick Boseman, A$AP Rocky, Troye Sivan and others, menswear experts now confirm something that the bedazzled harness kicked off back in January: that 2019 was a special year for men's red-carpet style, now more fun, influential and unconventional than just about any other category. And it's changing how all of us, not just glitzy, famous men, are getting dressed.
Now obviously, this wasn't the first year that men began playing above .500 on the red carpet, and we would never want to slander Pharrell Williams like that. But the standard menswear look has gone unedited for so long that, until recently, even small sartorial risks could feel seismic, like Armie Hammer in burgundy velvet Giorgio Armani at the 2018 Oscars.
"Previously, red carpet fashion was dominated by a handful of power stylists who propagated a really specific, streamlined hunk look — a man with a prestigious jaw wearing a skinny black tuxedo or maybe a blue suit," explains GQ Style Writer Rachel Tashjian in an email. "But musicians have really challenged that narrative."
They play with clothes in the truest sense of the word — per Merriam-Webster, to do so for enjoyment rather than for "serious" purpose — and shun the irrelevant norms of gender conformity. Tashjian suggests Young Thug in a tiered Alessandro Trincone dress on the cover of his 2016 "Jeffrey" mixtape, or Lil Uzi Vert in head-to-toe Prada, which Tashjian likens to "a gallerist who just sold her biggest painting ever and is going on a shopping spree." A$AP Rocky with his Gucci-approved babushka head scarf has enjoyed his plum seat at the top of best-dressed lists for years, with no sign of dropping down.
They're also tapping into a new kind of stylistic ownership in an arena that's long been dominated by professional intermediaries: Hollywood stylists. As some of the most powerful players in the red-carpet business, stylists not only help put outfits together, but also secure the actual pieces of clothing from the powers that be, i.e. those in celebrity relations at fashion houses. But what happens if you cut out the middleperson altogether and go straight to the top of the hierarchical pyramid — the creative director — yourself?
"In many cases, they establish relationships with designers, rather than trying to interpret or normalize a runway look through a stylist," says Tashjian.
Chalamet doesn't even have a stylist, instead working in direct collaboration with a coterie of designers like Haider Ackermann, who dressed Chalamet to the nines all through the Venice Film Festival, to bring his visions of red-carpet grandeur to life. Someone like Styles may still have a stylist (Harry Lambert, with whom he's worked for years and years), but that's in conjunction with his close, personal relationships with big fish (Gucci's Alessandro Michele) and small (Harris Reed, whom Styles first tapped while Reed was still a student at Central Saint Martens).
"It's a new guard, right?" says Lawrence Schlossman, brand director for Grailed and co-host of "millennial male zeitgeist" podcast "Failing Upwards." "You have designer and star, and they're coming together to put out really interesting looks that become moments within the fashion space."
Acknowledging this, fashion houses themselves are making that investment in their top creative and artistic talent to further empower their consumers, be they VIP clients or, you know, not.
"Big fashion houses have recognized for a few years now that their men's businesses — cult favorites compared to womenswear — had the potential to be real pop cultural phenomena," says Tashjian. For such a conglomerate like LVMH to move Kim Jones to Dior and install Abloh at Louis Vuitton in early 2018, she adds, only solidified that possibility.
And as far as what we're talking about here, the menswear fun-plosion of 2019, that timeline tracks: Jones and Abloh's first few collections for Dior and Louis Vuitton, respectively, only began arriving in earnest this year.
"That perfect storm has made menswear the pulse of cool in fashion," says Tashjian, "and has made more men pay attention to fashion and feel comfortable playing with it."
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Broadway doyen Porter has made Chalemet's higher-key contributions to the menswear red-carpet league look understated. As the capital-S Star of FX's "Pose," Porter was a staple on 2019's red-carpet circuit, and the year's unequivocal men's red-carpet captain. Porter has arrived in tuxedo-gown hybrids (Christian Siriano at the Oscars, Celestino Couture at the Tonys) and silvery satin capes with bubblegum pink linings (Randi Rahm at the Golden Globes); a 130,000-crystal-strong pinstriped suit with Rick Owens platforms (Michael Kors Couture at the Emmys) and silk jumpsuits tied with fluffy, oversized waist ribbons (Rinat Brodach at the Critics' Choice Awards).
"Billy Porter is someone who pushed boundaries in fashion more broadly, ushering in a new era of fabulousness, of dressing for the sake of wearing an incredible outfit," says Tashjian. "He plunders the golden age of getting dressed — the glory days of couture, when designers had a clutch of clients who also operated like muses, and putting on clothing was like a sacred ritual performance."
He's made that ritual contemporary and accessible, as have those who take it to, like, a subtle seven rather than a 10: all-star-dresser Boseman — take his Givenchy Haute Couture frock coat at the Oscars — or Jason Momoa on the same red carpet in a velvet and baby pink Fendi tuxedo, complete with a matching scrunchie. Olie Arnold, Mr Porter's style director, also calls out Sivan and his Golden Globes look, an oversized navy tuxedo by Calvin Klein 205W39NYC that felt entirely contemporary in its boxiness.
"Part of the fun is not knowing what to expect, but I think we're going to see more and more men defying the norms," says Arnold. "Figures like Boseman, Chalamet, Porter, Sivan and others have inspired other men to push the limits and make big, bold statements."
That may be so, and fashion is already better for it. Yet classic black-tie (Tashjian's aforementioned "streamlined hunk look") will never go out of style; there will always be a sizeable contingency of people — celebrities, stylists, good ol’ consumers — who prefer more traditional tailoring. And going into 2020, that contingency will have to get used to, well, not that.
"We're definitely entering a new age of opulence, thanks to people like Billy Porter, Harry Styles and A$AP Rocky — people who do this exuberant, performative dressing, but less camp, and more elegant," says Tashjian.
As for the looming awards season, which will soon enough barrel through our televisions and fill our homes with the sounds of Giuliana Rancic and Ryan Seacrest? "That, combined with the bravura of a lot of this year's movies — 'Little Women,' 'The Irishman,' 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood' — means I expect to see really sophisticated looks that are more formal, maybe a little more restrained than the harness extravaganzas of the past year, but no less confident."
Schlossman reads the forecast slightly differently, with a cautious, albeit realistic projection: "Clearly, there's a precipice that somebody's going to cross and just, for lack of a better term, do too much," he says. So maybe the envelope will be pushed even more, but on the red carpet, isn't too much really just enough?
"They might reign it back in," says Schlossman, "but it seems to me like these men are relishing the opportunity to make a statement."
Homepage and top photo: Billy Porter arrives at the 2019 Golden Globes wearing a Randi Rahm suit and cape. Photo: Santiago Felipe/Getty Images