DALLAS, Dec 27, 2008 / FW/ — Cary Grant, Giorgio Armani, Hedi Slimane are three names that will forever be identified with men’s fashion. With Cary Grant gone, Hedi Slimane no longer designing menswear, it is only Giorgio Armani who is left to carry the torch. Yet, though Giorgio Armani will go down in history as one of the most prolific designers of the 20th century, to the Net Generation, Armani suits are something that their fathers would wear.
Who will be the Net Generation’s male fashion icon? Do they even need one? Do fashion houses and fashion tastemakers even understand them? It seems that even fashion’s power elite is having a hard time connecting to the Net Generation.
Vogue Men, due to low advertising dollars and low circulation had been cut down from 10 issues a year to 2, a far cry from the very influential Vogue Magazine. Even DNR, the trade fashion journal for menswear is now part of WWD (Women’s Wear Daily). GQ remains strong, but it had put a naked Jennifer Aniston on its cover, signaling that the venerable men’s fashion magazine has recognized that celebrity intrigue sells.
How do we reach the 18 – 31 males? Elusive as they are, this group has one place that they congregate – video games and the sci-fi genre.
Once considered part of geekdom, the video game industry today is a multi-billion dollar business with big name players like Microsoft and Sony on its roster. It is now cool to own a Playstation, Xbox and Wii. In fact, even Prince William owns one, which Queen Elizabeth ‘borrowed.’ Video gaming is so popular that the World of Warcraft, the leading MMORPG has more than 11.5 million paying members.
And though players’ favorite characters are not necessarily always human (this is a sci-fi world where mankind is just one of the many races populating the universe), video game heartthrobs, surprisingly enough are always human. Take Cloud Strife of Final Fantasy VII (photo above) for instance. With his dark sunglasses, distinctive hairstyle and Buster Sword, Cloud Strife is destined for ‘bromance’ since day one.
Good looking as he is, Cloud Strife never changes his costume. After all, video game characters are not expected to have a wardrobe, except what they were originally ‘drawn’ with. Perhaps, that’s the reason why the 18 – 31 males seem to be indifferent to their wardrobes also. Their heroes don’t care, so why should they?
What about television? Carrie Bradshaw and company brought fashion front and center. CW’s Gossip Girl has replaced Sex & the City as the place to find the latest trends. Unfortunately, Gossip Girl is woman-centric. Though there are male leads in the series, men think of Gossip Girl as a chick flick.
Men like watching the police procedural shows, hence the continuous popularity of the CSI franchise, including CBS’s new breakout hit, ‘The Mentalist.’ Still, though Simon Baker looks great in suits, his character, Patrick Jane does not have the fashion impact that Don Johnson’s Sonny Crocket of the 1980s Miami Vice enjoyed.
Unknown to many, Miami Vice had a significant influence on men’s fashion. It popularized, if not invented the “T-shirt under Armani jacket”-style. It also helped in making Gianni Versace and Hugo Boss household names in the U.S. Don Johnson’s typical lineup of Italian sport coat, T-shirt, white linen pants, and slip-on sockless loafers became a hit. (photo left)
Because crime fighting has become nerd-adjacent due to the heavy leaning on science of CSI, including Mark Harmon-led NCIS, finding a fashion icon among the strong male leads of the police procedural shows is hard. Michael Weatherly’s Anthony DiNozzo in NCIS might have had a chance, but his character is not one for bromance.
‘BROMANCE,’ which means brotherly love, is the male equivalent of the female BFF (best friend forever). Popularized by Boston Legal, it hit mainstream with Hugh Laurie’s HOUSE, thus, it is now okay once again for men to have a BFF.
Dysfunctional yet lovable, Hugh Laurie’s Dr. Gregory House is not on the running to be a male fashion icon. Women find his five o’clock shadow of a beard sexy, but being doctor, his wardrobe is limited to suits and in Dr. House’s case, occasional scrubs and lab gown.
The same thing goes for Patrick Dempsey’ Dr. McDreamy in Grey’s Anatomy. Currently a heartthrob, and the face of Versace menswear, Patrick Dempsey (right) is perfect for ‘bromance’ among the men and romance among the women. Unfortunately, his real life and reel life personas are not nerd-adjacent enough for the video-gaming males.
And that brings us to the new syndicated series, ‘Legend of the Seeker,’ with 25-year old Craig Horner playing the lead. As sword-wielding Richard Cypher, Craig Horner is not only nerd-adjacent, he is also a self-confessed geek.
Believe or not, there is actually a difference between a geek and a nerd. A geek is someone who has the knowledge of the geeky type stuff and has social graces while nerd is someone who has the knowledge but not the social graces.
Craig Horner (photo left) is pre-sold to geekdom. The series ‘Legend of the Seeker’ is based on the best selling fantasy book series, ‘Sword of Truth’ by Terry Goodkind. With his good looks, Horner can easily be a heartthrob. There is one drawback though. His character, Richard Cypher does not change his costume either. And because the story happens in a far away land, contemporary fashion cannot be used in the series.
Still, if Patrick Dempsey traded his scrubs to Versace suits when off camera, there is no reason why Craig Horner cannot do the same. One question remains though. Versace vetted Don Johnson and Patrick Dempsey both for their personal charms and the dreamy characters they play. Will a high street menswear designer vet on newcomer Craig Horner?
If we can have Donatella Versace do it, then the House of Versace will have it 3 for three; if we can get Hedi Slimane bring sci-fi into rock star status, then the geeks will truly rule the world. If we can get Helmut Lang to come back to choose the new male fashion icon, then we really have a coup on our hands.