Vangaurd of Photography Culture
by Nicole Miller
Male Edition: The Art of Men’s Style | Fahey/Klein Gallery
Fahey/Klein Gallery guides us through The Art of Men’s Style, showcasing the power of men’s fashion to affirm and celebrate identity. The images feature iconic photographers and their subjects who confront the restrictions of gender expectations, highlighting their cultural significance in the 20th and 21st centuries. This portrayal of the evolution of men’s style reveals the ever-expanding boundaries of self-expression through fashion, empowering men to reinterpret and develop influential trends to convey their individuality.
English documentary and studio portrait photographer, Janette Beckman, captured the essence of punk rock through artists such as Billy Idol, pictured above. This 1983 photograph represents the intense rawness and intrinsic rebelliousness of 1980s punk fashion. Idol is dressed in leather embellished with silver chains, studs, and belts, over-accessorizing with rings and a large cross necklace. With his hair bleached and spiked, he stares down the camera, angry, his left arm crossed protectively over his body and his right hand balled into a fist. Idol brandishes his counterculture attitude, anti-establishment ideas brimming off his leather uniform. Many of the elements of his clothing and hair were donned by both men and women in punk fashion. This androgynous style seen on an established male cultural icon validates those who challenge traditional, gendered dress. Idol imparts a visual message to his supporters and critics, allowing him to share his belief system through his clothing, not just his music.
In this 1990 photograph by Greg Gorman, the American filmmaker John Waters models L.A. Eyeworks sunglasses. Waters’ suit is funky, yet fitted, and although his combed back hair and tight tie stiffen his demeanor, his textured jacket, polka-dot tie, and pencil mustache poke fun at his deadpan expression. His black shades and the cigarette cloud swarming his pursed lips casts a coolness to his air. Suits were no longer only worn for sophisticated occasions and had become a part of casual attire. This change in the 1990s of one of the main staples of men’s clothing brought more room for flexibility and experimentation in men’s style. Suits could be more comfortable and affordable without their chicness being compromised. L.A. Eyeworks’ portrait campaign illustrates the power of personal brand and style. Instead of Waters being ostracized for his differences, such as his quirky mustache, he is compensated and praised for his eccentricity. Audiences are able to relate to him, but are also inspired to embrace their own idiosyncrasies.
Mark Seliger’s renowned photograph of A-list actor Brad Pitt employs fashion as a political statement. Pitt, a Hollywood star known for his rugged, masculine form is dressed in women’s clothing. He wears conventionally feminine clothing, a bright pink, sparkly dress accessorized with a large diamond hoop earring. Seliger acknowledges gender to be a social construct by proving that Pitt is performing gender by wearing a dress. He retains the same idealized male figure, just dressed in feminine clothing. Pitt demonstrates that he can wear whatever he wants, whether that be traditional feminine or masculine dress. His lack of anxiety about the gender he presents through his wardrobe and style encourages audiences to replicate his attitude and reflect on their own gender performance and identity.