“Clothes maketh the man,” goes the cliché: but what exactly do they maketh of him? What, for example, to make of the landslide of lads in spangly sweaters at the autumn/winter Prada show? The designs ranged from loud and proud art deco-patterned polos to subtly layered cardigans under suits, and even a couple of pile-ups, including a turtleneck and clingy V-neck in an especially lurid shade of emerald. Is the message that men can attempt to moonlight as faux Christmas trees? That when life is dull and depressing, guys can take their sparkle anywhere? That it’s time to literally lighten up? Or is it that Prada wanted to grab some headlines?
For many men the latter might seem the most likely answer, except for the fact that those metallic sweaters are currently hitting shop floors and selling out.
“At Selfridges we have bought into the Prada Lurex pieces across knitwear, outerwear and tops,” says Adam Kelly, a men’s wear buying manager for the store. “We have bought a total of eight ready-to-wear styles, plus three ties and three styles of sock in Lurex. Of these, cardigans have proved the best sellers.” Even at £500-£700 apiece.
This is far from a single-season lone-label wonder. A clutch of designers are already picking up on Prada’s lead and championing men’s wear metallics for spring 2012. Sarah Burton at Alexander McQueen offered metallic pinstripe trousers (£465) and skinny opalescent suiting (lamé jacket, £1,195) in an ode to “English Rock Dandies” for next summer (they were among the brand’s most-ordered items) and, for his first official men’s wear offering, Christopher Kane stitched Lurex-threaded lamé fabric into pyjama shirts, boxers and flat-fronted trousers (£165-£1,595). “I was working with lamé for a women’s collection when I realised it could really work with my mens concept; engine and mechanical prints,” says Kane. “The prints are very macho and the lamé is a slight contradiction.” In the end, he felt the metallics gave his collection “a kind of sick, seedy kick”.
Peter Jensen, a London-based Dane who has been putting men in Lurex for almost a decade, has seen magazines clamouring to shoot his archive pieces over the past six months. “I just liked the texture and the look of a Lurex V-neck on a boy: a classic shape in a feminine yarn,” says Jensen. However, trying to persuade fashion folk to don spangly knits is a bit like preaching to the converted. The rest of us are another matter.
“Bowie meets Bond villain,” is the verdict of Constantin Bjerke, a former financier who founded the culture website Crane.tv in 2010, on Prada’s tambourine-taut turtlenecks. “They’re not something I would wear but it’s great to see a brand like Prada pushing the boundaries,” he adds. However, Woody Stileman, a hedge fund manager based in London, confesses that Lurex has already made an appearance in his wardrobe, albeit as “festival garb”.
“The immediate associations of Lurex are better summed up through what other people said to me – that I looked like a hybrid of Brandon Flowers [lead singer of The Killers] and the lead singer of The Darkness,” says Stileman.
“For me, there’s a reason Lurex has never made it into the mainstream,” says treaty underwriter Nick Lazarus. “It’s just not that attractive. I don’t imagine there are many people who can pull it off with aplomb. I certainly couldn’t.”
Nevertheless, there are those who disagree: for the July/August 2011 issue of L’Uomo Vogue, stylist Isabelle Kountoure put the architect Philippe Malouin in a Prada suit and platinum Lurex V-neck – initially against his will. “I pulled out the Lurex and everyone on the shoot asked: ‘Really?’” says Kountoure. But Malouin began to change his mind once the garment was on. Really.