At Sunday night’s Bafta film awards, Britain’s equivalent of the Oscars, it’s not just actresses who will be in the fashion spotlight on the red carpet.
“A few years ago there was no hint of menswear coverage; it was all about the women. That’s totally changed,” says Los Angeles fashion PR Marilyn Heston, who launched Jimmy Choo, Elie Saab and Roland Mouret on the red carpet.
“There’s a huge emphasis on it now,” she says. “People are watching what the men are wearing, so brands are investing in bigger collections and tailoring services for them. There’s a lot more latitude now too. It used to be either a black or white shirt, or skinny tie; now there’s huge interest in the detail, variety of colours and fabrics, shoes and also the accessories.”
Gordon Richardson, design and development director at Topman, says: “There’s been an increase in sales of formalwear, across the board, in part driven by the red-carpet effect. It’s a great vehicle, a very visible and accessible way for men to see, and be inspired by, ways to wear suiting.”
At last month’s Golden Globes ceremony in the US, Bradley Cooper won praise from style watchers for his Tom Ford tuxedo. Meanwhile, GQ Magazine’s Golden Globe Style Report picked out Homeland star Damian Lewis’s Burberry tux for praise, along with Daniel Craig’s two-tone Tom Ford and Eddie Redmayne’s velvet Burberry.
“We’ve been writing a lot about Redmayne,” says Laurie Trott, fashion director at Who What Wear, a US-based celebrity fashion website. “I think the key is that the men are looking genuinely great now. Ben Affleck looked amazing in Gucci at the Golden Globes. I think women are just as interested in the men’s red-carpet fashion as the men are.”
Redcarpet-fashionawards.com, one of the UK’s leading red-carpet fashion and beauty blogs, started covering menswear in 2011 and now posts multiple daily menswear pieces during awards season. Just Jared, a US celebrity blog, has started name-checking men’s fashion credits in red-carpet coverage. Meanwhile, the online editions of GQ and Esquire magazines have started publishing regular red-carpet trends and critiques.
It helps that 2012 has been a bumper year for male-dominated blockbusters, from The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2, with much coverage of the suits worn by lead Robert Pattinson on the promotional tour, to Skyfall, for which star Daniel Craig became a walking Tom Ford billboard. The top nominated films this season, including Lincoln, Les Misérables, Silver Linings Playbook, Argo, Django Unchained, and The Master, all feature male-heavy casts.
Marilyn Heston believes the trend towards influential musicians wearing suits has also had an impact: “From the Kings of Leon to Usher, Jay-Z and Pharrell, these are cool guys wearing formal suits at awards and getting a lot of press.”
Such is Justin Timberlake’s devotion to a well-cut tuxedo, he has made it the subject (and title) of his musical comeback single, “Suit & Tie”, released this month. The video for the single features creations by Tom Ford.
“Giorgio Armani was one of the earliest to recognise the power in dressing male celebrities but now all the brands are vying for the red carpet. Tom Ford, Burberry, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci have all been very prominent this year,” says Ken Downing, senior vice-president and fashion director at Neiman Marcus. “It’s completely driven by the internet: we watch awards ceremonies and refresh Google on repeat to find out what people have worn. That information used to take days to appear, and usually only for the gowns.”
Being able to check out clothes online in private, while on a break from your latest spreadsheet, as opposed to watching awards shows in full view of anyone who cares to mock your choice of cultural diversion, is also a major driver of the red carpet as male marketing tool.
“It’s a big investment for brands to dress men, so it has to be worthwhile,” says Heston. “It’s a major expense to make the suits to loan in different sizes [to fit actors who aren’t sample size]. Because of this, it’s very rare to get a suit back.”
But does it really make a difference to real men? “If someone wears a suit by Tom Ford, we’ll get calls the next day asking about it,” says Downing at Neiman Marcus.
Jeremy Langmead, editor-in-chief of luxury men’s online retailer Mr Porter, says: “Daniel Craig and Ryan Gosling have both owned the red carpet this year and I’m convinced they’ve had an impact.” He says the blue tux, worn by Craig, and Gosling’s velvet jackets have been bestsellers.
“A number of leading men today are actually just that: men, not boys,” Langmead adds. “Therefore, we are much more comfortable looking at – and perhaps being inspired by – what they wear.”