Thom Browne adopts the naval symbol of stability while showing jockstraps peeping from skirts hanging on to hips for dear life
It seems that ships have called to port during Paris Fashion Week. After Kenzo’s salute to naval uniforms, Thom Browne presented his men’s spring/summer 2023 collection at the venerable Hotel de Crillon with models wearing an anchor down the middle of their faces, like the maang tikka, forehead jewellery worn by Indian women; only Mr Browne’s are larger and longer, covering the nose, ending, in some cases, at the base of philtrum, in others, the lower lip. That is the only obvious naval symbol used in a melange of looks that span the sailor to the cowboy, wrapped in considerable amount (or less) of summer tweeds, made by the same people who produce the fabric for the brand with the interlocking Cs. Despite the presence of the anchor jewellery, which could commensurate with the navy’s idea of stability and strength, the clothes throws off the conventional balance of what constitutes strong menswear.
It is increasingly common to see women wearing underwear under not quite anything. Mr Browne is proposing that men can do the same, but, for starters, with waistband and top half of the front pouch showing. Rather than the elasticised waist of boxers (as seen in hip-hop fashion) or the waistband of trunks emblazoned with a name (as in Calvin Klein), he chose the thick ones of jockstraps, ‘protective’ underpants once popularly used for contact sports. And, perhaps, more significantly, their association with gay men’s fetishes: a masculine signifier alongside jeans (501s, not anything fancier). In the show, the jockstraps are worn like how women wear thongs, peaking from above the waist of both pants and skirts. In sum, they show the Apollo’s belt (the V-shaped grooves on the ab muscles alongside the hips) in the front and, just as proudly, the butt crack in the rear.
It is distracting in the beginning to see peek-a-boo peculiarities of what in the voice-over intro of the show (presented like a couture runway of the ’50s) says, “an exhibition of garbs (or did she say gowns?) men can actually wear”. Men can wear anything, or not, but will they? The skirts, no longer out of bounds for men, are worn low to deliberately almost expose the forking between the legs. Men do not have hips that (most) women do—the skirts (and pants) worn that low have nothing to cling to, to defy gravity. We assume (since we can’t see) that the skirt, shorts, or pants—many without waistbands—are attached to the pouch and and the rear, cheek-flanking straps of the jockstraps. These are, however, not the only underclothes to be seen. There are also bras. What is their appeal? We don’t quite know. These days, there is nothing under about underwear.
If you look beyond all that (do not succumb to your filthy mind), the clothes are Thom Browne as they always are. The tailoring is impeccable and the shapes flattering. If the fit is reproachable it’s mainly because the bottoms look like they will slip off by the time you put your next foot forward (is that why the models walk so slowly?). If you are not in the market for more of Mr Browne’s usual shirts, suits, and pleated skirts, there are cropped button-downs, shell tops, short shifts, ultra-mini skirts, or fringed chaps with strategic cut-outs and a very noticeable penile sheath. Cast Brooks Brothers aside. Thom Browne has. A long time ago.
Screen shop (top): Thom Browne/YouTube. Photos: Thom Browne