It's the thick of the summer sale season here in NYC and pretty much every major retailer is discounting last season's leftovers to the point that we mere ho'mortals (that didn't work at all, did it?) can finally get our hands on Dries, Jil, Thom...names, darling, names. Accordingly, I made my bi-quarterly pilgrimage to Barneys last week and found a Commes des Garçons coat I'd seen some months before for 70% off. I couldn't resist and, despite the need for some basic alterations, was on the street in it the next day.
It's a great coat, the kind of evergreen "investment piece" a person can be found chanting about any time they're sweatily clutching an AmEx. But that's neither here nor there for this post, in which I actually want to talk about the fact that the coat makes me look kind of Hasidic. That first day I wore it, within an hour of putting it on, someone actually said to me, "from the back I thought you were an Orthodox Jewish person."
And you know what? I was kind of into it.
This isn't the first time I've gotten the Hasidic comparison—this outfit, I think the hat in particular, almost always elicits that reaction from someone. It got me thinking about a post I read some months back on Style Salvage, an interview with London-based designer Nicomede Talavera. Talavera's last collection (pictured, below) drew heavily on inspiration from Muslim students and I couldn't help but wonder (#SATC #CarrieMoment #OMGshoes) if designers and stylists and, really, menswear as a whole might be turning to Middle Eastern religious garb for a perspective that's not just new and fresh, but increasingly vital to a globalized dialogue on modern-day dressing.
I know, it's kind of a leap from my Japanese designer coat to the increasing influence that Middle Eastern religious garments are possibly having on Western menswear designers, but bear with me. While Talavera's amazing show drew explicit references to the nuances of Muslim dress (plus, clogs!) other designers have started to play with proportion and silhouette in a way that moves apparent religious influences beyond iconography and the trappings of Catholicism.
The Givenchy show below is a good example, especially when considered against these sneaky iPhone pics I grabbed of a taxi driver's ensemble—while priestly vestments may have been the jumping off point for Italian Tisci, the way he played with layering creates a strikingly similar effect, no? The same thing could be said of the two guys below that (via The Sartorialist, left; and Tommy Ton, right.) The longer shirt is the biggest thing I'm seeing #trend right now—it's oftentimes dress length, but definitely a shirt, so I feel like it's coming from this same religious influence. Siki Im SS13 has some more good examples of this kind of fusion.
And then we're back to the Hasidic influence, which is basically any look that involves wearing lots of black, long coats and a big, wide-brim hat. You can see my CDG coat (sort of) in that top left-hand pic; and then there's another view of my Official Jewish Outfit to the right of that. Below that we have a look from designer Lucie Vincini's RCA graduate collection, an explicit runway reference to traditional Jewish dress. (Another look from this collection is the first image in this post.) If you take a look at her entire collection you can see she's working through that collision of traditional cultural garments with streetwear and other urban influences, something Talavera speaks to as well.
It's an interesting dialogue to watch unfurl on a runway—and, of course, on the street—and hopefully one that's just beginning. After Vincini's look we have an iPhone snap I grabbed of a Jewish man on the street next to a guy I shot for #streetstyle, not necessarily in traditional Jewish garb, but you can see the similarities there and with Justin Chung's photo of Liam Goslett below that.
It feels like maybe now is the time for "traditional menswear" and the dominant Western patriarchy to realize its strained grip on relevance. The mainstreaming of Middle-East-meets-West style is great since I don't think fashion should exist in a cultural vacuum, or that designers should allow form to trump function to such a degree that one forgets that garments can have meaning and social relevance. Also, I'm really looking forward to playing with proportions for fall! Have you been noting this same kind of religious influence on menswear?
P.S. If I misspoke unknowingly at any point in the post about the way someone is dressed and/or what religion someone might be, please let me (kindly) know in the comments! It wasn't intentional, I assure you, and I'd love to get it right.