No matter how beautiful the fabric, how painstaking the construction, how steep the price, the suit is designed to create an image of the body. Traditionally, this image is one of masculinity and strength—a powerful shoulder, a trim waist, an elongated torso. But over the past 50 years, designers have found new and surprising ways to reveal and discover something deeper about the male physique.
The revolution advanced by the maestro of men’s tailoring, Giorgio Armani, was that the body could simply be revealed by the suit, rather than constricted and exaggerated and reshaped. So it should be no surprise that before Armani became a fashion titan he was a medical student. With surgical precision, the designer ripped out the suit’s fusty innards and rearranged the jacket’s gorge, stance, and lapels, for instance, to yield something new, a silhouette that draped elegantly from the shoulders and fluidly from the hips. Before, men in suits were serious, dull, inconspicuous; in an Armani suit they transformed into something different: an object of desire.
Armani founded his company in 1975, and a mere five years later he was enshrined in the pop culture canon as the costume designer for American Gigolo. You know the scene: Richard Gere gyrating as he’s getting dressed. It was as much about Gere’s sex appeal as it was about Armani’s. “By making the suit unconstructed and from lighter, tactile materials, he made the suit more erotic and emphasized the body moving in the clothes,” says Valerie Steele, director of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. “The suit became almost like a skin; it almost gives off an aura of nakedness.”
The softer the suit, the harder the body—that was the Armani revelation. By removing the broad, rigid architecture of the shoulders and chest, he encouraged the figure underneath to be more structured, more muscular. It was counterintuitive in a sense, but it’s no coincidence that the 1980s also saw the rise of gym-crazed fitness culture.
From the decadent ’80s came the hedonistic ’90s, and no designer captured the libidinous, sweat-drenched, out-all-night energy of the decade better than Tom Ford, who became creative director of Gucci in 1994. The veteran casting director James Scully notes that ostentation and sexiness had faded in the early ’90s. “Tom wanted to see a man in a suit again,” he says. “He wanted him to be sexy. When you put on a Tom Ford suit, you stood differently, people looked at you differently.”
Originally posted 2021-06-20 03:23:34.