Billy Porter wearing a gobsmacking Christian Siriano tuxedo dress (Photo: EPA/ETIENNE LAURENT)When I went to our school’s Year 12 ball, as well as my suit jacket and shirt, I chose to wear jeans, red trainers, a hat, and a pair of white gloves.
If you had been there you might have thought I looked like a tool, but I wanted to do two things through the medium of my outfit: stand out from the crowd and stick two fingers up at the conventional notion of a formal male dress outfit.
It is a joy to see that many of the men at this year’s Oscars did something similar, embracing a broad range of styles and heaving off many of the archaic assumptions with which men’s attire is lumbered.
I’m not saying I paved the way for these men, I’ll just let you draw your own conclusions.
Jason’s suit also came with a matching pink velvet hair scrunchie (Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)Among men’s many faults is that we can be spectacularly boring. Worse still, we are often rewarded for being spectacularly boring.
For far too long I have scrolled down the tedious, hastily-composed, post-award-ceremony compilations of ‘Best Dressed Men’ with a feeling approaching hysteria: ‘But…these…men…all wore exactly the same thing,’ I’d think, one eye twitching, my mouth forming a manic grin.
‘Did they all take it in turns to wear that one suit?’
I’d feel like Randle McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest; surely it was everyone else who was insane, not me. Why were men being applauded for Googling ‘man good award ceremony’ and then being loaned somebody else’s clothes?
Websites are no less immune to it now, continuing to pretend that a star was ‘well dressed’ out of a combination of complacency, celebrity worship, and SEO pressure.
Surely, surely men should be setting the bar a little higher when it comes to dressing up? (Picture: Getty)Of course, style is subjective, but when publications say ‘well dressed’ often they mean ‘rich enough to afford staggeringly expensive clothes.’ If that’s what well dressed means, then give me a cool million and I’ll be on those lists in no time.
Surely, surely men should be setting the bar a little higher when it comes to dressing up? Women wear beautiful, stunning, surprising, extravagant outfits, some of which are sometimes covered in raw meat. Men are lagging behind.
This is exactly why the recent surge in boundary-pushing attire worn by men is so refreshing: Billy Porter wearing a gobsmacking Christian Siriano tuxedo dress; Jason Momoa choosing a pink velvet suit designed by Karl Lagerfeld; Adam Rippon and his leather harness.
These outfits make our life and their lives far more interesting. To be so central in the public eye and turn up to the Oscars wearing a black tuxedo and a white shirt is one of the most offensive things imaginable.
The Fab Five set a great precedent (Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)When John Travolta rocks up to the Golden Globes covered head to toe in chicken, we will have made serious progress.
I don’t want to get too dewy-eyed but I also believe that these clothes communicate an important message to young boys and girls.
Award ceremony attire is a lot like school uniform: there is an assumption that the boys wear this and the girls wear that. When this assumption is exploded, and when little boys see people celebrating people like Porter for looking different, they begin to realise that ‘dressing up’ is not synonymous with ‘wearing the same thing that all the other boys are wearing’.
When schools stop punishing boys for wearing skirts rather than trousers, a new world of possibilities opens.
When my wife and I got married, I wore an aubergine-coloured suit. Whenever I see a groom wear something – anything – with some personality, my heart soars.
A whiff of conservatism still hangs around formal events like weddings and award ceremonies; the sense that there is a proper way to dress up and that anyone who fails to step in line is somehow doing it wrong.
I’m not proposing to turn up to your funeral in a lime-green catsuit. And I’m not saying I’m Grayson Perry – by no means is it courageous to avoid wearing a black suit on your wedding day.
But if every man aspired to be less boring and recognised that award ceremonies are exactly the kind of ridiculous environment in which to whip out the sequinned wellies and a three-foot jade hat made out of goose feathers, the world would be a better place.
You can find out more about Ralph here.
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