Unless you’re living under a rock, you’ve probably seen Brad Pitt as the new face of Chanel No. 5. If not, here it is:
The negative response the campaign has had from a lot of fashion bloggers and industry pundits doesn’t really surprise me. Responses tend to fall into one of two camps – ‘lol he looks like a tramp’ and ‘OMG, I LUFF BRAD’. In my opinion, both of these responses completely miss the point of the advert. I keep swinging between two responses of my own, and until all the constituent parts of the commercial are released I doubt I’ll be able to.
Theory number one – It’s worth stating that the second part of the new Chanel No. 5 movie (embedded above) still contains a ‘Chanel girl’ – positing Brad Pitt as the ‘star’ of the first advert then having him appear less in the second, his presence occasionally reduced to a mere voiceover, is indicative of the fact that the Chanel girl overshadows everything, even Brad Pitt. If I’m on the right track, the next part of the commercial will presumably feature even less of Pitt, perhaps leaving only his voice.
Theory number two (and the one I prefer) – To those who claim that Brad Pitt isn’t ‘a fit’ with Chanel, it should be pointed out that a big part of Chanel’s history is stripping away extravagant and overwrought aesthetics. Pitt’s masculine ‘au naturale’ look is a perfect contrast to Nicole Kidman’s OTT ‘I’m a daaancer’ advert. In this way, Pitt’s individualism and self confidence embody a masculine reworking of the Chanel girl. Pitt must have been aware that the advert would kick up controversy and parodies (…inevitable), but he did it anyway. Though the $7 million cheque in his pocket probably helped.
I’ve previously written about my experiences as a straight man in fashion (that post is probably still my favourite thing I’ve written on this blog), but recently I’ve noticed that things are changing. Pitt being chosen as the face of Chanel No. 5. David Beckham appearing on the cover of Elle Magazine. Articles appearing in this season’s Shortlist MODE supplement about men flirting with extravagant fashion. All of these are indicative of the fact that the voice of straight men in fashion is getting louder.
I’ve long has issues with the word ‘metrosexual’ – it’s insulting to men, both straight and gay. It designates fashion and grooming as being inherently feminine, thus associating homosexuality with being somehow girly or sissy. It also implies that men with an interest in fashion are a bit ‘wrong’ and can’t really be straight, so they need to be labelled something else. This is incredibly damaging to young straight men who are interested in fashion in that it can lead them to question their sexuality and identity. Weirdly, the show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy actually went a long way towards dispelling myths about homosexuality – the contrast between Carson and Jai’s tendency towards effeminacy and Thom, Ted and Kyan’s fairly masculine natures served as a reminder that homosexuality and femininity aren’t mutually exclusive. Excusing the odd joke about checking the straight guys out in the shower, the Queer Eye guys were never really that ‘gay’ – they’re just well groomed, stylishly dressed men who happen to sleep with men.
Something that appears in most fashion magazines that really frustrates me is the ever present ‘ask the bloke’ section. The name and aim may vary from mag to mag, but there is inevitably a column in which men offer up their opinion on trends only to be picked apart by industry experts. The whole experience is not only incongruous – Page 4: Laugh at what these ridiculous men said about mullet skirts!! Page 6: How to keep a man interested by dressing slutty!! – but also incredibly distasteful. There have been a couple of occasions where people have made remarks to me like ‘interesting opinion, for a guy’. I’m not one to get on a soapbox, but if wolf whistling at women and comments about how women don’t understand the offside rule aren’t ok, then neither are articles about hot guys we wish had fashion blogs (ok, ok, not quite a fair comparison, plus the article is much less shallow that the title suggests) or the assumption that a man’s opinion on fashion is less valuable than a woman’s.
But lately, the tide has been turning. I’ve done a couple of freelance styling projects (no mega-brands, just some chilled out advice) recently and was told that I was picked not only because of my honesty and frankness, but also because I have a solid opinion on most trends. This is something a lot of fashion bloggers seem to lack – they sit on the fence until a consensus has been reached about whether or not something is ‘in’ (usually relying on Company Magazine to declare it so) before they play their hand. As anyone who reads this blog knows, I’ll always happily put my cards on the table. ‘Do you think that’s because I’m a guy?’ I asked a friend I was helping to pick out an outfit. ‘No,’ she replied. ‘I think it’s because you have good instincts, and I trust them.’ Then I made a joke about us not being on an after-school special and we went back to chugging white wine spritzers.
Fashion is becoming more ‘unisex’ in other ways too – I was recently at the My Celebrity Fashion relaunch in Hoxton, and got quite a shock when I left. ‘Let me grab you one of the men’s gift bags!’ chirped a smiley PR lady. A MEN’S GIFT BAG. Granted, the only difference is that it had a tie in as well as the other stuff, but still! Since then I’ve been to a couple of events where they’ve had gift bags for the men in attendance as well as the women, but kudos to MCF for being the first one that I encountered.
Of course, revolution isn’t just about attitudes; even clothes themselves are changing to blur the lines of gender in fashion. Take, for example, Karl Lagerfeld’s recent capsule collection for Selfridges, differentiated only by fit. Other than that, both the guys’ and girls’ versions are identical -
Maybe that’s the revelation here. I frequently joke that I’m the only straight male fashion blogger in the world, but the world is changing. Teenage boys all over the world are opening copies of Vogue (which might just as easily be their own as their girlfriend’s, boyfriend’s or mother’s), think ‘that’s a beautiful dress’ and not feel the need to question their identity or their sexuality. What a time that will be.