When Jil Sander released a plain white tee bearing the brand name last year, it felt like logomania had reached critical mass. Here was the much-vaunted queen of minimalism, finally catching up with her luxury peers, proving that pragmatism — making money — nearly always wins out over idealism. (It should, however, be noted that “the” Jil Sander has played no part in the house since selling it to Prada in 1999.) What’s good for the goose, etc.
At fashion week, logos were again a conspicuous force, only this time by their absence. “Streetwear is dead,” claimed Virgil Abloh in a much-pored-over interview last month. Is it? Probably not (more on that later), but as Paris wrapped up, there was a feeling that the pendulum had swung back to a more elegant form of dressing. Given his comments, Abloh’s decision to send his most formal collection yet (“I was inspired by when you go to a financial district and you see a young kid who works in a business and they’re breaking down the male dress code,” he said post-show) down the Louis Vuitton runway wasn’t so surprising. Over at Dior, Kim Jones eschewed any of the internet-breaking collaborations that had defined his time at the house so far, instead running with a flamboyant collection in tribute to his late friend, the stylist Judy Blame, and the house’s famed tailoring ethos.
Instead of tracksuits and sneakers, we saw a return to intricate details and delicate flourishes. Perhaps this was best exemplified in the widespread manifestation of tassels and — wait for it — ruffles. Ruffles! Those frilly bits of fabric seen on shirts beloved by everyone from Prince to Jimi Hendrix to fictional pirates in Disney movies. Granted, designers such as Jonathan Anderson and Martine Rose have been on the wave for years now (and were again for FW20), but seeing them appear on the Dior Men’s, Dries Van Noten, and Prada runways in lieu of the more maximalist, headline-stealing pieces that have proved so commercially successful for these brands in recent times (especially in Asia) felt microcosmic of the shift currently taking place.
If gorpcore resides at the extreme, practical edge of the fashion spectrum, ruffles orbit another universe entirely. They’re anti-utilitarian; useless in the most endearing way. Like decorative towels in your grandmother’s bathroom, they are merely there to be admired rather than serve any kind of meaningful purpose. And what’s wrong with that? After a decade where, let’s be honest, people regressed to dressing like slobs (not that there’s anything wrong with that), perhaps the time has come for us to inject at least a bit of glamor into our collective wardrobes!
It’s not just of craftsmanship that ruffles speak to, but a softening of masculinity, too. We’ve already seen how guys are now more comfortable in wearing gauzy, translucent material, and these archaic affectations hold much the same fey attraction. “I was really influenced by Rick James for this [SS14 collection],” said Rose five years ago. “He was so sexy, so gangster, and wearing ruffled shirts and thigh-high red boots. He wasn’t letting his clothes define his sexuality. Or his masculinity.” Maybe Rose was ahead of her time and guys weren’t yet ready, but the world is now a pretty different place, even if we haven’t moved on as much as some people would have you believe.
If there’s one thing that nags me about this purported volte-face to classic style, it’s the need to mention it in the same breath as streetwear’s potential demise — especially when it comes from bourgeois commentators and rich people who probably couldn’t even tell you what Supreme was prior to 2010. At a grassroots level, if you look hard enough, there are still plenty of cool labels out there that are pushing exciting stuff. Regardless, streetwear will never really die, because for a lot of kids it’s always represented something more meaningful than clothing or trends, anyway. While the high fashion crowd and luxury houses might have moved on to something else, they haven’t.
So, sure, wear your ruffles with pride, but let’s not go throwing the baby out with the bathwater. There’s a time and place for fancy tunics and the odd graphic hoodie alike.