Dispatch from Paris: Calling All Paul Bunyans

There appear to be two new definitions of manhood surfacing at the spring/summer 2011 shows. There’s the gender bending lad who likes to borrow trends such as crop tops, jeggings, and body jewelry from the ladies department. In the opposite camp, you have the retrosexuals. The latter are typically clad in a combination of flannel, turn-of-the-century throwbacks like suspenders, and thick mustaches, which they like to get trimmed at one of the many old-school barber shops sprouting up by the dozen in cosmopolitan hubs like Los Angeles and New York. And there’s another signature sign of the new retrosexual on view at the SS11 runways: whiskers.

“We’re so used to seeing smooth, chiseled baby faces on the runway—the Paris spring men’s shows have just started—that we immediately wonder if there’s a trend or a facial hair subculture that those clever designers are bringing to our attention,” notes Cathy Horyn. Both Jean Paul Gaultier and Yohji Yamamoto sent full-bearded models strutting down their runways, while “Mr. Yamamoto added ponytails and tight rolls of sausage curls just below the temples.” Of the latter’s intent, Horyn muses, “he seemed to be pondering why men of another era—the 18th century, say—looked authoritative in their high-collared shirts, somber frock coats, and powdered wigs. Yes, he had a few of those, too.” This would surely explain menswear’s current obsession with history and heritage, as both can signify strength in shaky times. Fashion may also just be having a Paul Bunyan moment, looking to the burly, macho icon as a welcomed respite from the metrosexual, with his six-pack, gel-drenched hair, and a membership to Sun Tan. After all, Gilt Man is now selling ax slings. Because today’s fashion savvy male consumer not only shops flash sample sales in his spare time, he gets off on chopping wood.

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