Until very recently, I thought that red carpet dressing had peaked a long, long time ago. In the Nineties, premiere attendees generally dressed like they had been bundled into a van and brought to the cinema against their will. I know the because every few days, the Instagram account @nightopenings serves up fresh evidence of a halcyon age when slebs didn’t give a shit and social media didn’t exist. Many wore jeans, many wore jumpers… people smoked on the red carpet.
Over the decades, premieres lost their lustre. Now, only the cast of the film itself and the hosts of SAS: Are You Tough Enough? go to the opening of a big movie, so all the red-carpet élan is reserved for awards ceremonies – that’s where big fashion, big followings and big Hollywood converge. But despite their newly protracted, Zoom-based nature, they’ve come to be one of the only places you can see nice clothes in real life. Except, as the cache of images from the latest ceremony demonstrates, it’s not real life, is it?
Forced to stay home, A-listers have wrestled with the tricky subject of what to wear to attend a major media event in their own sitting room. In the old, non-pandemical world, the game plan was clear: wear something non-lame that made you look handsome. But now, despite there being no paparazzi, no autographs to sign and no tangible ceremony to attend, there is more risk of looking like a berk.
Do you go all-out tuxedo, patent shoes and diamond dress watch? Could do, but you might look a bit odd, sitting alone on your sofa, beaming into the little camera you’ve rigged up by the TV, praying you're not on mute. You could go normcore, which would certainly lend you an amiable, man-of-the-people vibe. But you’re not a man of the people, are you? You’re a Golden Globe nominee! Winners don't wear harem pants! And, isn’t the act of choosing to wear “normal” clothes as much a statement as a tux? How do you actively make normcore passive?
Jason Sudeikis wore a tie-dye hoody from his sister’s gym (the Covid equivalent of bringing your mum to the ceremony) to accept his Golden Globe for Ted Lasso, and it worked. He was largely applauded for laid-back, scum-bro style. However, many outlets took it as a clear sartorial reflection of his grief over a recent breakup from Olivia Wilde. Instyle suggested he must be super bummed about Wilde reportedly dating Harry Styles, “a star so good-looking, so high-fashion, so universally beloved”, but kindly offered that his bloodshot, baggy eyes were “endearing”.
To minimise risk, slebs have taken to just producing full-blown photoshoots with the sole purpose of unveiling the fit they would have worn to the ceremony if it was happening IRL. It’s a step-and-repeat board of their own control, with no variables… no bad angles, no wardrobe malfunctions, no chance of a Jimmy Kimmel photobomb. It’s a little contrived, and kind of Black Mirror-y, if you think about it too much, but it’s very clever. For last week's Sag Awards, some A-listers, such as Dan Levy and Carey Mulligan, chose to hold the shoot at “home” (it may not be their own). That way it is at least grounded in some form of reality, or at least, as much reality as a one-person, pre-awards-ceremony fashion shoot can garner.
Others, such as Daniel Kaluuya, Riz Ahmed and Leslie Odom Jr chose to be shot against the blank, horizonless walls of a studio. Like they’re off to see the Architect in The Matrix. They look a bit lonely, there, hovering in the void, but it makes the clothes look really, really good. Better than they would look IRL, actually. Would Odom Jr’s technicolour Berluti vibe slap quite as hard amongst the hubbub of the red-carpet? Hapsolutelynawt.
These shoots are quite odd - Josh, is now the best time for a sauna? - but they serve as proof that menswear is in a very, very good place. The concept of “fits”, which are essentially fashion “moments” for everyday men, is permeating mainstream pop-culture, so rather than being given safe (but drab) clothes by a stylist, award attendees are seizing their chances to pull off some brilliantly avant-garde fits.
I might go so far as to say that the Sags was the best dressed awards ceremony of the past few decades, which is impressive considering no one actually went. Beyond Kaluuya and Levy and O’Connor and Odom Jr and Ahmed, you had Steven Yeun in low-key, billowy Dunhill (perhaps the best look of all), Dan Levy in a dusty DB by The Row and Jared Leto wielding a golden, jewel-encrusted Gucci oyster shell. Nothing beats Brad Pitt’s yellow shirt from the My Private Idaho premiere in 1991, but we’re certainly on the right track.
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