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Suzy Menkes

Vogue International Editor Suzy Menkes is the best-known fashion journalist in the world. After 25 years commenting on fashion for the International Herald Tribune (rebranded recently as The International New York Times), Suzy Menkes now writes exclusively for Vogue online, covering fashion worldwide.

Has the smartphone put males on parade?

The “selfie” has revolutionised men’s attitudes to looking good

15 Января 2015

Models on parade wearing John Henric
Models on parade wearing John Henric

Let’s call it a wall of peacock males – sitting, posing and eyeing others strutting by.

There are moon-gold jackets with royal-blue trousers, purple suits, raspberry raincoats and silvered, reflective glasses catching the changing sun-and-cloud sky.

“It’s the selfies – they see themselves, so there is the idea of dressing well,” says Brunello Cucinelli, who could claim to be the men’s designer who has done the most to encourage the modern male to dress with dash and panache – in a casual way.

Photo: Giannoni Giovanni
Photo: Giannoni Giovanni

The walls, benches and pathways to the pavilions at Florence’s Pitti Uomo menswear fair are a witness to changing times. A buoyant optimism courses through this season’s event, with 27 per cent more visitors than in the previous year, according to Raffaello Napoleone, chief executive officer of Pitti Immagine.

I thought about this unlikely turnaround in men’s interest in clothes – and at a time when there is so much trouble in the world, from terrorism to falling currencies to dipping oil prices.

Photo: Giannoni Giovanni
Photo: Giannoni Giovanni

And I asked myself: could it really be the smartphone and its effect as a mirror on the self which is smartening up men? After all, there is no longer a postcard in sight at Florence’s – or other – tourist sites. Instead, vendors hawk selfie sticks so that even solo visitors can get the perfect, personal picture.

I sat down with Brunello Cucinelli, who had men lining up in his inimitable sartorial sportswear: clothes with that casual mix-and-match effect of shaded colours, delicately different textures and body-conscious shapes. Brunello himself was wearing a navy double-breasted blazer and beige cashmere trousers, while similar mixed tailoring on men of different ages made the “model” line-up.

The line-up at Brunello Cucinelli. Photo: Brunello Cucinelli
The line-up at Brunello Cucinelli. Photo: Brunello Cucinelli

One of fashion’s rare philosophers, Brunello talked about a new attitude to buying: “not consuming, but using”; a fresh respect of nature; an impact on taste of a younger spirit in Italy; the effect of a new Pope; a young prime minister in Matteo Renzi, who turned 40 last Sunday.

But my mind kept coming back to the “selfies”. As I walked through the stands and displays in Pitti’s many pavilions, I looked at grass-green suede shoes, imagining a man tipping his toes and snapping his elegant footwear. I wondered if the plethora of decorated sneakers that seem to be taking over the footwear universe came from the fun of framing them as photos.

Photo: Giannoni Giovanni
Photo: Giannoni Giovanni

The stalls of accessories – traditional cufflinks, but also every kind of attachment and gadget – have grown enormously.

Is it true – is it really possible – that smartphones have smartened up the male across continents and cultures and put them all on parade?

I emerged from Pitti’s main pavilion and sat down on the wall. Every single man alongside me was holding the emperor of modern accessories: a smartphone. And at least half of them were fancied up with arty, decorated cases. Offer a blank screen and fashion will fill it.

Photo: Giannoni Giovanni
Photo: Giannoni Giovanni

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