BDSM – 2019’s hottest new menswear trend?

“It doesn’t have the comfort or the security of a jacket, but it’s somehow empowering.”

Virgil Abloh

Men’s attire on the red carpet has long been a monotonous stream of black suits and white shirts, with the appearance of a brogue or coloured tie being the pinnacle of daring. However, over the last decade or so, we’ve finally begun to see men branch out into more adventurous sartorial choices, in some cases to even rival the elegant couture of the women around them.  This refreshing shift in the norm is likely a product of the lines between style and identity gradually being blurred. To put this into context, if one were to wear a biker jacket in the 60s, it would be assumed you listen to rock & roll; if one wore a leather harness in the 70s, many would assume you were homosexual. Yet, since late last year, the leather harness has become a recurring sight at many a red-carpeted event.

From left to right: Michael B. Jordan, Timothée Chalamet, Chadwick Boseman. [Credit: Getty Images]

That’s right – Louis Vuitton’s most talked about pieces from its recent SS19 and FW19 shows are the *rather unique* leather harnesses they’ve sent down the runway. Designed by LV’s menswear artistic director, Virgil Abloh, the leather ‘cut away vests’ come in a range of colours. First spotted on Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman at the ESPY awards last year, the somewhat sexually suggestive leather bib was subsequently worn by both Chadwick’s co-star,  Michael B. Jordan, then Timothée Chalamet at events this year. Speaking to Vogue, Virgil Abloh described the harnesses, or “mid-layer garments” as he calls them, as the “keystone” of his vision for Louis Vuitton. “It was the actual very first thing I designed,” he added. “I wore it to the Met Gala … It doesn’t have the comfort or the security of a jacket, but it’s somehow empowering.”

Virgil Abloh wearing one of his own LV harnesses. [Photo: Getty]

These harnesses are a breath of fresh air in the high fashion world for men, they’re another strong indication that menswear is becoming more fluid, allowing for the same level of creativity and self-expression that women’s haute couture facilitates. 

One cannot help but notice the sexual nature of the leather garments – they closely resemble props of sexual debauchery, straight out of the red room in Fifty Shades of Grey. Are they a distant relation of women’s lingerie, intended for men to flaunt their sexuality? They certainly were back in the 70s and 80s, when first popularised by the gay community. This just goes to show how far men’s fashion has come, to have straight male celebrities today wearing similar harnesses on the red carpet.

Men dressed in leather at New York City’s Gay Pride Parade in 1980. [Photo: Leo Vals/Getty Images]

Louis Vuitton, under the creative direction of Mr Abloh isn’t the only source of fashionable harnesses for men – brands such as Alyx and A Cold Wall have been producing similar accessories since as early as 2016, albeit not from leather, and not nearly as kinky – last year, Kanye West was spotted wearing  ALYX’s more utilitarian ‘chest rig’, whilst Houston rapper Travis Scott wore a similar one in an Instagram post earlier this year. These alternative, sportier takes on the men’s harness could mean that the trend may stretch further than the luxury, tailored vision of Virgil’s. This more accessible (and not so provocative) format of the garment has the potential to trickle all the way down to the high street – bringing fresh new style to even the casual fashionista.

Left: Travis Scott, Instagram @travisscott / Right: Kanye West, Twitter @souljaian

Aside from their queer origins, harnesses have also been worn by men who simply aren’t afraid to express themselves, even years before Virgil reignited their flame. Michael Jackson arguably kicked off the trend all the way back in 1993, when he wore a shimmering gold harness during his Superbowl half time show, which was subsequently ripped off by Beyoncé for her own performance on the same stage, 23 years later in 2016. 

Beyoncé (Left) and MJ (Right) at their Superbowl half time shows in 2016 and 1993 respectively. [Photo: Getty Images]

At the moment, the look that is seen almost exclusively on celebrities at major events , the men’s ‘high fashion harness’ has yet to reach the wardrobe of the man on the street, either due to its rather avant-garde nature, or the current sky-high price of the current designs. Time will tell with this exciting trend, where similar to the babushka, mainstream acceptance may rely on fast fashion outlets producing their own, more affordable versions, so us who aren’t rich and famous might join Virgil on his ‘unintentionally’ kinky vision for the future of menswear.

3 comments / Add your comment below

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *