Peacocking takes menswear to another level at the Met Gala, showing that masculine style is no longer about the suit and tie
Diddy, Brian Tyree Henry, A$AP Rocky and Usher show how to take menswear up a notch at the Met Gala
By Ranji Mangcu
As past themes have gone, men in attendance have seemed to miss the memo that the Met Gala is a themed event. From sad-cases in plain black tuxedos, to disastrous, theme-averse misfires, each year has presented a series of disappointments and missed opportunities on the menswear front.
Menswear’s inability to live up to the stature of this event provokes a roaring disdain amongst audiences.
This year, however, it seems that our cries didn’t fall on deaf ears. Since this year’s theme left little excuse to play it safe, menswear was the crowning glory of Met Gala 2023.
Albeit delayed, it gave male attendees the impetus to finally step things up. Even those who kept to the familiar territory of the black tuxedo seemed to embrace the classic suit’s endless room for interpretation, experimenting with tailoring and tasteful flourishes of grandeur.
These are the three who showed just how much menswear has improved at the Met Gala over the years.
Diddy in Sean John
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One of the key highlights of the 2023 Met Gala was Sean “Diddy” Combs’s return to fashion design after ten years. Having recently regained control of the eponymous label, the music mogul seized the opportunity to debut Sean John on the Met Gala carpet, 20 years after its founding.
Crafting a distinct aesthetic, Sean John pioneered the entry of African American culture into high fashion, revitalizing the stale halls of luxury with a shamelessly opulent, extroverted swagger.
A decade since designing for @seanjohn, last night I honored the greats, Karl Lagerfeld & André Leon Talley. Embracing Karl's love for pearls & camellias, this look is a tribute to their legendary impact on fashion.— LOVE (@Diddy) May 2, 2023
Thank you @juneambrose for making my dreams come true!!… pic.twitter.com/buxFfWg23D
Unpacking the momentous occasion in a tweet, Diddy notes that in addition to Lagerfeld, his ensemble paid tribute to Andre Leon Talley, a titanic figure in fashion, who is synonymous with the Met Gala.
Embracing the design codes and silhouettes that made Sean John a trailblazing success, Diddy collaborated with June Ambrose in a motorcycle tuxedo made of wool and rayon, and gold-studded at the collar.
Embellished with 600 Swarovski crystals and black pearls, the ensemble embraced Lagerfeld’s love of overt accessorising. A puffer cape lined with over 1000 camellias referenced André Leon Talley’s famous love of capes along with Lagerfeld’s (and Coco Chanel’s) familiar motif.
Usher in Bianca SaundersEmbed from Getty Images
Usher stopped the show at the Met Gala, dressed in a custom Bianca Saunders ensemble defined by gracefully executed twists on suiting tradition. An homage to Karl Lagerfeld’s avant-garde marriage of modernity and tradition proved to be the ideal platform for the subversive tailoring that is a signature of the London-based designer’s eponymous label. Usher's iconic music reign shifted the representation of African American masculinity in the 90's and early 2000's fashion scene.
Usher's outfit was a tribute to Karl Lagerfeld's experimental cuts, with the slightly broad-shouldered silhouette of a two-piece wool gabardine suit gracefully executed by Saunders. Subtle touches, like the slight twists in fabric on the sleeves and a distinguished shoulder seam, made it truly stand out.
An Instagram post offered insight into specific details that referenced Lagerfeld Gallery's 1996 collection – including cotton sleeves which were purposefully detached.
They maintained a look of classic opulence with a restrained approach to accessorizing. A diamond-encrusted detail accents the knot of a slim white tie at the collar of a cuffless white shirt. Often, Lagerfeld wore rings on each finger, channelled through a grand diamond pinky ring, offset by a black leather glove.
Brian Tyree Henry in Karl LagerfeldEmbed from Getty Images
By fully comprehending the task at hand, Brian Tyree Henry paid homage to Karl Lagerfeld with an essential infusion of theatre and androgyny at the Met Gala event. He presented a distinct interpretation of Tudor-style grandeur through his unique approach to the three-piece suit. The outfit's effectiveness lay in its ability to exude drama while including surprising elements.
On the androgynous elements of his look, the actor tells Variety Magazine:
“I love the androgyny of it … it’s a part of who we are… We can be all things, and I think that’s the way that fashion should lean”.
Henry described his look as a “collaboration” with Lagerfeld, pulling from an archival 2016/2017 bridal collection. Built on a balance of masculine and feminine elements, the androgynous elements of the collection attracted Henry. As a voluminous, ruffled black overcoat lead the charge, an armless waistcoat was balanced out by a clerical white collar. The exaggerated, jagged cuffs of his shirt disrupted the decadent layers of the overcoat, embracing Dandy-like theatre and playfulness.
A$AP Rocky in GucciEmbed from Getty Images
In one of the strongest archive references of the event, A$AP Rocky simple yet effective nod to the archive of Lagerfeld and his place in the cultural zeitgeist. It made for one of the most intelligently executed looks of the evening. Attending the Met Gala alongside Rihanna for the second year, Hollywood’s favourite “Fashion Killa” couple appears to revel in combining forces and maximising their joint slay.
A$AP Rocky’s integrity to his own style worked well to keep his homage from being an on-the-nose, costumed moment. Lagerfeld’s large black tie was reimagined into a thinner, more subtle detail. In place of a single black belt, A$AP wore several belts.
He took the look a step further by layering an asymmetrical kilt over a pair of lightly “dirty-denim”-washed, crystal-studded jeans, channelling a 2000’s “country-rockstar” element. Not only did this align perfectly with his 2004 reference; it was also a key choice that tied the look back to A$AP’s signature street style.