Let’s take a moment to step back and see how fashionable men are looking at this moment in time. You’ve probably noticed a proliferation of thick moustaches - well away from the month of Movember - alongside lean and toned bodies all clothed in fitted, retro sportswear. It’s hard not to see his counterpart mirrored from the late 70s or early 80s. An era of disco, gay liberation and pre-AIDS.
Left - How men are looking today - lean, toned and a hair top lip - Gone is the bearded and tattooed hipster
This isn’t just gay men either. Young straight men and homosexual men are almost indecipherable in how they look, today, bouncing the trends off one another and have the confidence to do as they please, rather than worry about being labelled either way.
I was recently in a gay pub in East London. In walked three young guys all proudly sporting cropped hair and thick moustaches. I thought it was interesting how they looked like the same young men from nearly 40 years ago. I wondered why all these things: the clothes, the body shape and facial hair styles, had all collided back to this one point in time. And, then I thought, maybe it’s because we’re entering a Post-AIDS era?
Right - Two Supermen, 40 years apart - Henry Cavill & Christopher Reeve
Thanks to medication, HIV can be prevented and people who do have it can no longer pass it on. Medication such as PrEP (Pre-exposure prophylaxis) can stop HIV from taking hold. It is highly effective for preventing HIV if used as prescribed and it recently became available on the NHS.
Consciously or unconsciously, it feels like we can finally celebrate this time because we’re no longer scared of it. Previously, looking at the images from that era had a heavy melancholy knowing what was to come and how many men didn’t make it out of that decade. But, it feels like that has lifted. It’s a mental freedom that the fashion industry is clearly relishing and focusing on this hedonistic era and image of hyper-masculinity.
Popular Instagram accounts such as ‘TheAidsMemorial’ celebrates the lives of men who lost their lives and it’s interesting how contemporary these images look. Publications such as ‘Gayletter’ play with retro homoerotic imagery and books such as ‘Fire Island Pines’ , is a collection of Polaroids from 1975-1983 of men holidaying in Fire Island in Long Island, New York, and they look like a contemporary men's swimwear shoot. Recent films like ‘Tom of Finland’ focuses on the illustrator who drew the fetish/leather side of gay men and can be seen throughout the recent AW18 collection from Moschino.
Left - Photography book - Fire Island Pines by Tom Bianchi
This is obviously centred on the gay community, but gay men influence straight men, so quickly now, and vice versa.
“In the inimitable words of power PR Samantha Jones of TV show ‘Sex and the City’ (fictional, of course) "First comes the Gays, then the girls and then the industry"!says David M Watts, Editor & Publisher, Wattswhat Magazine.
"Gay men have historically been regarded as trend setters when it comes to fashion and style. However, the resurgence of male erotica imagery making its way into mainstream fashion has more to do with lazy millennial designers looking back and copying 80s and 90s imagery rather than using it as inspiration to create something new,” says Watts.
Right - Moschino AW18
Contemporary films, documentaries and TV shows such as Ready Player One, Stranger Things, The Assassination of Gianni Versace and Antonio Lopez: Sex, Fashion & Disco - Read TheChicGeek review here, keep us continually coming back to the 70s and 80s.
“I think nostalgia is a feeling which anchors us in a constantly-changing world, and that period between the late-Seventies and mid-Eighties, pre-AIDS crisis, pre-Section 28, and the birth of the Gay Liberation movement, is sometimes seen by gay men as a golden age of hedonism and queer sexual politics. Hence the continued popularity of the music and style from that period,” says Lee Clatworthy, Writer and Press and Media Officer for Sparkle - The National Transgender Charity.
"I think this style has filtered down to the mainstream because of the availability of cheap flights to cities like Berlin, which has a large queer art community, but is also a focal point for innovative electronic music and club culture at present.” says Clatworthy.
Gone is that built, steroid-fed and hairless muscular body of the 90s and in its place is a more natural yet Instagramable toned shape. It’s more youthful and suits the current fitted style of men's clothes.
Trying not to fixate on the moustache too much, but it’s definitely one of the defining factors linking the two eras, one thing to know is, it’s not the twiddly gin-drinking Victorian type, but the solid Magnum PI style. The many years of Movember would have played a part in its return, but it’s most probably a reaction to the hipster beard.
Left - GQ Style SS18
“I would say guys wearing the moustache are normally stylish and looking to stand out a bit more in a world of beards. It normally means they are confident in themselves too.” says Tom Chapman, Founder of the Lions Barber Collective.
“I think the obsession with facial hair as a whole has been with us for a few years now, but people are starting to feel confident with a furry face and beginning to experiment with different shapes. There are so many choices when it comes to the moustache which can be easily changeable and stylable.” says Chapman.
Right - Selfie from Pinterest
“The thicker, denser looks with less styling have definitely come from those 70/80 icons such as Freddy Mercury and Hulk Hogan and I would say that young men are most definitely influenced by iconic TV and films. They have a powerful way of making something feel cool or stylish.” Chapman says.
While this ‘PrEPpy’ look has already been strong, particularly amongst East London gay men, it is definitely being pushed out into the wider male aesthetic. As we move further away from the bearded hipster, this seems to be its cool replacement. It is starting to influence straight males who won’t even know where it’s come from.
Or, it could simply be just a lot of young men with moustaches. It’s only a theory!
Left - Clearly influence by Tom of Finland, GQ Style SS18 showing the lean, toned and tached male look
Read more expert ChicGeek Comments - here
When East London became cool it was the area near Old Street, stretching to Hoxton Square and Curtain Road, that became the main focus. Rivington Street was the central style artery with fashion shops and bars.
Fast forward 15 years and it’s jumped to Redchurch Street, Shoreditch High Street and Kingsland Road. The area became somewhat dead, but, now, it’s starting a new renaissance.
Left - Alfie Douglas - Large Backpack - £380
Charlotte Road, just across from the new Nobu Hotel and running along to Rivington Street has seen Anatome - the new health and wellbeing brand from Brendan Murdock open - and, just by chance, as I walked past the other day, Alfie Douglas - a made in London leather bag brand, which I’d never heard of before.
Launched in 2014, Alfie Douglas is a family named and run, handmade leather goods brand, ethically sourcing all components and designing in their studio in London.
The collection includes everything from oversized totes, backpacks and duffle bags to camera cases and tool-kit covers. The latest collection features styles designed to suit a busy life, each distinctive in the way they look and ingenious in the way that they can be adapted and customised to every individual carrying them.
The minimal, utilitarian designs made from beautiful hand stitched leather are classic, functional bags that demonstrate a subtle and distinguished luxury.
Made in London from Italian leather, what I noticed most was the thickness of the leather and the simplicity of the designs. While slightly feminine shapes, if you choose a larger size it becomes more masculine. This is leather that will last and, while not cheap, offers great value.
Below - Alfie Douglas - Zero Large - £300
H&M has opened a pop-up store, today, 23rd July. in the Old Truman Brewery, on Dray Walk, Brick Lane to celebrate their Divided collection. Open for six weeks and stocking the latest fashion trends from H&M’s men's Divided collection.
"We always strive to excite and surprise our customers, and by launching a pop-up shop in East London we have the opportunity to offer H&M’s Divided collection to such a diverse range of shoppers and fashion-lovers in an innovative and fun way. East London has a very different vibe to any of our other locations throughout the UK, which makes this pop-up launch so exciting and in the perfect location to present the collection” says Carlos Duarte, Country Manager H&M UK and Ireland.
Over the six weeks there will be numerous events and activities inside the pop-up for customers to enjoy. Whether it’s catching DJ sets from the latest turn-table talents, late night lock-ins, innovation workshops or checking out hotly tipped artists and playlists in the music pods.
The pop-up is 1100 square feet in size and the 'design-lead' interior includes neon and linear lighting, an indoor wall mural, raw concrete features and scaffold elements.
Opening hours 11am-7pm, Monday-Sunday