January 23rd, 2016  |  Published in January 2016



Winter has officially arrived in Cincinnati and so too have an array of new men’s fashion collections for the Fall 2016 season. As in women’s apparel, some collections were classic in color and style, while others took a more avant-garde approach to dressing men.

Italian designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, known for incorporating their love of Sicily into nearly all of their designs, introduced their customer base to their take on the Western: The Spaghetti Western that is, à la director Sergio Leone.

Overall, the pieces were streamlined, well-tailored silhouettes keeping very much in line with the brand’s aesthetic. The designers incorporated Western elements two-fold: visual plays on the theme and character approaches. Visually, Western was written all over the garments with embroideries of horseshoes, cowboys, and cacti (and many more). They were woven into suits, leather jackets, even a full-knit sweater at some point, all in a varying array of sizes.

To see the occasional flash of a rose, the brand’s signature symbol,  added to the Western vibe also, while paying homage to the brand’s Sicilian heritage as well.

In a more indirect way of paying tribute to the Spaghetti Western, the design duo seemingly designed and styled specific looks to refer to the genre’s two most iconic characters. There was the “stranger” reimagined in slim-fit embellished head-to-toe denim with the occasional floor-length poncho and over-sized shearling coats . And acting as a counter-balance, there was the “sherrif” reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes with modern pea coats and finely tailored suits, chain-link pocket watches, and spectacles.

Even with a well in hand theme, Dolce & Gabbana kept to what they do best: Creating modern menswear for the adventurious, yet always stylish European man. It will be interesting to see how the collection is broken down and re-packaged for retail stores. Most men, generally speaking, will not wear double denim on a regular basis.

To go back to this theme, Sicily meets Western, is also important because it provides us with a great analysis point on the future of menswear. Although Dolce & Gabbana looked at Spaghetti Westerns vs. its American counterpart, what is truly more manly than the Western?

In the United States, John Wayne-era westerns came to define what a man should be: tough, no-nonsense. The clothes a man wore on his back were for purely functional reasons with fashion playing very little role in it whatsoever. Seeing the Italian brand’s interpretation of modern Western gear mirrors the journey of men’s fashion from afterthought to fashion du jour. These changes, from practical to self-aware, also remind us that men’s roles in society have also morphed since the time of John Wayne, so that the new Western man is partly a simulacrum of the one we saw in movies.

Fashion is generally a barometer for what is happening in popular culture and real life. In fashion, men are having more and more fun experimenting with their clothes and appearances in ways once reserved for women. And so too in the “real world”, as with the evolution of gender roles comes a new era where we’re far less concerned with what’s expected of men, but of what they choose in self-presentation. The modern man does not have to be John Wayne, or his clone The Marlboro Man: He can be anything he wants to be, and can dress accordingly.

Last week the world mourned the passing of musician David Bowie, whose work revolutionized the worlds of music, art, and fashion. As an impromptu tribute to Bowie, British heritage brand Burberry played a selection of Bowie tunes before and after their Fall 2016 Menswear show. And in a move inspired by Ziggy Stardust himself, Burberry makeup artists also added a sweep of glitter under the eyes of some of the models. Male and female alike.

Men like Bowie helped change an entire zeitgeist and move menswear light years ahead. Analyzing the Dolce & Gabbana’s Western theme under that lense, it almost seems old fashioned to bring forward a motif that celebrates machismo in light of the growing movement of menswear towards less restrictive gender roles.

But looking at the clothes actually presented on the runway, it seems the brand may have choosen the Spaghetti Westerns purely for its cinematic appeal. Their pieces still retained the modern essence of the Dolce & Gabbana man: One who is quite aware of the message his appearance sends to the world.

Even with Western motifs, their modern style remained intact.

–Jennifer Perusek

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