What Side Are You On? The Camps of Men’s Fashion

There are two camps in Paris menswear right now: those who celebrate style with utter zaniness and those who seek chic with calme, luxe et volupté.

Ann Demeulemeester is among the latter. This season, she sprinkled her runway with desert sand and played to her strengths with a collection of elegantly tattered sleeveless jackets and knee pants worn with half-unlaced boots. One golden yellow, transparent tulle T-shirt was edged in black, and another mesh stripe sweater showed a sexy hint of skin. The mix of silk sheen and sturdy cottons and linens gave a feeling of faded grandeur, and a black jacket with shirt stripe sleeves worn pushed up towards the elbow captures Ann’s antiquated allure.

“Lessandmore” is the formula Kris Van Assche has found for Dior Homme, and it seems to be taking him toward a man’s version of the hyper purity Phoebe Philo has achieved at Céline. As Usher looked on approvingly from the front row, Van Assche brought out classic two-button jackets, or even just one button at the neck, in muslin (or toile in French), the simplest cotton pattern makers use for first samples. Eventually he got into linen, but the overall effect was Amish, or like an all-white Chairman Mao, or even a purist pair of pajamas.

Thom Browne just can’t get enough of Paris. He returned for the third season, this time to show at the legendary Maxim’s. Browne took over the Art Nouveau first floor and seated his audience, including couturier and Maxim’s owner Pierre Cardin, 88, at tables with champagne to view his naughty send up of ’20s cabaret dressing featuring guys in beaded flapper dresses swinging long strings of pearls, or in Charlie Chaplin tailoring, and finally in nothing more than boxers, the better to show off socks with zips up the back held up by garters. Browne’s tricolor-banded varsity jackets were the strongest look, but the tennis hats edged in lampshade fringe aren’t for everybody.

Bernhard Willhelm got down and dirty amidst the gleaming hot rods at the Mercedes showroom on the Champs-Elysées for an absurdist send up of porn aesthetics featuring Jesus ringlets, buckets of self-tanner, frightening pattern mixtures, hideous American-flag knee socks and sandal combos, oversize check shirts, skintight American football jerseys and tie-dyed T-shirts. Famously French porn star François paraded around the room in one of Willhelm’s XXL patterned thongs. And a he/she body builder produced incomprehensible commentary on a cordless mike while parading her impossibly inflated derriere around the tightly packed room. This was complete delirium, and the Lycra leggings and cotton shirts in Willhelm’s new porn Polaroid print are sure to be big in Japan.