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No thoughts, just vibes: sexy boys are ruling the runway

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From cute himbos in glittering football kits at JW Anderson to Rick Owens’ illuminated adonises, the AW22 menswear shows were hot, hot, hot

It’s been scientifically proven that men mature more slowly than women (and though the research doesn’t explicitly say it, I’m going to include gender non-conforming people in that second camp, too), with the male of the species dragging their knuckles up to 11 years behind us. This disparity is particularly noticeable when it comes to fashion, with sexy ensembles left to the girls, gays, and theys, and the average man’s eyes wide at the suggestion that subversive ‘menswear’ brands like Charles Jeffrey or Luis de Javier could possibly be for them. 

Remember the metrosexual men of the 00s? It was literally newsworthy that men were putting down the 5-in-1 and finally picking up moisturiser. But even with their deep v-neck tees, there was something clinical about these perfectly preened men, scrubbed of their sexuality. Even the muscled ‘spornosexual’ – a potent cocktail of gym bro and pornstar – that he evolved into was there for you to look at, but not to touch under any circumstances, lest you mess up his perfectly coiffed hair.

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That all changed for AW22. Right now, it seems as if fashion’s fellas have finally matured, embraced their sexual nature, and gotten a whole lot more playful as a result. Who is this man exactly? Well, he’s a bit of a cheeky chappy, football lad meets sk8r boi, and, yes, he will almost certainly ghost you. Could you consider him a himbo? Quite possibly. Our sexy studs sauntered down the runway at IRL shows in Paris and Milan and will be coming to a city near you next season. Since hot girl/gay/they summer is already accounted for, dare I say: hot boy winter is the new sheriff in town? 

The biggest proponent of this army of new-gen adonises is Jonathan Anderson, who sent them marching out at both Loewe and JW Anderson. At the former, his boys threw caution to the wind, their coats open exposing bare chests, feet shoeless in the sand. In fact, if they weren’t actually topless, they were made to look it anyway thanks to second skin trompe-l’œil spandex. Elsewhere, flasher macs were made even seedier through the use of semi-translucent leather, while one model cosplayed a football player post-goal, shirt pulled over his head to reveal a print of a screaming face beneath – which is a big mood for 2022, tbh.

At his eponymous label’s show In Milan, a documentary on Cristiano Ronaldo provided an unlikely source of inspiration. Crop tops became sculptural with bending hemlines, appearing alongside scrotum-shaving skorts (beware any rogue gusts) and yassified soccer kits dotted with micro sequins, with vintage beauty ads splashed across the front for extra camp measure. Backstage, the Irish designer mused on “the limits of hypermasculinity” – and he wasn’t alone. 

In fact, the male body was front and centre for AW22, poking out of tiny baby tees and revealing cut-out looks. Braving the elements at Rick Owens, the aforementioned deep v-necks of the 00s were back and showed abs in a new light – thanks to those giant lightbulb headpieces. The show’s opener, Rick’s muse Tyrone Susman, bared it all as an oiled-up adonis under a barely-there metal mesh vest. “Men are pigs,” Owens reflected post-show, and I mean… tell us something we don’t know. At Y/Project and Walter Van Beirendonck, the approach was more playful, with faux six-packs rendered in kaleidoscopic photo prints and arty, abstract blobs respectively.

“Who is this man exactly? Well, he’s a bit of a cheeky chappy, football lad meets sk8r boi, and, yes, he will almost certainly ghost you. Could you consider him a himbo? Quite possibly”

Cocksure chaps also swaggered down the catwalk at Dior, Prada, Louis Vuitton, and MSGM. their underwear peeking playfully out of the top of their trousers. A nod to Justin Bieber circa 2012 and Calvin Klein models past and present? Perhaps. Speaking of the early-aughts, morphsuits – the spandex onesies that had stag dos in a chokehold – made a surprising return, at Bianca Saunders, Vetements, and Loewe, the latter accessorised with twinkling LED lights. 

If this is all feeling a bit much, male bravado-wise, the good news is there’s nothing to be afraid of – masculinity isn’t synonymous with toxicity. Queering things up particularly were the likes of Archie Alled-Martinez, who explored gay male romance through the lens of high school, putting out a collection of preppy shrunken silhouettes, second-skin jeans, and not-so-subtle tees reading ‘Top’, ‘Bottom’, and ‘Verse’. At Lazoschmidl, Andreas Schmidl, and Josef Lazo have been pushing an alternative view of male sexuality since their debut in 2017. For AW22, chaps were layered with lacy underwear, while cropped neoprene leggings left little to the imagination. 

While there is an air of adolescence to these sexually liberated boys, it’s not just for teeny boppers. Prada put forward a strong case for DILFs, with celeb daddies Kyle MacLachlan and Jeff Goldblum respectively opening and closing the show – alongside cameos from younger actors like Ashton Sanders, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, and Asa Butterfield. If Goldblum’s menacing, sensual stride wasn’t enough to convince you that sex is back baby, how about the wipe-clean nylon and leather shellsuits (with matching gloves). 

Why now? Over in womenswear, the revival of Y2K has seen the return of hips, thighs, bums, tums, and everything else, so naturally, men are only just catching up. On the red carpet, the likes of Harry Styles and Evan Mock are turning up the dial to compete with queer peers Lil Nas X and Troye Sivan, leaving behind stale suiting in favour of sultrier styles. Even squeaky-clean popstar Shawn Mendes bared it all under his open blazer at the last Met Gala. 

But what does it all mean? I famously (no, really) don’t believe in handing out prizes for being straight, white, and thin (and lord knows it would be great to see some body diversity on the menswear runways). Nor do I believe femininity is something that men should be ashamed of. Yet, this reclamation of male sexuality just might be a signal of changing times – undoubtedly sparked by a two-year Groundhog Day of a pandemic – where men are unshackling themselves from the constraints of traditional masculinity and going balls to the wall in a new direction. Men 2.0, if you will. No thoughts, just sexy, sexy vibes.