From crop top to tie-dye: how confinement freed up the men’s wardrobe | Priya Moose

IIt happened a few weeks after the lockdown. I was having a socially distanced conversation at the end of our garden path and realized I had dressed head to toe in tie-dye (jogging bottoms and self-dyed t-shirt). “I became crazy!” I blurted out, making it clear that that wasn’t an acceptable look from the outside.

It struck me that while I was channeling a Grateful Dead roadie, I had also fallen into the deep joy of dressing in lockdown.

The change in the way men dress and interact with their clothes has been slow but significant. Normally, men’s dress codes are deep-rooted and outdated. We are told from the moment we can crawl what is allowed and what is not (trousers, not skirt; blue not pink; flats not heels). These rules are enforced by school uniforms and work dress codes. Colors disappear from the mental list of options, as do styles and combinations until you end up with a very slim range of style options, from “John Major” to “John Major on vacation”.

In a way, that means men have it easy. We don’t really need to think about the clothes we put on our bodies at any stage of the process. If you walked into a menswear section in one of the department stores on the high street with a blindfold on, stumbled into a rack of clothes, and bought the lot without seeing them, that would probably be a socially acceptable mix of desaturated tones and conservative cuts. The level of comfort is so high that we are practically unconscious.

But the coronavirus has changed all that. Shops closed, barbers closed. There was no work for our work dress code. And what is socially acceptable dress when there’s no one to dress for? These silent arbiters of menswear and grooming have dissolved — and perhaps some of our calcifying ideas of how to dress properly too.

Without these “front-facing” elements, our lockdown looks forced us to look inside ourselves and perhaps, for the first time in our adult lives, start dressing and looking like what we really want. Of course, for some of us, it’s as if nothing had happened. Personally, I have put limits on what I do with my facial hair (I always shave) because it gives me psychological boundaries and structure, which is helpful. But for others, it opened a new era of diabolical possibilities.

At first, this was played by shaving his hair instead of a haircut or half-heartedly growing a mustache; then came a second stage of complete sartorial anarchy.

Take the example of Armie Hammer. The Hollywood idol, who is known for her classic style choices, revealed her lockdown look on Instagram. Handlebar mustache, curly mohawk haircut and fringed crop top. In this ensemble, her Fitbit looked undeniably out of place. It was a complete 360 ​​of his previous style (think sentient Ken doll meets Hollywood studio system era villain).

Commentators piled in to express their dismay and jokes (“blink twice if you need help,” “Oliver [his character from Call Me By Your Name] didn’t go well”). But it was glorious in its shark-jumping eccentricity, Friends’ Joey trying on all of Chandler’s clothes at once – something that’s rarely seen in menswear.

Other celebrities have followed suit. Richard Madeley seems to have dyed his hair Beach Boys blonde, our beards have grown into our nape hairs (“close” to anyone?), and professional golfers like Matthew Wolff wear tie-dye golf shoes.

The fact that we could blame this newly relaxed style on Covid-19 cabin fever also gave us a generous release clause.

But it may be a more important moment than we think. As the old ways of being fall in the wake of time, the way men think about clothes could also change. There’s a tendency to belittle men’s runway fashion as too outward and unwearable, and yet right now it feels like it’s getting closer to the expansive and liberating mindset from which many men’s fashion designers operate.

Like magic… we all transformed into Mr. Benn bursting into the costume shop.

Priya Elan is the Guardian’s assistant fashion editor