In Milan, Military Rigor Meets Instagram Excess

In Milan, Military Rigor Meets Instagram Excess

Mr. Barrett showed women’s wear, too, this season, as he has in the recent past. And what was fascinating was how, by utilizing dressmaking techniques like the cocoon-shaped back so much favored by the Spanish couturier Cristóbal Balenciaga, he managed to propose plausible new uniforms for stylish humans predicated on what is in their heads and not between their legs. That goes for the suits, the coats and even the padded motocross trousers that were Mr. Barrett’s nod not just to the fetish appeal of certain kinds of sports gear but to the inherent camp of butch masculinity. It is understood that the things in the toy chest of style are no longer gender-specific. Anyone can play.

That includes, in a notable way, ball players. If any single group has influenced men’s wear in recent memory it is athletes. Their new wealth and visibility helped rescue once-niche magazines like GQ from the dung heap of print media. The cycle of their work lives has helped normalize casual clothes as a new uniform in the workplace. Their exceptional physiques were, in general, a boon to designers. True, you would have had to splice together multiple pairs of skinny jeans by Hedi Slimane in his Saint Laurent days to get something that might fit the circumference of Nolan Carroll’s thighs. Yet were Mr. Slimane still designing, he would surely find a way to address the problem. (That is a guess.)

Mr. Carroll, a former Miami Dolphins cornerback and now a free agent, has been making the rounds of the shows here, his movements closely tracked on an Instagram account devoted to the sartorial doings of pro athletes founded by the Brooklyn-born Jamaal Rich. If not for Mr. Rich’s @morethanstats, an observer of Donatella Versace’s all-but-the-kitchen-sink presentation might have been left in a muddle.

Slide Show

Versace: Fall 2018

CreditGio Staiano/Nowfashion

There were zebra stripes, tiger spots, tartans, mythological motifs, velvet suits, prints from the housewares archive, fringed overcoats, kilts, silk shirts, bovver boots aerated with grommets, even the caterpillar fringe that rich Italians use to edge pillows. What felt incoherent as a runway presentation fell into place quite neatly when one viewed the slide show afterward and then consulted Mr. Rich’s Instagram creation.

Clearly pro ball players have gotten into the influencer game in a big way. How else can you explain the phenomenal stylishness of men constantly being photographed — as if for the red carpet — on their way to practice? Take any single element of the Versace show — a leopard pattern swing coat, let’s say — and put it on Mr. Carroll as he heads for the locker room. What in ordinary circumstances might look like day wear for a circus performer seems not only plausible but desirable when you spot it on a football player in his physical prime.

Hollywood actors, as it turns out, have nothing on ball players. Just check out Mr. Carroll in an Instagram video shot in a Versace fitting room, where the player is trying on a garishly printed silk tunic in gold. Or tap on the panel showing the Minnesota Timberwolves player Andrew Wiggins dressed for practice in a Dries Van Noten bomber and jeans from Amiri. Or scroll to the UFC champion Conor McGregor flaunting a crazily printed tracksuit by Gucci for Mr Porter.

Seen on the runway these elements might seem so outlandish as to be comic. Yet worn with ineffable confidence and swagger by athletes, even the most outlandish of designer efforts seem justified.

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