The standard black tuxedo men donned to awards shows for decades is quickly becoming an outmoded uniform. From bold colors, to striking textures, to novel silhouettes, men’s awards show looks are now just as fashion-forward as women’s.
“It was a slow evolution and then a really quick evolution,” says Ilaria Urbinati, who styles Rami Malek, Bradley Cooper and John Krasinski. “Ten years ago when ‘Mad Men’ first came out, that had a big influence. And then I did that line of suiting with Albert Hammond Jr. that was all color, which nobody was doing. And then wardrobe designer Dayna Pink bought the suits to put on Ryan Gosling for ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love.’ That movie was such a revolution for menswear, because it was all about giving Steve Carell a makeover and how, if you dress for the life you want, then you’ll get the life.”
This awards season, Urbinati has been doing a lot of custom looks and interesting combinations. For the Critics’ Choice Awards, she dressed director-writer-actor Krasinski in a white Brioni jacket with black shirt and pants. “People know him as a guy who does a lot of comedy, and I want him to look like a movie star now,” she says.
First-time director Cooper, however, wanted to look more understated. The white three-piece Gucci tux with vintage feel that he wore to the Globes was “actually his idea.”
With Malek, Urbinati also went more classic — to differentiate the “Bohemian Rhapsody” star from his outlandish character — but with subtle nuances. Malek wore a gray Givenchy suit with ’70s-style silhouette to the Critics’ Choice, and his Palm Springs gala look was a pinstriped suit they turned into a tux by adding a pant stripe. “It’s more about trying to get into the details of the looks, than trying to rely on the brightest look you can find.”
In addition to more designer options, stylist Michael Fisher has seen a shift in the kind of work actors are doing. “There isn’t just that cookie-cutter, leading-man kind of persona anymore,” says Fisher, who dressed “The Wrestler’s” Mickey Rourke for his 2008 Oscar campaign. “Character actors are getting celebrated, and there’s more of a variety of personalities on the red carpet … I think all of that helped put more of a focus on men’s fashion and being an individual.”
Fisher always wants there to be something exciting when his clients put on yet another tuxedo — but keeps the actor in mind. “Someone like Adam Driver likes it very classic. He’ll venture off and do a velvet. …While [with] someone like Sam Rockwell we take more risks.”
For the Globes, Rockwell wore a monochromatic brown Prada look that built on his 2018 Indie Spirit Awards outfit. “I like creating a narrative and storyline,” says Fisher. Ethan Hawke’s red velvet tux jacket at the Governors Awards referenced the religion in “First Reformed.” “Wardrobe does make a difference; it can make or break a campaign sometimes.”
It can also help to launch a newcomer. Stephan James, star of “Homecoming” and “If Beale Street Could Talk,” is garnering just as much attention for his wardrobe as his performances. “When you’re making these best-dressed lists, people start to pay attention,” says James’ stylist Apuje Kalu. For the Globes, Kalu jazzed up James’ black velvet Ralph Lauren tux with metallic-capped Louboutins and a Swarovski lapel pin, and his white Thom Browne Critics’ Choice look played riskily with proportions.
“My go-to is really color or texture … or some kind of print or jacquard that makes it stand out.”
A glitzy twist can go a long way — as evidenced by Timothee Chalamet’s embroidered bib at the Globes, or “Crazy Rich Asians” actor Harry Shum Jr.’s sparkly Critics’ Choice look. “I found the most beautiful hand-beaded tuxedo jacket from Cavalli,” says Shum’s stylist Warren Alfie Baker. “It was something I hadn’t seen done before, and Harry likes to push the boundaries.”
Others, including Billy Porter and Cody Fern have been pushing gender boundaries. “[I used to think], ‘If I show up in something that makes somebody think that I might have a feminine bone in my body, then nobody will cast me as a straight person,’” Porter told Variety before the Globes. His goal now? “I want to show up as a piece of art.”