Every week, our Boulevardier, Marq Frerichs, considers matters related to men’s style. This week: The rise of a (sort of) new aesthetic for Toronto gents.
The corner of St. Joseph and St. Nicholas streets is not what it once was. Circa 1983, it was the nexus of Toronto’s alternative cultures. At one in the morning, Katrina’s, a super chic gay club, was packed with hot pant/mesh topped disco boys and drag queens. A line was forming to get upstairs to the Voodoo Lounge: mods, all suited and booted, glam-punks (not the punks of Kensington market), and the New Romantics. Across the alley was Club Zee, full of early hip-hop style and B-boys.
And then there were the Channels.
This clique brought the style level of the after-hours way up. Kings and queens of the five fingered discount—they must have been the bane of Holt Renfrew. The look? All designer, all the time. Shoulder pads, stir-up pants, Beatle boots or shabooties. A crisp white shirt with a pencil tie and clip, or perhaps a black lace bow. There were shoulder pads on the double-breasted suit, jackets always had two gold buttons—and did I mention the shoulder pads?
The Channels wore the subtlest of makeup: a little white face and eyeliner under their Wayfarer or Jackie O shades. I always thought they were the epitome of Grace Jones style. They carried a small box for a clutch, and pearls—a single strand on the neck or wrapped around the wrist. These boys worked the fine line of masculinity, lived in androgyny.
The androgynous male has a rich history, from St. Sebastian to Tony Curtis in Spartacus to early David Bowie. I’m convinced model Agyness Deyn stole my look, from when I was in my school uniform.
Cropped, bleached, mop-topped hair, with long and gangly limbs. I remember almost being thrown out of school for wearing a ring in each ear. How the times have changed! Why shouldn’t the male be just as adorned as the female?
And lo and behold, in 2010, the Channels are back. Perhaps, this time around, we can call them the Vuittons. I met the gentleman in the top photo at Holts last week. At first I thought, Whoa! What’s going on? Then I realized that I’ve seen this look around town since last Fashion Week.
As with all trends, there are a few uniform pieces.
1) The haircut, full on top, short on the sides and back.
2) The V-neck T-shirt.
3) The large “Amazing Kreskin” glasses. Why the eyewear? Perhaps it’s a reference to the “fashion” gurus from the Reitmans commercials: “The larger my frames are, the better I can see you have no taste.”
4) And, of course, the women’s handbag, I’ve seen five Vuittons so far with all of the above.
I love and respect them—it takes guts to push the gender barriers. However, I find their elitist vibe a little much—it’s an age thing on both sides. I’m a little misty-eyed for my days without facial lines and a softer complexion. And I sense from them that “I wouldn’t understand.” Whatever that means…
The Vuitton is not a look for everyone, but it’s good for everyone that another generation is pushing the limits of what men and women wear. Fight the power, fight the power that is.
Condo country: near St. Joseph and St. Nicholas streets in 2010.
Read more from Marq in The Boulevardier.