Rude boys

Tamsin Blanchard finds skinheads and mods mingling with baggy- trousered wide boys at the Paris menswear collections. Photographs by Jon Fischer
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Over the years, Jean Paul Gaultier has put men into skirts, sailor suits, corsets, and ball-gowns with bustles. But last week, at the Paris menswear collections, he turned his attention on skinheads and rude boys, and there was not so much as a frock in sight. The collection is not on sale until next autumn, but no doubt, along with the re-release of Quadrophenia on Friday, it will have a major influence on men's fashion.

Heads were shaved, slogans were written crudely on faces, bright red braces were worn over T-shirts printed with braces, and stovepipe trousers were worn with crepe-soled, high-lacing boots. These were skinheads, mods and rockers all rolled into one, sub-couture rather than subculture.

Gaultier likes to find his inspiration on the streets and in the clubs of London, and he had obviously spent some time in the shops of Carnaby Street that still sell gear for mods and skinheads.

The collection is Gaultier's most resolutely masculine collection for seasons, although most real skinheads would run a mile if they encountered one of Jean Paul's mincing models wearing the stuff down a dark alley, with "peace" and CND logos painted on his face. Behind the bad manners and styling, there were great, commercial clothes: reversible harrington jackets, fatigue trousers printed with graffiti on brick walls, long Ted coats, tartan bondage pants, and tightly tailored suits.

At Comme des Garcons, there was another rude boy on the catwalk - Givenchy couturier Alexander McQueen. The designer shuffled down the runway in baggy tartan trousers and coats, and cloud-light creamy suits with a fine layer of wadding stuffed between the layers. What made the clothes fit so perfectly over McQueen's bulky body and belly was the fact that the entire collection - including structured suiting, was cut on the bias, giving the fabric unique stretch and fit. Stripes crossed the body diagonally, matching with ingenious precision on the seams. After the show, McQueen was happy with his new wardrobe. "Comme des Garcons is the only label I wear apart from my own," he said. Outside the venue, a chauffeur stood waiting for couture's new boy to whisk him off into the night.

The next morning, Nigel Curtiss, the British-born, Tokyo-based designer who started the highly successful Comme des Garcons Shirt label, showed his collection. Curtiss concentrated on fabric technology rather than hard attitude, with stainless-steel-and-wool crumpled suits, synthetic seersucker shirts, and painted denim. Similarly, Yohji Yamamoto played with odd mixtures of fabrics, using vinyl for ties and stiff floral print wallpaper fabric for coats, and choosing matted fake fur that looked like car seat covers, for long, cosy coats. His chequerboard suits were long and lean, but along with Comme des Garcons, Paul Smith, W&L.T. and John Rocha, Yohji showed huge loon trousers that look more Forties-style gangster than Studio 54.

Apart from rude boys, wide boys and baggy trousers, the other theme of the week was quiet opulence. John Rocha gave a salute to his birthplace, Hong Kong, and edged smoking jackets in Chinese brocade, teamed corduroy suiting with elegant brocade waistcoats or slippers made by Oliver Sweeney, and wrapped the accessory of the week, the luxurious scarf, around the models' necks. The collection was Noel Coward Goes To China, with relaxed, elegant clothes for lounging around the reading room.

Dries Van Noten is the king of opulent dressing, with his layers of sumptuous fabrics, quilted coats, checked tailoring, and heirloom scarves and knitwear that make the designer's fans swoon. For next autumn, Dries toned down his rich colour palette to sombre greys and greens, with gold brocade and gold thread woven into glittery paisleys and lacy arabesques on knitted beanie hats and sweaters.

Men in search of luxury next autumn should also take a look at a small collection of cashmere knitwear and scarves by the British duo Clements Ribeiro. The knits, with juicily coloured stripes and colour blocks, promise to be a hit - just the thing to wear with your baggy trousersn

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