From tuxedos to quilt cloaks: The evolution of men’s fashion at the Met Gala

I’ve never been a huge fan of male celebrity fashion. I’m no fashion expert, but while I’ve seen female celebrities wear a huge variety of styles with tons of creative exploration, the men have always seemed to settle for a black and white tuxedo. 

Overall, men’s fashion trends at events such as the Met Gala have been woefully simple and dull. In recent years, however, there’s been a drastic change in the areas male celebrities are willing to explore with their fashion; from colorful harnesses to more stereotypically feminine clothing. 

For better or worse, it’s a much-needed step toward introducing a wider range of options for men’s formal fashion. One of the best events to see this evolution of fashion trends is at the annual Met Gala, where celebrities from all areas put on their best fashion for the evening. Let’s take a look at how men’s style has shifted over the years. 

Going back 11 years, the 2010 Met Gala showcased awfully mundane men’s fashion. The women attended the Met Gala wearing vibrant and colorful dresses. However, every male celebrity was seen wearing a suit with different combinations of ties. Chris Pine, one of the more daring participants, wore a navy suit rather than a traditional black suit. The styles were elegant and refined, but they didn’t offer any excitement or risk. It felt like everyone was playing safe and relying on tradition. It was a strange feeling for some of the most creatively gifted individuals that the biggest sign of creativity was to change a blazer from a black to a blue blazer.

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The Met Galas of 2011 to 2015 followed a similar trend, with tuxedo after suit. However, some celebrities decided to add some color to the already-copycat trend. 

In 2012 Cameron Silver brought a colorful full-body pattern tuxedo to the mix. The world saw Tom Brady in a bright blue blazer — one of the flashier outfits of the night — in 2013. Stars remained faithful to their black and white tuxedo combination for the most part. 

In 2016, Kanye West broke the mold when he wore a bedazzled jacket and ripped blue jeans (he also wore blue eye contacts, but we’ll overlook that). While it wasn’t exactly the height of fashion, especially for a high-class event like the Met Gala, it was an appreciated departure from the norm. 

However, 2019’s Met Gala marked the biggest departure from the classic tuxedo as the stars ventured into spaces that previously might have been deemed too feminine. Harry Styles wore an open-front jumpsuit with sheer sleeves and a top. Odell Beckham Jr. wore an old-and-new combination of a skirt and a sleeveless shirt and a tuxedo. Male stars also dove into some wonderfully weird and colorful territory; Billy Porter wore a shiny gold outfit set with a crown and wings, Ryan Murphy wore a beaded peach-colored cape and collar covered in scales and glitter and Jared Leto wore a jeweled red gown while carrying a wax figure of his own head. In many ways, it marked the long-overdue departure from more stereotypical men’s fashion into areas that were more exciting and innovative.

Some pieces were not appealing. Others felt too garish and awkward, making them seem more like a grab for attention than thoughtful art. But the stars were finally taking more risks and having more fun with their outfits. 

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Both Beckham and Styles faced a swarm of comments online regarding their unique outfit choices. Beckham received many comments questioning his sexuality, whereas Styles’ sheer dress angered many for being too feminine. Styles’ unusual look was praised by many, while Beckham was supported by many, with many praising Styles and emphasizing Beckham’s freedom to wear whatever clothes he likes without fear.

Back in the present, the evolution from the standard tuxedo to a much more vibrant and eccentric landscape of fashion is evident. ASAP Rocky attended this year’s Met Gala in a colorful grandma’s quilt, while Jeremy Pope rocked a half-topless white tuxedo. 

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Lil Nas X made a three-part costume that was eye-catching, expressive and bright. Some stars, however,  still opted for more traditional outfits. Channing Tatum, for instance, chose a plain black-and-white tuxedo. Still, there is a huge increase in the amount of creative and colorful outfits in men’s fashion, such as Kid Cudi’s eyeshadow-sweater-skirt combo. 

Some styles may be too eccentric to realistically be worn in a casual social setting, but the effects do trickle down — as more stars wear clothing that’s nonconforming, it leaves the public more open-minded and opens doors for those looking to experiment with fashion. Inside and outside of the Met Gala, it seems there are more opportunities for free self-expression in men’s fashion and everything points to more opportunities in the future. 

As for the best Met Gala outfit this year? Frank Ocean brought a lime green animatronic child to the event. This one is unsurpassed. 

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