The boyish models lounging about a room dressed in a motley array of pajama pants and streetwear in defunct label Meadham Kirchhoff’s 2013 spring/summer men’s fashion presentation represents how, on any given menswear runway, youth is always on display. Mad About The Boy, currently on view in London at the London College of Fashion’s Fashion Space Gallery, was curated by Lou Stoppard, the editor of Nick Knight’s SHOWstudio and seeks to explore the “cyclical” nature of the fantasies fashion creates around male youth culture.
“I’ve always been fascinated by the sexualization of youth,” says Stoppard. “There was a particular season—Spring/Summer 2016—where it felt like a lot of designers were treating youth as a concept.” During that season, older designers like Raf Simons sent a squad of hooded young males down the runway that evoked youthful associations with gangs.
Young designer Gosha Rubchinskiy conjured up a form of adolescent nostalgia by dressing boyish models in colorful windbreakers, Reeboks, light trousers, and short shorts that recalled a puerile toughness found in the Eastern Bloc sportswear of the early 1980s. “I found the contrast and parallels between those [designers] really interesting,” explains Stoppard. “I wanted to look at the way fashion has depicted the young male." In this way, Mad About The Boy is not about the reality of teenage angst, but the ways fashion conceptualize, construct, and commodify youth.
Broken into eight themes including “As Outsider,” “Between Genders,” “As Sexual Object,” “In The Street,” “In Education,” “In The Club,” and “Between Man and Child,” that, according to Stoppard, “related to ideas of the boy that came up a lot” in her research, the exhibition spans from the 1970s to the current menswear obsession with a genderless aesthetic. Mad About The Boy includes photographs from youth centric magazines like i-D Magazine and Dazed, and Nick Knight’s 1982 Skinhead portrait series, films like Larry Clark’s 1995 iconic Kids, a partially restaged SS13 fashion presentation entitled (Br)Other By Proxy by Meadham Kirchoff, and garments from past seasons. Together, the objects and ephemera tell the stories of how the fashion industry has repetitively used teenage tropes in ways that largely erase female experiences from conversations surrounding youth culture, stereotypical masculinity, and the performance of sexuality.
“I think if there’s an object that sums up the show the best, it’s probably the big baggy trousers and little cropped sleeveless knitted top from Raf Simons' Spring/Summer 2016, which is the Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore show,” says Stoppard. “We showed it next to Mark Leckey’s 1999 film, Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore.” She says, “that film and that collection firstly sums up the cyclical nature fashion has had—that 1997 film is relevant to Raf Simons today because as a piece of art it captures the manic highs and euphoric bonding experiences of youth that sum up the themes that are particularly important to me in the show.”
Mad About The Boy continues through April 2 at Fashion Space Gallery at the London College of Fashion. For more information, click here.