After trudging from back-to-back runway shows and presentations in New York City, London, Milan, and Paris, the fashion-week circuit can become more of a grind and less about glamour. And though I personally try to tackle the fray by recalling the wonder of that first moment when the music kicks in and the lights rise on some of humankind's most perfect specimens, I have to admit that after several years of skipping dinners and pushing back plans to attend show after show, I, too, seem to have reached my limit.
But when the opportunity arose to attend last week's 2(X)IST spring 2014 show, I jumped at the chance to scope out the latest in men's underwear (call me a red-blooded cliché) and go backstage to talk to the show's stylist. After all, the whole point of a runway show is to offer that close-up, firsthand look at a garment, no matter how small. What goes into presenting so little? In the name of journalistic curiosity, I decided to find out.
At the Frank Gehry-designed IAC Building in New York City, the stage was set for sleek overload—plenty of beautiful people and a white-on-white runway set against a backdrop of looming, high-def video installations playing kaleidoscopic images of glistening demigods. After the mesmerizing jumbo-size pregame ended, the models strutted by in a flash, and I soon felt that familiar rubbernecking feeling as my eyes locked onto a pair of briefs and followed them to see how they looked from behind before the next guy strode into my line of sight. Besides the strong, performance-based collection by creative director Jason Scarlatti, I can confidently tell you that all views were superb (enhanced by the added perspective of a head-on video stream on the wall directly in front of the audience—a feature any designer should consider for his or her next show).
Needless to say, these professionals looked terrific in their underwear, but even a model in optimal physical shape doesn't just strip down and take the stage without a little behind-the-scenes prep. I caught up with 2(X)IST style director Jay del Rosario to ask him how, exactly, one styles men for an underwear show, in the hopes of gleaning some insight into how the common man can look good nearly naked.
While strict physical standards come into play when casting a runway show, says del Rosario, personality and confidence also play a significant role. When it comes to practical advice, del Rosario offered up the 2(X)IST Fit 101: "The pair should sit on your body much lower than you think (on the hip bone, not the belly button), and the band should run horizontally, not bowed, around the torso. If it's not, don't be embarrassed to size up or down—it has nothing to do with your manhood. In fact, you'll be more 'confident' in the correct size."
"As a stylist," del Rosario says, "I've heard many tricks about making a model 'presentable down there' (that is, smoothed and prominent)—everything from rubber bands to pads, socks, and even two pieces of sliced bread—it's not necessary." Since the brand takes comfort and fit seriously with its "boosting, contoured pouches," he says, going natural is king. A well-fitting pair of shorts, conviction, and ample moisturizer, and you're good to go.
Del Rosario's mantra of going back to basics helped reinforce my appreciation for catching that fleeting glimpse of great fashion in its ideal environment and the way a designer can turn a runway into fantasy. Of course, when we're talking about underwear, it helps to remember that that's exactly what fashion shows are supposed to be—fantasy—and we would all do well to indulge.