Menswear works a macho vibe

Menswear works a macho vibe
VIVIENNE WESTWOOD: Joker-like makeup mixes with an Old Hollywood aesthetic. (Peter Stigter / For The Times)
By the time the spring-summer 2010 men's Fashion Week in Milan wrapped up Tuesday, the runway had showcased enough old-school macho archetypes to form its own (infinitely more stylish) version of the Village People.

While several designers riffed generally on the concept of the nomad and the loner, others were more specific. Versace enlisted the foreign legion, Vivienne Westwood got on board with pirates and ne'er-do-wells, and an unusually subdued Roberto Cavalli rode the wave with the half-clad diver lad. On the final day, D&G tied it all up in a neat little bow with a London-meets-longhorn collection the designers dubbed "Brit cowboy."

The Vivienne Westwood Man collection used 1920s Hollywood (think Douglas Fairbanks in "The Mark of Zorro") and the early voyages of luxury ocean liners as inspiration, a combination that yielded well-dressed pirates, turban-wrapped rakes, men in Zorro masks and some fellows in face paint that brought to mind Heath Ledger's Joker character from "The Dark Knight" -- right down to the red, grimace-enhancing face paint.

The nautical theme was hammered home with Westwood's print-heavy collection, which included anchor-patterned sweaters, Hawaiian prints and a skull-and-crossbones design with the slogan "Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die," over which the words "Stop Climate Change" were scrawled. The footwear was particularly noteworthy: traditional silhouette saddle shoes and tasseled loafers covered in polka dots.

Versace drew on the notion of the (presumably French) foreign legion, wrapping in the desert culture of the Tuareg -- nomadic inhabitants of the Saharan interior -- jettisoning the stiff formality of traditional military garb, a perennial motif in menswear, for flowing tunics, and capturing the colors of sun-bleached uniforms.

There were a few head-scratching moments, like the black trousers with the tasseled side seams that came across as more toreador than Tuareg and a collection of stitched-leather belt pouches that looked suspiciously like BlackBerry holders. But for the most part, the wrinkled linen jackets, flowing djellabas under suit coats and fuller-cut trousers -- in shades of sand, khaki and white with the occasional pop of purple -- made for the most restrained and refreshing men's collection from the house of Versace in many a season.

Cavalli was another designer who switched things up a bit -- the only sign of his signature Noah's ark worth of animal prints was the zebra-print sofa on the show invitation -- trading in his hippy androgyne rocker look for a more form-fitting streamlined look. He captured it perfectly, serving up his buff, wet-suit-wearing beefcakes in a guise familiar to anyone who's driven PCH on a Saturday afternoon: a skin-tight suit peeled down to the waist, forming an inverted V-shape that angles out from the navel.

In addition to black leather, Cavalli sent out pistachio green, confetti pink and lemon yellow versions of the "scuba pant," which, once the waist piece is unsnapped, morphs into your basic stylish pair of leather pants.

Well, basic for Cavalli anyway. Many pieces this season, including biker jackets and some of the scuba pants, are embellished with handfuls of industrial shrapnel: screws, nuts, grommets and macaroni-shaped bits of metal on jacket epaulets and between gauzy layers of draped tank tops. (Guaranteed to wreak havoc with the average airport metal detector, the pieces would be the perfect wardrobe for another "Terminator" sequel.) Other pieces used an embossing technique over embroidery to stamp the shapes into leather.

At D&G (Dolce & Gabbana's lower-priced line), melding the bow-tied British chap with the range-riding Wild West cowpoke could have resulted in a full-on camp fest (that was Dsquared's pup tent and pine tree summer camp-themed collection earlier in the day), but ultimately it turned out to be a collection that is likely to strike a chord with fashion-forward Angelenos frustrated by a lack of dress-up/dress-down options.

In addition to faded, distressed, patchwork jeans and heavily studded denim jackets, D&G turned out western-style shirts in denim, denim with tooled leather, and suede, along with a streetwear-flavored offering: long-sleeve knit T-shirts photo-printed to look like an unbuttoned denim shirt.

The show closed with a runway full of models clad in identical jeans, denim shirts, velvet bow ties and brown velvet dinner jackets with contrasting shawl collars.

As the cowboys sauntered off into the sunset, it became clear that at least to the designers in Milan, spring 2010 will belong to the mercenary man, the selfish sartorialist, the guy in the game for himself who bucks the system, breaks the laws, fights by choice not allegiance and stakes his claim on the fringes -- whether those fringes are in the Sahara, the Mojave or Milan.