Earlier this month, Brad Pitt walked the red carpet at the Berlin premiere of his upcoming film ‘Bullet Train’ wearing a flowing maroon skirt.
Asked by a reporter why the skirt, a smiling Mr Pitt quipped: “Wind” – Europe, after all, was in the throes of a brutal heatwave. But the outfit may have had another purpose: virality. (Through a rep, the actor had no comment about his outfits.)
After wearing the linen ensemble, the term “Brad Pitt’s skirt” hit 100, the highest possible score on Google Trends, the search engine’s measure of interest. According to Twitter, after the red carpet in Berlin, tweets mentioning Brad Pitt increased by 63% compared to the previous week, with users both praising him (“Cheers Brad”) and slamming him (“I need publicity. Let me wear a skirt”). .
And publicity is a key result. Wearing a skirt, Mr. Pitt, 58, successfully slipped the phrase “Shooter Train Premiere” into posts that otherwise might not have covered the action-packed film.
As a tactic, the tweet-inducing skirt was nothing out of the ordinary: male movie stars are now constantly going viral for conventional red carpet outfits. Moon Knight star Oscar Isaac caused an online scandal in March when he wore a pleated skirt to a European press event. At the Gray Man press conference earlier this month, Ryan Gosling wore a crimson Gucci jacket, white socks and leather tie – online comments couldn’t decide whether he looked more like Michael Jackson or a piccolo. Shaggy Chris Pine has become menswear meme due to his recent penchant for lacy shirts and candy-striped pants.
Although memorization may not be the only goal for these actors, it is not undesirable.
“Attention for attention’s sake is not what we’re after,” Wendy and Nicole Ferreira, the sister styling team that works with Mr. Pine, wrote in an email. Still, they added, going viral is “the best form of earned media and publicity.”
Mark Avery, Mr. Gosling’s stylist since 2015, also emphasized that virality was not the goal, but he refused to consume the online reactions. “I wouldn’t be telling the truth if I didn’t say I did a little Googling the first few days after [Ryan] walk on the carpet.” He revels in even the creepier comments: “I’d rather read about a look I’ve done for a client that ‘That’s stupid’ or ‘What are they thinking’ than ‘Boring!'”
Stars “understand that they’re going to get more coverage if they’re wearing something worth talking about,” said Tom Fitzgerald, who has run the dark celebrity site Tom & Lorenzo with his partner Lorenzo Marquez since 2006. The two note that when the site launches, a post about a woman will get about three times as much traffic as a post about a man. Today, these traffic figures are almost identical.
“A lot of these guys — there are some in particular — are having a moment, you see them everywhere,” said Ilaria Urbinati, a longtime celebrity stylist who works with a wide roster of Hollywood heavyweights, including The Rock and Donald Glover.
With social media, Ms. Urbinati has an instant feedback machine for her work. When she posts photos of her client Chris Evans in his light-professorial sweater vests to her Instagram, the likes and emojis pour in by the hundreds. “People are commenting on his outfit … people are paying attention to the details, they’re getting excited – it’s like a whole,” she said.
Actors’ clothing rarely attracted such attention, let alone entire articles. Back in the 2000s – before Instagram fan accounts and celebrity style blogs took hold – most men would wear a dark suit and tie to premiers. If they were brave, they would change into a T-shirt or jeans. (The Instagram account @nightopenings is a time-sucking repository of that more subdued era.)
“An event like the Oscars and the Emmys? It was all these very boring tuxedos,” Mr. Marquez said. The brands were also pretty predictable: lots of Giorgio Armani and Dolce & Gabbana. Merger was the goal.
Sometime around mid-2010, priorities shifted. Celebrity stylists entered the picture, tasked with converting customers as risk-takers in the art of tailoring. In a paparazzi flash, Jared Leto wore gray blazers, Chadwick Boseman wore brocade opera coats, and Billy Porter walked the red carpet in a Christian Siriano gown. “Younger stars, black stars, queer stars are out there, pushing boundaries, and they’re not getting pushback for it,” Mr. Fitzgerald said, “They’re getting praise for it.”
Hollywood elders took note. Prada’s prosaic suits had to go. In their place? Linen skirts and oversized aubergine suits.
“The doors have opened wide for menswear, and it’s given celebrities the opportunity to make red carpet choices that reflect their unique personalities,” the Ferreira sisters write.
The return of the carpet after a pandemic hiatus has also made some stars and stylists less risk-averse—even sartorially lenient. “People just have fun with what they wear,” Ms. Urbinati said. “You can wear fuschia Birkenstocks on the carpet with a fuschia suit.”
Having a star wearing your clothes can also be a boon for brands. Tom and Lorenzo noted that readers are hungry to know, say, the exact brand of shirt worn by Chris Evans. And as this group of 40-plus actors have transformed themselves as fashion risk-takers, they’re casting increasingly unknown designers—a form of red-carpet leadership. “I always challenge myself to find brands that not everyone carries,” Ms. Urbinati said.
Mr. Pitt’s dangling skirt may have set a new benchmark for obscurity. It was designed by Haans Nicholas Mott, a virtually unknown New York-based designer who doesn’t carry in stores and runs a “referral-only” business, according to GQ. The secret designer has no publicly available email, website, phone number or address, and the Wall Street Journal was unable to reach him.
Still, Tom and Lorenzo expect the carpet craze to shift back to fine formalwear in time as the public tire of the look-at-me looks. “We’re going to go back to a more conservative red carpet,” Mr. Fitzgerald said, “but right now it’s party time.”
Email Jacob Gallagher at [email protected]
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