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Style Through the Centuries (Top row from top left) At-home robe (Banyan), England, c. 1880, and slipper, probably China for the European market, c. 1870; smoking jacket, United States, 1890s; Johnson Hartig for Libertine Fall/Winter 2009-10 (Middle) Johnson Hartig for Libertine Fall/Winter 2012-13 Jeremy Scott for Adidas Spring/ Summer 2013; Jeremy Scott for Adidas Fall/Winter 2013-14 (Bottom) Vivienne Westwood Spring/Summer 2014; Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garçons Spring/Summer 2013; Kean Etro for Etro Fall/Winter 2014-15

great amount of men’s clothing on hand,” says Takeda. “In this time period, we had a thorough idea of how men’s fashion has changed, and we thought, ’Wow, it’s really raining men!’” The pun highlights both the playfulness and novelty of this show. Fashion retrospectives tend to focus on women, leaving behind a large swath of history. Men’s fashion also highlights trends not visible in women’s clothing, making apparent the different means wealth has manifested over the years. The change between simple clothing and ostentatious showings of wealth highlights how Western society has understood prosperity—as Spilker puts it, “In the 19th century, the idea of a ’good man’ meant you owned a very well-tailored but simple suit. Earlier than that, gold adornments were a better sign.” Men’s fashion, like women’s, has gone through periods of revolution and reassessment. Because the show isn’t presented chronologically, different influences and trends are highlighted throughout the centuries, showing the diversity and limitations of men’s fashion. Psychedelic and otherworldly outfits from the 1960s are paired with Dandy getups, highlighting the way cut, form and color have been interpreted and restructured throughout the years. Mid-century pieces—unusually subdued in approach—are paired with simple outfits from the 1800s. The bricolage of our current period, with its focus on self-expression, is contrasted with the trends it has consumed from other periods, showing how men have understood fashion as a means of displaying personality and social status. 56

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Putting together Reigning Men took nearly a half-decade, and the chronologically agnostic approach meant it was easier for the curators to include smaller trends and build meaning from their existing collection. As Spilker puts it, “We were able to highlight ideas and didn’t have to think about creating a strict history. We were more interested in trends.” Still, there were pieces that proved difficult to find; despite its outsized presence in the Californian and national imagination, very few Zoot suits exist today. “Other museums told us the same thing: finding a Zoot suit is very, very hard,” says Takeda. The search began in 2000, with a show highlighting California history, and it took a decade to find a suitable piece. “We actually found it at auction, but it wasn’t labeled a Zoot suit. Of course, we knew what it actually was, so we bid on it,” she says. Both curators hope the show speaks to a large audience. While we think of men’s fashion as being more or less constant in form and presentation, Takeda and Spilker think we are at a point where men are more open to new ideas when it comes to clothing themselves. “There’s more focus on self-expression and individuality,” says Takeda. “I think that’s because men are dressing themselves instead of relying on their wives.” Spilker agrees, adding that there’s an unusual amount of diversity in men’s clothing these days. “Men are willing to experiment and stand out,” she says. “It’s been a trend in the last few decades. But I hope younger audiences walk through the exhibit and realize something: there’s absolutely nothing new in fashion. Everything has been done.”

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(Opposite page) Kean Etro for Etro Fall/Winter 2014-15

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