This weekend was the release of the hotly anticipated romp flick Fifty Shades Of Grey. Not only has this event likely hijacked your Valentine’s Day plans, it’s also thrust the sexually subversive topic of sadomasochism into the public consciousness — and, with it, a renewed interest in the clothing associated with S&M.
Never ones to swerve a steamy topic, here we take a brief look at how fetish fashion has infiltrated the mainstream style world and how its influence can be clearly seen in designs you might have hanging in your closet today.
BDSM (that’s Bondage and Discipline, Sadism and Masochism to the uninitiated) has been around for centuries. But it wasn’t until the post-war gay liberation movement of the ’50s and ’60s gathered pace that garments made for indulging in BDSM practices (or just worn for effect) were manufactured on a mass scale. Academics have long mused on the reason behind why portions of the gay community appropriated this leathery, zip and chain-laden uniform, but the theory goes that it was reaction against the stereotype of the feminized homosexual. Essentially, what these dudes did was take icons of traditional masculinity, such as cowboys and bikers, deconstruct and hyper-masculinize them. And what better way to do that than by creating outfits out of leather and accessorizing them with eye-popping sexual weaponry, eh?
Sex on the runway
Fashion and sex go way back. Barely a season passes without at least one brand or designer parading its models down the catwalk in clothes that offer a less than subtle nod to the sexual underworld. Vivienne Westwood’s been at it for years, and it was a topic Alexander McQueen explored in a number of his collections. More recently, though, Versace and MAN have picked up the kinky mantel, packaging their models in fetish-inspired creations with a distinctly luxury bent. Let’s face it; sex is never far away from the notoriously homoerotic menswear collections of Versace, and never closer than when leather cowboy chaps expose the crotch in a confrontational display of overt sexuality. MAN’s Fall ’14 collection had guys trussed up in clobber that evoked comparisons with bondage gear, featuring tassles perfect for flagellation and binding ropes as standard.
Sex on the street
While representations of fetish gear on the runway vary wildly — from subtle to explicit — it still filters through to the mainstream. Now we’re not necessarily suggesting that any man who pulls on a leather biker jacket is immediately identifying as a die-hard BDSM fan, but the fringing and chromed detailing on these jackets are signs of how the influence of fetish gear and sex on fashion has bubbled through to create an indelible mark on popular styles.