At the 2023 Oscars, Hollywood’s Menswear Freak Flag Flew at Half-Mast
For the 95th Annual Academy Awards, on what would reasonably have been his final evening channeling Elvis Presley, actor Austin Butler wore an ultra-slim, double-breasted tux.
“This is Saint Laurent,” the Best Actor nominee told E! red carpet host Laverne Cox, when she’d asked for the story behind his outfit. “I don’t know what story I’m telling. I just thought it was a beautiful tuxedo.”
He was right, it was a beautiful tuxedo: all angles, with blunt peak lapels and whetted shoulders paired with pointy patent boots with a tall-enough block heel. But Butler, who’s spent the last four years in the mind palace of Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis, has been telling a story with his red-carpet wardrobe this entire year, from the initial summertime press cycle into awards season. In keeping things both on theme and on trend, he’s opted for plenty of retro-sharp suiting by the likes of Saint Laurent, Prada, and Celine, including billowing, high-waisted trousers and sharp jackets to ’50s-esque casualwear. Clothes are emotive, and big ol’ suits were a big thing for the real Elvis Presley; he used to buy them on credit from Memphis tailor Bernard Lansky before he started making real money. While Butler never quite did The King cosplay on any carpets (though, c’mon, you know he kept the leather comeback-special jumpsuit), he certainly knew what was up.
At that point in the evening, Butler was still a Best Actor hopeful (the prize eventually went to Brendan Fraser), so he was probably pretty nervous and maybe also a little sick of being asked about his designer duds all season. But his beautiful, mostly classic tuxedo—and the way he didn’t talk about it—signified a wider pattern in Oscars menswear last night: after months of letting their freak flags fly, the leading men mostly decided to play things tastefully.
Since the last Oscars ceremony, which Timothée Chalamet attended shirtless, a landmark year for left-of-center celebrity menswear has passed, marked by louche suits, exaggerated silhouettes, and funky detailing rendered in many colors beyond the standard black-and-white. It arguably culminated two months ago, at the 2023 Golden Globes, when it seemed like many of the actors who also attended last night’s Academy Awards had given their stylists carte blanche to get weird with it. And while the Globes and the Oscars certainly have very different awards-show vibes, only the Irish actor Barry Keoghan (who’d scored a Best Supporting nomination for his role in The Banshees of Inisherin) stayed the course on Sunday, in a lilac-purple Louis Vuitton suit with starburst buttons that was very much in line with the edgy pastel suit wave he’s been riding all season.
But at the Oscars, classicism ruled the carpet. Fraser and Ke Huy Quan, the evening’s big actor winners, looked great in their precise Armani suits. As Dave Schilling wrote in the LA Times today, characterizing Armani’s clean lines, “it is tailoring made not to be retweeted but to be worn.” The hunky Top Gun: Maverick crew, who have previously dabbled in the menswear dark arts, went ultra-traditional. Colin Farrell and his son Henry, wearing matching Dolce & Gabbana, and John Cho, in Zegna, opted for black velvet—a bit of spice, relatively speaking.
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