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Off the Reservation


One of big takeaways from Battle of the Toms is how genuinely strange Thom Browne.

Compare this ad with some of Tom Ford’s glossy stills. Ford is exactly what we expect from a men’s designer: European influences, a gay sense of irony, and a generally hypermasculine style. Advertising aside, he’s not that different from Valentino, Hedi Slimane, or any of the designers that built the industry. He’s selling couture and sex together, just like everyone else in Bloomingdale’s.

But Thom Browne seems to be working from a different blueprint.

This ad isn’t sexy; in fact, it’s pretty much the opposite of sexy. It’s robotic. It’s faceless. If it’s selling anything, it’s irony.

Browne’s “accountant-chic” label has always been a bit too glib for comfort, but he’s looking more avant garde with every passing month. Like his half-shaved quasi-monk haircut (he’s the fourth model in the ad), Browne’s lines turn conventionality into a statement—and a vaguely aggressive one at that. And as he develops more, he shows signs of disappearing down the retro rabbit hole completely.

If you start seeing spats on the runway, you’ll know the jig is up.