John Galliano shows and John Galliano characters—including, might as well
add, John Galliano himself—tend to be drawn a bit larger than life. Bill
Gaytten, now stewarding the house, must be intimately familiar with this.
And for his new thirties-inspired show, he looked to the work of J.C.
Leyendecker and Norman Rockwell, illustrators for the famous Saturday
Evening Post covers of the era. Their men were supermen, too. Call it a
tip of the hat from one fabulist to his fellows.
The show cycled through the archetypes of thirties manliness: gangsters in their Stephen Jones fedoras and pinstriped suits; henchmen in leather flatcaps and wool; gridiron heroes in helmets and jodhpur-ish football pants; and so on. They had the subtlety of a comic strip, though if you disassembled each look, you'd find fine pieces, especially among the outerwear.
But styled to operatic heights, and made up and pomaded by the all-star team of Pat McGrath and Orlando Pita, these goons and heroes were seasoned with plenty of camp. That's the secret spice chez Galliano. It's also the other side of the butched-up thirties coin. Food for thought: Leyendecker also created the Arrow Collar Man, paragon of upright manliness and menswear advertising's first sex symbol. Women would send love letters. The kicker? He was modeled on the artist's longtime lover, Charles Beach.