January 14, 2007
You could reasonably say that the essence of Neil Barrett's design career is duality. Last time around, his collection was a mash-up of stockbroker and skinhead. Before that, it was white-tails toff and khaki-clad grunt. For his latest collection, Barrett has imagined a face-off between Amish and punk, with one white catwalk and one black catwalk to underscore the distinction. And guess what? They weren't as far apart as you might think, mainly because Barrett always focuses on hermetic subcultures with precisely defined stylistic codes. So the starched white button-down, the plaid work shirt, and the sober black coat of the Amish man actually dovetailed quite neatly with the punk ethos. And by the time Barrett had planted an Amish hat on top of an ensemble that matched a snug little back-laced leather blouson to skinny trousers tucked into bovver boots, he had a look that was 100 percent Droog, which, in its subversively graphic maleness, is actually the closest to his lean, mean ideal.
Certain exceptions aside, however, with this collection Barrett finally edged away from leanness, showing gray flannel trousers that were positively generous in their dimensions. He also displayed a finely honed sense of subtle ostentation with his judicious use of metallics, like the silver detailing on the shirt under a gray flannel suit, or the silver shoes and tie (even better, silver jeans, though they were hardly subtle). The nocturnal sheen of such items underscored another of Barrett's signatures: the injection of elements of formal dress into everyday wear. The Amish would grasp the self-discipline of such a notion in a flash.