"Welcome to the craziest show on earth!" cried the master of ceremonies under Thom Browne's big top—so we can't say we weren't warned. But Browne's madness was an entirely studied proposition. He recently claimed that the humor in his shows was intended to balance out the seriousness of the clothes, and one supposes there's a yuk or two in an outfit that looked like a soufflé of crow's feathers, or another feathered affair that would've fit right in on the sidelines of a baseball game. Ultimately, though, it wasn't laughter one was left with, and not just because hollow-eyed models stared down the front row with threatening glares that said, "Go ahead, laugh and I'll…"

Browne's twisted agenda became much clearer with this presentation. If there has always been something intangibly perverse in the way he stages his shows (not to mention the clothes themselves), the intangibility came into focus this time. The notion of empowerment is a staple in men's and womenswear; careers have been based on it. But how do you make sense of its opposite as the cornerstone of a collection?

All the socioeconomic evidence you can muster suggests it's no longer a man's world. So Browne's clothes emphasized male helplessness. You could blame the staging for the model who hobbled arduously around the rink in a mummy wrap of plasticized argyle, or the stilt walker who tentatively emerged for the finale with two choirboy acolytes keeping him upright, but mannequin mobility was also hindered by back-buttoning capelets, side-buttoning waders, papal skirts, and a suspendered onesie that elongated babywear for the adult male. (No fetish there!) There was also a Siamese twin cameo that rammed the point home, but one of the "twins" was blushing so furiously it seems kindest to draw a veil over his embarrassment. Curiouser and curiouser, the "real" clothes were Browne's best, especially the officer's coats and those signature suits. But this show's primary message was that masculinity is more of a mystery than ever for Thom Browne.