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Free Speech: Hadley Freeman Is Back With The Band(leader Jacket)

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One of the best bits of news I’ve received so far this year is that I will again be an avatar during fashion month, reporting from the shows behind the comforting veil of CGI improvements. This in itself is thrilling, of course, but the cherry on this low-fat gâteau is getting to pick out the outfit I shall wear for the job. Last time around I managed to kill about three days in the office wondering what, in short, would be look of the season, something to fill Style.com readers with the confidence that they were in safe, stylish, and truly knowledgeable hands. For this season, I wasted no such time in musing because the outfit of the season is so obvious: Balmain’s bandleader jacket. It pains me a little to admit but I do love a bandleader jacket and this season I am, happily, not alone in my fondness for them.  Aside from Balmain, 3.1 Phillip Lim has done a truly fabulous (and slightly more affordable) one, while bandleader detailing (a short boxy silhouette, pronounced shoulders, gold embellishments, frogging) appeared throughout the Spring collections. That’s happy news on several fronts. For a start, it means you all can join me in indulging in a bit of Music Man chic (all together now: “Seventy-six trombones led the big parade!”). But it also means that the tyranny of Pete Doherty has at last truly passed. Throughout practically the whole of this decade, bandleader jackets have been closely and unfortunately associated with Doherty and his now defunct band, the Libertines. That means the jacket quickly became—like most everything about Doherty—little more than a cliché and easy shorthand for anyone who wanted to evoke cutting-edge hedonism. “Look how wild I am,” the jacket-wearer seemed to wordlessly say. “I buy my clothes from proper vintage shops and don’t care about their prior purpose. I am so open-minded I can see beyond utility to appreciate sheer aesthetics. Now pass the drugs.” Very boring. And as if this wasn’t enough to bar me from my beloved bandleader jackets, listen to this tragic anecdote. About a year ago I was at a bar in London at the odd hour of 6 p.m. on a Monday. I was quietly sipping a G&T with a friend when I became completely transfixed by a gorgeous bandleader jacket in black (good) paired with hot pants (very, very bad), worn by what looked like a small child. Indeed, I became so transfixed by the extremes of this ensemble that it was a full hour before I realized it was Sienna Miller throwing back some afternoon drinks with Balthazar Getty and Damien Hirst. (Hirst was wearing a black hooded top with a diamanteé skull on the back, just in case anyone wasn’t sure of his identity.) Needless to say, the bandleader jacket was dead to me after that. Dead. To. Me. But like a drowning man, I cling to the olive branches I’m given. So, if Christophe Decarnin is reviving the jacket as a style more associated with too-cool-to-care-if-it-looks-like- they’re-about-to-break-the-clarinet girls, as opposed to really annoying wannabes, then I’m going to go with that. But I sure ain’t wearing them with hot pants.

Photo: left, Marcio Madeira; right, Maria Valentino

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