Camp at the Met/ Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

Camp: notes on masculinity at the Met

The Met Gala is, arguably, the most exclusive and extravagant event in the world. It makes other red carpets look relatively mundane, as it encourages invitees to go all out with outrageous and avant-garde fashion choices. But there are always some who show up to this event with a disappointing feel of normality.

With the theme this year as ‘Camp: Notes on Fashion’, the outfits were expected to be even more over the top than they normally are. Camp refers to the theatrical, the extravagant, the excessive – and some guests absolutely delivered on this criteria, surpassing our wildest dreams. Stand outs of the night were Lady Gaga’s 15-minute-long performance and Zendaya’s Cinderella dress, and it’s safe to say that the best-dressed lists have seen some fierce competition. However, in my opinion, the event was not quite so strong in terms of men’s fashion.

There were, of course, some fantastic outfits that fulfilled the very definition of camp – for me, Michael Urie and Ezra Miller were the winners of night. Billy Porter also deserves to be lauded for his show-stopping entrance; it’s not every day you see someone glistening in gold, carried onto the red carpet by six shirtless men, and that’s surely an entrance that will go down in Met history. Ryan Murphy, Darren Criss and Jared Leto also brought glitz and glamour to the carpet. However, the sad fact is that it seems the only requirement to make it on a list of best-dressed men at the Met, is to wear anything other than a black tux.

I like to imagine that every year Anna Wintour sits in her office at Vogue the next morning, lamenting the many hordes of men who were unadventurous and wore a plain tux

For every guest who turns up in a bespoke outfit that has taken months to make and stuns the crowds, there is a celebrity who traipses along the carpet in a boring, standard black tuxedo. How is a black tux even slightly relevant to the theme, camp? It’s no surprise they go unnoticed by the cameras. Most of the excitement of the Met Gala comes from sitting at home and getting to see the avant-garde fashion that everyone is wearing. But, unfortunately, there are a rather large number of male guests who seem to have misunderstood that this is no ordinary red carpet.

The terms of the Met Gala are that you come dressed as the theme of the exhibit. This is what makes the event so special and unlike anything else. I like to imagine that every year Anna Wintour sits in her office at Vogue the next morning, lamenting the many hordes of men who were unadventurous and wore a plain tux. Maybe that’s why she’s wearing sunglasses all the time – to hide her tears.

For example, as much as I love Richard Madden, I really want to scream at him that wearing a black tuxedo with an oversized safety pin on the lapel does not qualify as ‘camp’. The Met Gala is the one event where it is socially accepted – socially expected even – that men will go all out in outfits that would otherwise be seen as feminine. The truth is that the lack of active participation on men’s part makes this event quite boring.

If you’re going to wear a black tux to the Met Gala, stay home

It really all harks back to the issue of toxic masculinity and expectations of female beauty. It’s the same discussion as when Beyonce and Ed Sheeran shared a stage and she wore a fantastical pink gown while he sported an old pair of jeans and a t-shirt. While part of the issue is that men are simply held to lesser standards in terms of appearance, I can’t help but think that a lot of this has to do with a fear of sacrificing their masculine image.

In fact, men at this event seem to be praised for relatively underwhelming fashion choices. Shawn Mendes and Benedict Cumberbatch have both been on numerous best-dressed lists, even though their outfits consisted of merely a minor twist on the standard black tux. It’s no Billy Porter but, to be fair, at least they tried.

Ultimately, if everyone chose to wear the same plain and simple, standard tux, the Met Gala would be no more, because it is, first and foremost, about the fashion. These men are betraying the meaning of the Met Gala out of fear of being seen as feminine, which says a lot about our society. My advice to any man lucky enough to be invited would be this: if you’re going to wear a black tux to the Met Gala, stay home.

It is a key step in showing that it is important and encouraged for men to keep in touch with their feminine sides

In the grand scheme of things, what men choose to wear to the Met Gala is a pretty small issue. It’s right there at the top of ‘first world problems’ and I’m sure there are many who would say that for me to be so absorbed in this as to write an 800-word article on it shows how fame-obsessed we have become.

But I do think that this points to a larger and more pressing issue. What this all boils down to is toxic masculinity, and it is this which is causing such high rates of male depression. If more men embrace gender fluidity in their fashion choices, perhaps the youngest generations will grow up knowing that there is no fixed definition of masculinity. And what better place to start than at the Met Gala? While, admittedly, making men wear more avant-garde outfits at the Met is probably not going to tackle the issues surrounding masculinity head-on, it is a key step in showing that it is important and encouraged for men to keep in touch with their feminine sides.

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