Clothes Make the Man

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Here are two assumptions being challenged at LACMA: men don't care about clothes, and fashion is frivolous. Reigning Men: Fashion in Menswear 1715-2015 opens on Sunday, April 10. The exhibition, which looks at 300 years of men's fashion, shows that men have historically been as much, if not more, fashion-conscious than the ladies, and that even today -- the age of jeans, sneakers and T-shirts -- menswear is having a renaissance.It also shows that fashion never exists independent of cultural, political and economic trends. So the exhibition places all the items of clothing within a context of their time: Zoot suits with baggy pants which consciously defied the rationing of fabric at the time; outrageous clothing worn by groups of men called "the incredibles" on the streets of revolutionary Paris in sync with the instability of the period; Burberry trench coats that became a mainstream fashion item following the first world war, and so on. It places the classic pieces alongside the avant-garde designers of today who look to the past for inspiration. So alongside a mannequin of one of the "incredibles" wearing tight, extravagantly cut tail coats and cropped pantaloons, you'll find an amazing tailored orange frock coat and skin-tight leather trousers by contemporary Belgian designer Walter Van Beirendonck. The exhibition appeals to people interested in history and culture -- and to people who simply want to see men when they dress at their most fearless.