Feature photo by bricehardelin

The Academy Awards is the fashion fanatics’ Superbowl. The red carpets of previous, lesser award ceremonies leads up to the big event, but nothing comes close to the Oscar’s red carpet parade of glittering glamour.

For me, it has served as the fashion Christmas. You receive all of these great gifts in the form of extremely well-thought-out styling and iconic looks. Even better are the gifts of sartorial gaffes that resound even more for their abominable lack of taste, grace or sobriety. In fact, a lot of the times I wonder what these stylists might be on and demand to partake in smoking it.

It’s also the make or break moment of designers, both established and up-and-coming. It is some of the best guerrilla marketing there is for designers and trends. It shows you the best and the worst of the immediate now. Looking back at pictures from past Oscars, you can always tell what sort of era it was by who is wearing whom on that famed carpet.

There is one problem (and it isn’t the hosts, but just in case, bring a book) that I have always with the Oscars: what the men wear goes above people’s heads. It seems that three piece uniform’s success is reliant on how attractive the man in it already is. There really isn’t anywhere in between; you either look like a million bucks or a million fucks. There is no easy way to personalize the look. Many have tried and were either glazed over in a sea of gowns and jewelry or were lampooned for daring to break the mold. Why is it that women’s wear is so open to experimentation while the men must reveal nothing of their personality and spend their lives looking like over dressed waiters?

Perhaps it’s the conditioning that men have- that old notion that expression of an attitude other than anger or strength is repellent and a waste of time. There is almost an anger that comes with a man trying to add personal touches to his red carpet uniform. It’s incredibly unremarkable. Oh, George Clooney looks great in yet another ensemble by Armani that looks no different from a suit he might have worn to charity dinner in 2004. Well, George Clooney could look great wearing the red carpet itself but oh no… black tie means black tie. And what of the required color? Often times men do stray onto grey but that is hardly groundbreaking. It’s disheartening to have to see these men who, by no fault of their own, seem bored out of their minds. Even the ones who are nominated in the two acting categories often times cannot even muster the motivation to try and make an effort.

There are certain men who take dressing outside of the box to extremes. Case in point: David Arquette. In his inspired almost Bjork-esque attempts at style, he misses the mark often. But hey, at least he tries to avoid looking like a Brooks Brothers mannequin. It might just be his crazy ass family or the drinks abuse but he is a man who detests to be confused with someone else. If all of the male actors who present themselves at the ceremony line up with their faces against the wall, only the most fanatical of people might be able to distinguish them from one another. If you do the same with the women, not only would you have a better chance of telling who is who, you might have a lawsuit on your hands, handy.

This isn’t to say I dislike the proper male suit. I don’t. But I know if I were invited to the Oscars, I would try to do something different. What that is, I either don’t know or don’t want to tell you but I’m sure I won’t have to worry about being invited for at least a few years (or never. My money’s on never).

This whole article could be done on the flip side about a suit instead of a dress for women. Why do women always have to wear a gown? What we forget is that the world is much more forgiving to a woman in a suit than a man in a dress and something tells me, at least some of those men would prefer the suit. But the suit is timeless and classic. However, it’s like a rerun of The Office. You chuckle at some of the jokes you might have missed in the original airing but the laugh out loud moments are met with no more than a smirk. It’s been done before and there is nothing interesting about it. Or is there?

Even if the tired old tuxedo is a bit banal and, frankly, the only thing acceptable on the red carpet, many men do try, successfully, to make it something all their own and make you forget that the components that make up his tuxedo will almost exact those of the other men at the event. Robert Downey Jr. and Johnny Depp are the most extraordinary and classic examples of an ability to express more than just sex appeal.

Frankly, I never found Johnny Depp to be all that attractive. Yes, he is a handsome man and I wouldn’t kick him out of bed, but I also wouldn’t invite him in. However, he is cool and that must be why people get wet seats or short pants just thinking about him. In his innate sense of style and cool flair is also the rebellious antics of someone who doesn’t play by the set of dress guidelines that plagues many people. He will add a touch of his own brand of sultriness to it. This isn’t a man who just depends on his already solidified sexiness to make a suit a suit. He takes part in the experiment and takes part in the ritual that is fashion.

Robert Downey Jr. is  sexy as shit. There is no denying it. The way I feel about Downey Jr. is the way many feel about Depp. However, his willingness to add personal touches to his uniform might stem from a previous history of being the 90s Lindsay Lohan (I think Charlie Sheen was the Charlie Sheen of the 90s). He has a suave grace that carries him to the forefront of the ultimate stylish male. You can really believe that he doesn’t just wear the suit a stylist picked out for him. I think the one of the sexiest things about him is that he probably did put in, at the very least, some effort into figuring out what he wanted to look like. He cares about what he looks like, which in turn must mean that he cares what his roles are.

There is no need to ditch the tuxedo in favor of some crazy thing, but with more Johnny Depps and Robert Downey Jr.s, there would be less yawns on the red carpet. And, needless to say, a huge population problem that would dwarf anything we’ve got to deal with at the moment.

Remember the Oscars are on Sunday and also:

Don’t be a stranger, but do be stranger.

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