6.12.2021

BLACK IN MEN’S WARDROBE

In Latin, black is designated by two terms: niger, a shiny black, and ater, a matte black – that of a fresco or a flannel, which is not the same as the shiny black of a wool twill. Sometimes the colour of mourning, sometimes the visible manifestation of a Puritan spirit, black appears to us in its ambivalence and its history. Thus, if black is synonymous with misfortune, it can also refer to values such as humility, temperance and dignity. Benedictine monks, magistrates and lawyers wear black robes.

It was technically very difficult to dye a garment black: until the end of the 18th century, all those who were supposed to be dressed in black actually wore dark shades of grey, blue or brown. Black clothes also quickly faded to greyish or purplish tones. Dressing in black meant having the material means to constantly renew one’s wardrobe, while renouncing colour. Deep blacks were therefore a luxury reserved for the upper classes of society.

It was under the First Empire that black began to be imposed on the bourgeoisie. Men’s fashion renounced both the extravagance of the Revolution and the splendour of the Ancien Régime and followed the English model, making the black suit the norm. Synonymous with sobriety and elegance, black clothing conceals and hides as much as it illuminates and reveals the wearer.

Getting further from the bourgeois flannel suit, black became the colour of protest and marginal groups: Mods, Rockers, Punks. Black metamorphoses, between mixing genres, diversions, ambiguities, echoing a new culture that no longer makes fashion a rigid and elitist social choice but a space of freedom in which the arbitrariness of the sign becomes a game.

“What makes colour the colour is not its nature, it is not the eye-brain pair, it is society. By this I mean that the problems of colour are first and foremost problems of society. – Michel Pastoureau

HUSBANDS

DOUBLE-BREASTED FLANNEL JACKET – BLACK WITH CHALK STRIPES
Alfed Hitchcock's Topaz, 1969

Alfed Hitchcock's Topaz, 1969

Angelo Bronzino, Portrait of a man holding a statuette, circa 1550

Angelo Bronzino, Portrait of a man holding a statuette, circa 1550

Egon Schiele's Portrait of Max Oppenheimer, 1910

Egon Schiele's Portrait of Max Oppenheimer, 1910

Ben Gazzara, Peter Falk and John Cassavetes in Husbands, John Cassavetes, 1970

Ben Gazzara, Peter Falk and John Cassavetes in Husbands, John Cassavetes, 1970

Paul McCartney, Royal Garden Hotel in London, february 5th, 1968

Paul McCartney, Royal Garden Hotel in London, february 5th, 1968

Alain Delon, 1972, Paris

Alain Delon, 1972, Paris

Bryan Ferry, 1880s

Bryan Ferry, 1880s

Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg, 1971

Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg, 1971