At Thom Browne, a Sharply Tailored Freak Show

Just the thing for senior prom.Photo: Getty Images

The relationship between what goes down the runway and what gets worn on the street varies greatly: Some designers stay well within in the realm of the wearable, while others use a fashion show to make a point. In his circus-themed show, Thom Browne was trying for the latter. Because while there are certain parts of the city and certain hours of the night in which bonding a young male model into near-immobility with a series of tight, argyle, patent-leather ties might be appropriate, it is most definitely not Fifth Avenue on a sunny afternoon.

Thom Browne has gotten a lot of attention in recent seasons for reinvigorating the suit by shrinking it to mod proportions, and, when done judiciously, the effect can be fairly cool and speak to a wide range of (thin) men. He’s offered a modern take on dressing up, a fresh view of dandyism. But his runway shows are, even when not circus-themed, pretty clowny affairs. They are the only shows we’ve ever been to in which the audience frequently laughs out loud. This time, the biggest laugh was for the two boys who were given just three pant legs between them. It’s fashion at its most sweaters-with-no-arms absurd. What men want to wear tight shorts with a white tie and tails, or gray flannel rompers, or mammoth feathered capes?

If Browne is anxious to show off his tailoring chops, he has certainly done so: It’s all executed to perfection. And some of the more subdued pieces, particularly the sharp, military coats with even rows of gold buttons down the back, were fantastic. But as the models’ kohl-rimmed eyes glared down the audience as if to say, “I’m planning to kidnap your babies and force them to mate with the bearded lady,” the net effect was just this: Why? —Amy Larocca

At Thom Browne, a Sharply Tailored Freak Show