Interview: Roger Leong
“Every generation wants to define itself against the previous generation. Men of my age have been wearing jeans for decades and the younger generation wanted to find themselves against that. So they won’t wear jeans – they will dress up. And that’s really where we are seeing the popularity of the Neo-Dandy movement.”
- Roger Leong
A conversation with Roger Leong, NGV Curator Fashion and Textiles, offers a serious fashion education. Forget paying thousands for trend forecasting: the man who has spent his professional life studying fashion in an historical context knows that, when it comes to trends, it all stems from where it’s been before.
Roger: “It’s a really difficult thing to say why certain fashion’s become popular, but it is certain that fashions return – and that the cycle of men’s fashion is much longer than women’s fashion. But of all the fashion that has come and gone, my favourite era is definitely the first half of the 19th Century.”
Roger describes it as “the Pride and Prejudice period”, when men moved from wearing opulent embroidered silks draped in less sophisticated cuts (“often in fabrics more elaborate than that which was worn by the women”) to embracing the idea that clothing should enhance the male form through pattern cutting and manipulation of cloth.
Roger: “Tailoring for men walked hand-in-hand with a growing interest in athleticism – an interest in disciplining the body and creating a well-built, muscular frame, an idea that hadn’t existed before.”
He points to George Bryan “Beau” Brummell as the movement’s key personality, a man who modelled himself on Greek statues, who focussed on the fit of his clothes from the exact proportion of a pocket to the width of a lapel.
For Roger, this is where the current landscape of men’s fashion finds its most direct connection.
Roger: “That early era of tailoring really was about the refinement of the craft and I don’t think really fundamentally that things have changed much since then.”
Roger Leong, Curator – NGV International Fashion and Textiles.