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The return of the red carpet dandy

Laura McCreddie-Doak
April 22, 2024
6 min

As Guy Trebay, style reporter for the New York Times, has previously written, ‘sometimes the visual meal of men’s fashion is richer than any human can reasonably digest’. If red carpets of recent years are anything to go by, he may have a point: they have increasingly become decadent banquets when it comes to gentlemen’s’ attire.

There’s Barry Keoghan in everything from cropped waistcoats with nothing underneath, to sheer shirts and head-to-toe red suiting. Elsewhere, everyone’s favourite red-carpeteer Timothée Chalamet has been peacocking in outfits such as red halter neck jumpsuits, fuchsia velvet, and lots of statement trousers. Even the internet’s favourite daddy, Pedro Pascal, has started to get in on the act, sporting shorts with a calf-length tomato-red Valentino coat and matching shirt at this year’s Met Gala, various tight-fitting crochet cardigans at other events, and even transforming a sling into a fashion accessory at this year’s Golden Globes.

But these men – or their stylists – equally know their way around an accessories tray. Keoghan has often adorned himself in Tiffany & Co’s finest, and boldly wore a full-pavé, rose gold Omega Seamaster Aquaterra 34mm to this year’s Golden Globes. Chalamet has been seen in a range of Cartiers usually pitched at women, including a Panthère and a Crash, as well as creating two custom gem-set necklaces with the Maison – one for Wonka, and the other for Dune: Part Two. And, while Pascal might not be as into his gemstones as the others, he’s still partial to a full gold Rolex with the addition of a Bulgari ring or two.

Barry Keoghan wearing Omega at the Vanity Fair After Party right after 96th Academy Awards

“This 2024 awards season it’s all been about the leading actors’ outfits on the red carpet,” says celebrity stylist Alex Longmore. “They have shone just as bright as their female counterparts, if not more, with directional suiting, bright colours, flesh on show and androgynous vibes. The normal boring black-tie look has been completely thrown by the wayside, the rule book has been ripped up and we have seen some seriously outlandish outfits. It’s properly cool, this exciting fashion moment happening for men right now.” In fact, Longmore goes firther in crediting this sea change with the large Irish contingent on the red carpet. “Irish men are not conservative dressers, they love panache, sharp style and are unafraid to be directional,” she explains.

Not forgetting the business side to such red carpet adornments for men. “Previously it’s been much more lucrative for the female stars who have bags, shoes and jewellery to promote along with their designer gowns,” emphasises Longmore. “Men don’t have all those options – they just have their suits, shoes and accessories. Because of that, watches have heavily featured this year, and they’re on show specifically to draw attention.”

One message is clear: decadence is back. The watch world seems to be taking note, with the latest crop of launches moving away from vintage reissues to something altogether more exciting.

“In many ways this feels like a rejection of the sports watch craze that fuelled the boom of early 2022,” says Christy Davis, founder of Subdial, the pre-owned retail and market analysis platform. “The argument would say: Daytonas are overpriced, obvious, and actually not that rare; whereas something like a Cartier Cintrée or an original Piaget Polo is undervalued in the current market, is only known by those who know, and is genuinely super-rare. It's ironic, because it looks like a move towards flashy luxury, but in some ways it's the opposite – a rejection of the big brand-led, flashy, bulky sports watches that (had) become so desirable.”

The most obvious example of this is Piaget’s decision to bring back the original Polo in all its gold glory. First launched in 1979 as a timepiece you watch (rather than play) polo with, it was made from around 135g of gold with one intention: to be the most expensive watch in the world. Times may have changed, but the sheer opulence of a watch entirely made from this precious metal – 200g of it to be precise – hits as hard today as it did when it was first launched.

The new Piaget Polo

Piaget isn’t the only brand throwing caution to the wind. Earlier in the year, at LVMH Watch Week, two of its stable unveiled creations that could only be described in three letters: O, T, T. The TAG Heuer Carrera Date Plasma 36mm watch features 1.4 carats of yellow-coloured lab-grown diamonds, including the crown; at Zenith, a full-gold version of its Chronomaster Sport was launched with a fully-set bezel of sapphires, diamonds and spinels. It’s not only the sheer embarrassment of precious stones – and, in Zenith’s case, metal – that is remarkable here. It is that both these watches are traditionally sports styles that are usually covered in a completely different kind of carbon.

TAG Heuer Carrera Date Plasma 36mm

More storied houses are also embracing this new era in maximalism. Last year Patek Philippe unveiled a range of fully bejewelled Nautiluses, alongside two similarly full-set Aquanauts, taking two of its sportiest designs out of their casual arena and placing them firmly in NSFW territory. And, who can forget Vacheron Constantin’s 222 from last year – another all-gold icon revived for a new age.

There is a valid argument that, given the current state of the world, this isn’t an entirely appropriate direction to take. However, Davis sees it differently. “A move towards precious metals and jewellery watches may feel in poor taste given the current economic landscape,” he says. “But there's also a refreshing honesty to the trend that says, ‘if you're going to have a luxury industry, let's make it genuine luxury; with a focus on rarity and precious metals that can justify the price tags, rather than manufactured hype for mass-produced steel models.’”

Justifications aside, after nearly a decade of archival reissues that tend towards a World War Two aesthetic, it is exciting to see watch brands experimenting – and, in turn, to see a new generation of men comfortable enough in their own skin to want to break out of prescribed boundaries of what they should and shouldn’t wear. As Davis says: “if women can wear larger models and not just frilly little things that have been denoted ‘ladies’ models, why can’t men wear jewellery pieces with smaller case sizes and more extraverted glamour?” Maybe diamonds can be a boy’s best friend too.