20 ‘Stella’ Years of Dolce & Gabbana For Men

by Mark Simpson, Arena Hommes Plus (Winter-Spring, 2010)

America’s hottest new Hollywood stars – who naturally enough in this post-Hollywood era, don’t actually work in Hollywood but reality TV – were recently honoured with a profile in Interview magazine. The Italian-American ‘Guidos’ from MTV mega-hit ‘Jersey Shore’, who have conquered America with their brazenness and their Gym Tan Laundry routine, were styled in Dolce & Gabbana. Suddenly, they looked as if they had come home. After all, these twenty-something earthy but flamboyant, self-assured but needy young men are, aesthetically, emotionally, the bastard offspring of Dolce & Gabbana.

The Italian designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana got together over two decades ago to make beautiful, emotional clothes for men – but ended up, almost as an afterthought, siring a generation. Such has been the potency of Dolce & Gabbana’s worldview they have more or less patented the aestheticized modern male and his yearning desire to be desired. Their dreamy but virile vision of the male has become the dominant one in our mediated world. Even if Dolce & Gabbana man sometimes likes to be underneath.

But who or what is Dolce & Gabbana man? In ‘20 Years of Dolce & Gabbana’ a bumper book of vintage glossiness cataloguing the growth of the brand, the French actress Fanny Ardant describes him as ‘arrogant, with irony,’ which sounds very Jersey Shore. Victoria Beckham describes him as: ‘not afraid to be in tune with his feminine side and the sexual side of his persona…’ adding, ‘he has a strong sense of European fashion and has an extravagant, flamboyant sense of personal style.’ I think we know who she has in mind.

Aside from Becks (some, er, seminal 2002 images of him in half-undone jeans are included here) who is the quintessential Dolce & Gabbana man? ‘Cesare Borgia’, says Ardant, perhaps being slightly ironic herself. ‘My son Rocco,’ asserts Madonna, who probably isn’t. For my part I’d be tempted to name Cristiano Ronaldo, whose carefree personal style seems totally Dolce, even when he’s advertising Armani.

Actress Scarlett Johansson hits the bullseye when she identifies him as: ‘Marlon Brando in Streetcar Named Desire’. Yes! That white vest! That brooding brow! That pouting face on a Sicilian stevedore’s body! Truly “STEL-LA!”, young Brando was in many ways the first Hollywood male pin-up, arrogantly and flirtatiously inviting our gaze in a way that hadn’t really been seen before in America, even if it was nothing unusual on the streets of Syracuse, Sicily.

Brando doesn’t appear in the many film stills scattered through this book as examples of the inspiring lights of the brand, instead we have the pin-ups of Italian neo realist cinema such as Massimo Giretti and Renato Salvatore and of course, the sublimely refined Marcello Mastroanni. But Marlon and his vest – and even in his middle-aged Godfather role – are evoked by many of the fashion shoot images here.

As Tim Blanks puts it in his introduction: ‘There’s some irony in the fact that it was actually Hollywood which distilled Italy’s international image to handful of core ingredients that were really Sicilian in essence – the machismo, the mama, the Mafia, of course, and, all the time, bright sunlight, dark shadows, and overwrought emotion.’ Dolce & Gabbana were in effect an Italian take on Hollywood’s take on Italy. But all the more poignant for that.

Dolce & Gabbana are less of a fashion brand, more a studio system that produces pin-up-ness in the form of clothes. Or, as they like to put it themselves, ‘dream doctors’. The famously iconic pictures included here of a smouldering young Matt Dillon, and Keanu Reeves in his vealish prime, bring out and something Sicilian in them that Hollywood itself has long since forgotten how to do.

  1. @ el supermarky: ¿¿¿ ???, you got it wrong.
    Giorgio Armani stands to Italian communism as Ronald Reagan to transsexualism.

  2. Stanley may have been a dumb Pollack, but Marlon wasn’t going to let that stop him portraying Stanley as a brooding Sicilian hustler.

  3. well ok some dolce suits might look mafiosi but… that could be said of many italian suits isn’t armani the suit of italian communists?

    but for much of the rest of this “take” is dolce e gabbana really … anything at all in particular or is it pretty much calvin klein with an accent? to me there is a difference between dolce e gabbana and D&G the latter being more paul smith-y quirky and indifferent to age at least in the ads and in the clothing. as I understand it I like to think I have the D&G thing going on. But even in Havana D&G meant… tshirts and jeans, with a “designer” logo and not a hell of a lot more . . . and that’s the bread and butter I suppose moreso than the fragrances even . . .

  4. does dolce e gabbana in this sense really mean dolce e gabbana or does it mean… basically… calvin klein?

    there is surely a difference between dolce e gabbana and D&G the latter is more paul smith-y and indifferent to age, at least in the ads, and in the clothes you can buy. quirky. I like to think I have that D&G thing going on.

    However, even in Havana I saw lots of “D&G” that was nothing but… calvin klein – ie t-shirts, underwear

  5. Stanley was a dumb POLLACK!!! Do people actually buy this sh*t? Apparently, they do . . . never ceases to amaze me.

  6. Paolo: What a paradoxical, poetical definition of D&G. You should have been quoted in that book…. But do D&G support Berlusconi? I wasn’t aware of that.

  7. yes they do support Berlusconi as they said on TV. they invite him, Papi, to their parties. maybe because it’s a mutual admiration.
    he made a law that transformed on purpose the fake in accounting reports (they did not pay taxes pretending their business was based in Luxembourg… sorry if my english is not that strong in economy). so the penal charge changed from crime and swindle to a generic “mistake”, avoiding them the bankrupcy.

  8. D&G. it’s a mash-up: Brando vs “Hairdresser on Fire”. it’s Americans using mafia to beat Mussolini. it’s supporting Berlusconi the homophobe. it’s Milano, city with no soul. it’s Grace Jones escaping after her show in their fashion show with euros in her bra. it’s showing Madonna in the 90’s what Patty Pravo was in the 70’s. it’s Stefano e Domenico. it’s all of this and nothing.