GQ has been anointed as the voice of men’s fashion across the globe by “fashion insiders” who’s identities we hardly ever know. The GQ’s Best Dressed List is an annual event that most look forward to, for many reasons but mainly, to see who the publication will anoint as the “Best Dressed Man” in the country.
The 2017 list comprised of sports star Siya Kolisi, who quite frankly, I’ve never seen in anything outside of his uniform (and not in anything notable anyway), musician turned TV presenter Dash, who I’m still trying to figure out, as well as brand architect Sylvester Chauke who; well, okay, wears a suit with sneakers. Nothing here is groundbreaking. However, in his interview with the publication, I loved Dash’s response to “Style with Substance”. He said, “It’s one thing to dress up every day, but also know where you are going and how to find a unique style that caters to the pillars of form and function. Then you’re good. With the substance part, don’t only look good and smart: be smart”.
The Top 3 on the list is who I presume, would be the three most stylish men in South Africa comprise of entrepreneur, Matthew Mensah, rapper and producer Anatii who is probably the only justifiable addition on the list, and the Best Dressed man in South Africa you ask? Menzi Mcunu, who is a luxury connoisseur of some sort. Now, Menzi is really impeccably dressed for a young man of his age and for the kind of life he leads and the circles he frequents. One would expect him to be a typical skkrr skkrr boy, which he isn’t in the slightest, but I’m not really sold on whether or not he is the Best Dressed man in the country. But an honest justification I would give to Menzi is that he has cultivated a signature style for himself, one that almost lends itself to a brand recognition which makes his recognition by GQ as Best Dressed Man of Character so much more important and valid.
“It’s more about lifestyle than just what you wear” – Menzi Mchunu, GQ Best Dressed Man of The Year 2017.
The problematic part about these kind of things really begins with the criteria which is followed; and I would like to think that that criteria is determined by what their definition of a “stylish man” is because we really don’t know, but I have gathered that it simply means “looking good in a tailored suit”. GQ on the other hand, says that their GQ Best Dressed Men of the Year “in essence is about honouring the most stylish modern men in the country. They are stylish, confident and always deliver something extra.”
Personally, I’m getting bored and tired of congratulating a man for looking good in a suit. You are a man, you have to look good in a suit. It’s the least you can do. But then this takes me to the inevitable and maybe most important question: What constitutes a well dressed man? Is personal style anything to be accounted for in such cases? Is self-identity and an extension of oneself through your clothes taken into account when such lists are being drawn up? For a process that is said to take 320 days of compiling names of potential candidates, a week of nominating judges and an additional week of compiling contacts, email addresses, social media handles and statistics to track, observe and make notes on various candidates, the end result leaves much to be desired.
I find the GQ Best Dressed List problematic in its blandness and repetitive nature. Year in and year out, we congratulate the same men for the same thing. Give you a trophy and say “well done for being respectful enough to wear a tailored suit”. What happened to diversity? Isn’t that what fashion and style, by definition, is about? I would absolutely love to see people like Didi Monsta and Tusa Mamba featured on such lists. As much as I am not a personal fan of Didi Monsta and his style, I can appreciate the way in which he has formed himself, his voice and his identity in the way he dresses and carries himself.
Atish Jogi, who found himself sitting at number 9, when asked “Who’s leading the way in South African fashion” responded “For the guys, it’s more in the urban scene: people like Riky Rick, Mfumu Mhinga, Heemal Ganjaz Gangaram and Tusa Mamba”. So how does GQ, with months of prep and a team across so many boards look into potential candidates and miss the people who their very honorees attribute as leaders in fashion? Tristan du Plessis, Founder of Studio A and 4th place on the list, seemed to echo Atish’ sentiment by saying “The boys in Braam. They really kill it. They’re not emulating anybody and it’s a unique Jo’burg style scene that is awesome to witness”.
For a process that takes almost 3 months to put together, I would not only expect them to come out with a list that comprised of groundbreaking individuals never mind them being recognizable, but a list that would cover a broader spectrum that sits outside of tailored suits and clean cut looks. Fashion shouldn’t exclude those who look impeccable day in and day out in sneakers and a t-shirt. Fashion should give us the allowance we have to expand its lengths and breadths well beyond a Dolce & Gabbana man and to start looking at a Virgil Abloh man and his contribution to today’s fashion community.