There is nothing – nothing – more primitive than boxing. We cheer and scream and howl as two men in peak physical condition beat seven shades out of each other. You win points for conjuring spittle-based mists of red. Losers are decided by their inability to stand. It is, reader, very savage. And we pay for it: we pay to watch this violence, safe in the knowledge that our visceral thrill comes with no risk to our own health.
But for all its brutality, boxing has quite the polished aesthetic. Unsurprising, perhaps, given the profit margins; at the top end, this blue collar sport is now gilded with gold, thanks its celebrity-packed ringside seats, six-figure tickets, and absurd PR circus. Which brings us to the clothes: boxing is menswear at its most kaleidoscopic.
So were the runways of S/S '20, offered a quick one-two of boxing references. Versace, set to a thumping Prodigy soundtrack that could have doubled-up as a Klitschko's entrance music, debuted cropped boxer shorts in a Versace rainbow: lime green, hot pink, Donatella purple and so on. Prada did the same, but in simpler shirting fabrics. Ditto E. Tautz, Fendi and Daniel W. Fletcher too, but in wider cuts that abet the whole 'float like a butterfly' thing. And while short-shorts are nothing new, this season menswear's best added the functionality that makes for a pair of boxer shorts – the proper, 'ding ding ding' kind – with elasticated waistbands and shades that prove maximalism isn't out for the count.
Into the ring you go. If you want to channel a Vegas headliner without risking your teeth, punchy boxer shorts in red, blue or green are best paired with quieter stuff elsewhere: classic white T-shirts, for example, tucked in if you've dropped a weight class.
This is round two for the big boxing trend. While Seventies sportswear has flitted in and out of the fashion conversation for a few seasons, boxer boots haven't been a style contender since the early Noughties, when they were a favourite of Gwen Stefani's ska-poppers and every League Two footballer in a provincial nightclub. Oh, how we scoffed. Now, in the deft hands of Christian Louboutin and co, the boxer boot has been refined. There's a new taste for hi-top, high-impact footwear. Dior's now iconic translucent sneakers aren't best-suited to the ring, but they wouldn't be totally out of context below some boxer shorts. The same can be said for other handsome anklebiters from Sunnei, Prada and A-Cold-Wall*. All sporty. All hi-top. And, more importantly, all close enough to boxing boots without a rerun of eyesores past.
Menswear at large is turning into a right little show off and the boxer short trend is merely part of this. If we're not dressing like Tyson Fury at Caesar's Palace, we're dressing like the spectators; those who throw fistfuls of cash at two men punching each other in the face. The suit is back, and it's not your granddad's suit. Though there's a lot of evidence that we're seeing a return to classic, smarter cuts, the tailoring of menswear month was still really quite mad. At Louis Vuitton, Virgil Abloh packed cloudscapes into boxy, flattering fits. Saint Laurent and Celine laid it on thick with the pinstripes, and Balmain's Olivier Rousteing sliced and diced silk lapels. These are all suits proper, but they subvert the rules. They're suits for those who like to peacock. Suits for men who drive their Lambo right up to the casino door. Suits, ultimately, for Don King.
So if you're out for the count on boxing shorts, know there's another way to go ringside this season. Get your loudest suit on for the Fury versus Wilder fight. Go on, open that bottle of Krug while you're at it. For while this sport is bloody and brutal and probably shouldn't really be glorified, everyone else seems to quite like it. Yes, even Donatella Versace.
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