Something that I appreciate most in an artist is their ability to world-build. Some artists build characters and concepts around each individual single, while others focus predominately on building a singular image that reflects the essence of an album; some artists are also men. Men who, by and large, do not have, need, or utilize the same creative conceptual world-building to sell their music that many women in the entertainment industry use. These moments in their careers are generally referred to as, “eras,” because they encapsulate a moment in time. Lady Gaga is notorious for doing this and her images can be shared together to create a cohesive image around a single.
The biggest male artists today, such as Ed Sheeran, Shawn Mendes, and Drake, are some of the most blatant examples of unexceptional male mass appeal. Don’t get me wrong, I’m crushing on Mendes as hard as the next person, but how many times can you walk down the red carpet in the same bland suit? It wasn’t always like this; the ’80s were a golden era of male experimentation with pop culture imagery. Artists like Michael Jackson, David Bowie, and bands like Kiss were unafraid to craft or play with their image for creative purposes.
Who, in 2019, can males look too for style experimentation and world-building through fashion? The answer is Lil Nas X. As an artist, Lil Nas X has left a lasting impact on the music entertainment industry beyond fashion. Creating the smash hit, “Old Town Road,” which was a mashup of country and trap music, he is the holder of the longest-reigning number-one single in Billboard history. In this Tik Tok era, it’s no wonder that pop-cultural self-satire won over the masses. The public is starving for a male artist like this.
Lil Nas X is unafraid to be bold and make campy references. His own song lyrics, “Cowboy hat from Gucci/Wrangler on my booty,” inspired a fashion collaboration with Wrangler. Wrangler’s capsule collection took elements of the song and blended it with Wrangler’s famous western aesthetic to make a line that encapsulates a moment in Lil Nas X’s career. What is more representative of an “era” than that?
Lil Nas X can normally be seen in a cowboy hat, boots, and leather jackets with fringe. Unlike many male artists who just wear suits to the red carpet, we see wildly different variations of Lil Nas X’s built world. Some of the outfits are embroidered, some bedazzled, and overall they are given significantly different designs. Lil Nas X is also unafraid to play with some forms of androgyny that many men shy away from.
I find his overall vibe to be refreshing in a sea of neutral-colored suits and unoriginality. I think many male celebrities are more inclined to experiment when other men are attempting different and original looks. Whether I like it or not, I must admit that the social media troll turned pop/country/rap star is the most exciting male artist we’ve seen take on the red carpet in a long time. A true test of his influence on fashion is whether he will create something new to be consumed by the public. Can Lil Nas X leave this cowboy aesthetic for something daring and fresh? Either way, I think it’s hard to keep him from male best-dressed lists when he’s one of the only male artists experimenting with this form of fashion imagery built entirely around a piece of his own musical work. That’s why I named him my “Fashion World Builder of 2019.”