Conor McGregor's spectacularly vulgar suit sets a new standard for statement dressing
... but a little subtlety goes a long way
Conor McGregor is not a man known for subtlety, but he managed to deliver his most outrageous assault on the senses yet on Tuesday night, during a press conference with his opponent, Floyd Mayweather. He arrived on stage in a typically sharp three-piece pinstripe suit, that on closer inspection revealed the words ‘F*** You’ neatly running along the pinstripes.
Custom made by tailoring label David August, the suit was shocking yet characteristically blunt — exactly the kind of move we’ve come to expect from McGregor. A gifted trash-talker, this is the man who vowed to “behead” fellow MMA fighter Rafael Dos Anjos: “I will drag his head through the streets of Rio de Janeiro. Through a parade of people, I’d imagine. It will become a national holiday.”
So the suit is a perfect fit for McGregor’s more-is-more-is-more style, but it’s also the latest chapter in coded clothing as the celebrity’s weapon of choice.
Fashion has long offered a means of self-expression, most explicitly through the slogan t-shirt. Initially popular in the 80s thanks to Katherine Hamnett and her ‘Choose Life’ and ‘Frankie Says Relax’ slogans, the trend recently enjoyed a resurgence on the catwalks at Gucci, Dior and Henry Holland. They’re just as much of a hit on the streets, where you can wear your politics on your chest with a ‘Repeal’ jumper (or the opposing ‘LoveBoth’ pro-life hoodies — the popularity of which has yet to be seen).
Nowadays you’ll find celebrities like Victoria Beckham pouting up a storm in a ‘Fashion Stole My Smile’ t-shirt or Rihanna posing after the Women’s March in a ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ tee (by Dior, natch).
These t-shirts are particularly handy in times of crisis. Some brazen stars, keenly aware of the ever-present paparazzi, let their clothes do the talking, using a cryptic slogan to make a statement without uttering a word.
Julia Roberts was an early adopter — during her affair with now-husband Danny Moder in 2001, his wife, a make-up artist called Vera, allegedly refused to agree to a divorce on Roberts’ terms. The actress responded in turn by greeting a raft of waiting paps in a t-shirt emblazoned with the clumsily-scrawled motif ‘A Low Vera’. The seemingly homemade t-shirt certainly made a splash, but Moder’s family reportedly disapproved, setting their relationship off to a rocky start.
The early 2000s were a golden era for the not-so-subliminal message. Following her arrest for shoplifting in 2001, Winona Ryder appeared on the cover of W in a ‘Free Winona’ t-shirt, while Naomi Campbell, after being accused of slapping an assistant, strutted around New York in a top that said: ‘Naomi hit me... And I loved it’.
Britney Spears poked fun at her old squeaky-clean image in 2004 with a tank top reading “I’m a virgin…but this is an old t-shirt”, and a year later, the Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston divorce spawned a whole rake of slogan t-shirts, as LA boutique Kitson started selling ‘Team Aniston’ or ‘Team Jolie’ tees that became a cult hit. The Hilton sisters took opposite sides, while Eva Longoria later apologised for the seemingly grave offence of wearing a t-shirt printed with ‘I’ll have your baby, Brad’.
Finding herself in hot water after an expletive-laden rant during her then-fiance Andy Murray’s tennis match om 2014, Kim Sears sported a sweatshirt reading “Parental Advisory: Explicit Content”. Beaming for the cameras, it was a delicious clap-back and a perfect response to the media frenzy.
Malia Obama took a similar tack last year, after footage of her smoking at the Lollapalooza music festival leaked online. The First Family kept quiet about the images, until the 18-year-old stepped out a few weeks later wearing a handwritten t-shirt that conveniently doubled as a public service announcement: ‘Smoking kills’. If that wasn’t savvy enough, she paired it with a Harvard University baseball cap, a reminder of where she will be studying this autumn. The combination of the two was masterful, instantly landing her a spot in the slogan t-shirt hall of fame.
McGregor’s spectacularly vulgar suit has set a new standard for statement dressing, but it’s worth bearing in mind that a little subtlety can go a long way — take Queen Elizabeth for example. Her so-called ‘EU hat’, royal blue and studded with yellow flowers, at the opening of Parliament earlier this year was a stroke of genius. While her feelings about Brexit remain unclear (despite reports last year that she supported leaving the EU), the hat choice is fascinating. Her wardrobe undoubtedly involves a huge amount of pain-staking planning, so it can’t be a coincidence that she decided to cover her head in what looks to all intents and purposes like an enormous EU flag for this event in particular. The important thing is that she opted for a statement that struck the delicate balance of shadiness and ambiguity — was it really a silent protest? We’ll never know for certain, and that’s what makes it perfect.