Sunday 17 December 2017

Dressing like your friend is the sign of a true Bromance

Mirroring your friend's style has become the new way of expressing a close male friendship.

Close pals: Gordon Ramsay and David Beckham and Ramsay
Close pals: Gordon Ramsay and David Beckham and Ramsay
Makeover: Gordon's new look Getty
Matching: James McEvoy and Michael Fassbender on the red carpet
Ed Power

Ed Power

Your first thoughts on seeing pictures of snarling chef Gordon Ramsey's new 'look' may have been: when does David Beckham want his hair back?

Actually, it is possible Gordo's makeover, all spiky quiffs and tight linen trousers, was inspired by none other than Becks – the two are chums and have, it seems, consummated their relationship in what is quickly becoming the popular fashion: by dressing more or less identically.

The vogue was underscored last week as X Men stars Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy turned up at a red carpet premiere in matching stubble and suspiciously similar suits (Fassbener's was grey, McAvoy's navy – that apart, they resembled twins)

To be fair to Ramsey, it isn't as if he he larking about with just anyone. Beckham is a cast-iron style icon.

Who among us could spend time in his company and not be gripped by the desire to immediately rush out and purchase a sarong or give our kids daft names?

Were the trend confined to "Beck-sey" – a portmanteau we've just coined on the spot – you might write their doppelganger fashion habits off as an isolated incident, a case of Becks appeal run riot.

In fact the trajectory of their bromance is entirely typical. Identikit fashion is apparently the new signifier of male friendship. No longer is it enough to have overlapping interests, or complimentary personalities. For two bros to share a real connection, their image must be in lock-step.

Close pals: Gordon Ramsay and David Beckham and Ramsay

A brief exploration of the celebrity-sphere will confirm the truth of this. Spotted slapping one anothers' backs and sharing strawberries and cream at Wimbledon last year were A-listers Bradley Cooper and Gerard Butler.

With dovetailing stubble, suits and even smiles, it was difficult to tell the two apart. Was this on purpose? Or were they perhaps subconsciously expressing their 'bro-dmiration' by dressing alike?

Engaged in similar jinks lately were actors Tom Hiddleston and Benedict Cumberbatch, whose tweedy chic attests to a unified desire to appear classy but cool with it. More than that it speaks to minds thinking alike – when Hiddleston recently described Cumberbatch as "one of my best friends it's as simple as that" he might have added that, in addition to sharing a plummy upper middle-class background, they utilised the same Savile Row tailors.

Makeover: Gordon's new look Getty

With Irish people arguably less unquestioningly devoted to fashion, such brotherly faux pas are not so common here. That said, it is telling that the chumminess between Ireland soccer bosses Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane has extended to their exceedingly similar taste in blazers and ties.

Similarly, when elite rugby players appear in the society pages you can't help notice how generically turned out they are. Bros on the pitch, bros in the Brown Thomas changing room it seems.

As the celebrity world goes, so the rest of us invariably follow.

When next you find yourself wedged in a bar or restaurant beside a bunch of young men note how alike they all look: matching quiffs, Superdry tees, narrow jeans.

Twenty five years ago, people dressed to signal their individuality – if a friend had a designer top (or, more likely given the general impoverishment, a top that looked vaguely designer), the last thing you would wish to do is rock up in something similar.

Nowadays, guys look like they are part of a tribe – one for all and all for one (at least until a lady, or especially hefty bar tab, gets in the way).

This may owe something to the shifting patterns of male friendship.

According to the psychologist Owen Connolly, while society is arguably less homophobic than at any time before, guys are more sensitive to their relationships being open to misinterpretation – of outsiders detecting homo-eroticism where none exists.

Matching: James McEvoy and Michael Fassbender on the red carpet

"There is a lot of homophobic behaviour between young men," Connolly says. "They are nervous about being good friends. Look in a restaurant in an evening and you will see two girls having a nice meal, a glass of wine. You will rarely see two guys. There are fears about (people getting the wrong idea)."

The irony is that men tend to accumulate a relatively small number of platonic soul-mates. Maybe that's why Ramsey and Becks have taken to dressing in the same vein – when they recognise a bro with staying power, they want to make sure the connection endures.

"Men usually don't have loads of friends," says Connolly. "They like to have one or two good ones – that would be typical.

"Perhaps Becks and Gordon have cracked the formula."

Five signs to watch for...

1: Matching dress sense

You and your pal arrive at a gig in the same band T-shirt or at a party sporting matching indoor mirror shades (better check you haven't both turned up at a fancy dress shindig as Bono, or that one of you isn't, in fact, Bono).

2: Sharing in-jokes nobody else gets

Nothing attests to a true-bromance like a catchphrase lobbed across the office floor – no one else has the faintest clue what you are on about, but you are both crouched with laughter.

3: Sneaky rounds

A bunch of you are in the boozer. But you don't know some of the other people especially well – if you offer them a drink, will they return the favour or leg it for the 'last bus'? So you and your bromantic other instead embark on a secret pint pact – you buy each other beers, while leaving the outsiders in the cold.

4: You 'man-hug'

Irish men should never man-hug. We can't explain why – we just know this to be the case. As do you (admit it).

5: You use your pals as substitutes for romantic partners (not in that way)

If you start saying things like 'bros before hoes' and actually mean it, you might want to think about getting a girlfriend.

Irish Independent

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