After establishing himself as a provocateur at Dior, Hedi Slimane decided it was time for a switch and joined Yves Saint Laurent as creative director. In traditional Hedi style, his first move was very controversial- dropping the Yves from Yves Saint Laurent. This polarizing move by the Frenchman was done as an attempt to rebrand and modernize Yves Saint Laurent. This very move ensured Hedi Slimane would leave a legacy at the fashion house without even dropping a collection. The worst thing to come out of this name switch were the corny t-shirts sold at urban outfitters mocking the situation- “Ain’t Laurent Without Yves”. Most of those shirts were worn by girls in Victoria Secret leggings and UGG moccasins.
When it came down to clothing, Slimane catered to his inspirations- Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, David Bowie. Naturally, this resulted in Slimane creating a new rocker chic, embracing the rock’n’roll aesthetic and mixing it with high-end fashion.
“I would turn to my music heroes, and this was comforting. They looked the same and I wanted to do everything to be like them, and not hide myself in baggy clothes to avoid negative comments.”
This rockstar aesthetic would follow Slimane through his Saint Laurent journey, from campaigns, runway shows and of course, clothing. This was the beginning of the skinny silhouette that Hedi Slimane would be known for. The jeans were skin-tight, the leather jackets cropped and fitted, and the boots were high. Despite his first season being a success, the elitists in the fashion world criticized him for cheapening the house’s image by bringing music and youth culture into the mix, but Slimane was able to find the perfect balance between grungy and elegance. This gave the clothing attitude, mostly his attitude. Hedi Slimane was able to give attitude to pieces of clothing that were somewhat ordinary. By simply looking at the cuts, Slimane was able to create eye-catching pieces that are recognizable by everyone. A Forever 21 or even Sandro varsity jacket could try its best to replicate the infamous teddy jacket but nothing will come close to it. The quality of the jacket comes from the fit as much as it comes from the material of the jacket. The teddy jacket is on the fine line of statement-making as well as a classic. The jacket as the ability to make the wearers look slim but swole as well. A must-cop for all Hedi Boys and a staple when discussing the “uniform”.
The Hedi Slimane uniform is by far the most identifiable style by anyone who is even slightly interested in fashion. But what does the Hedi Slimane uniform mean/look like? It’s pretty simple-literally. First, you slap on a pair of black skin-tight D02 jeans. The jeans are almost always black unless its, of course, the infamous light wash crash denim from F/W13! It’s never a uniform if you don’t have a pair of Wyatt Harness Chelsea boots. Leather or suede it’s up to you. The Jodhpur can be substituted but you’re playing with fire. The tops are where it gets interesting (eh, not really sorry). If you wear a plain white or black tee, it is required that you wear a necklace and rings. Both hands preferably and one pendant will do. If not, you can wear the notorious Bloodluster fang t-shirt- the box logo of the Slimane era. If you’re not picking between different overpriced graphic t-shirts, then your options are constrained by three different flannel colors- red, blue and black (all overpriced and thinner than a piece of paper). If you’re feeling a little creative (you’re probably not) do what Harry Style does and wear one of those graphic silk shirts. What remains? The outerwear. It doesn’t matter that you’re burning in Los Angeles, you still need to wear the L01 leather jacket. I know that you have hyperhidrosis, but would you rather walk around in a t-shirt? Yikes! If it’s that bad, try switching the leather jacket to Saint Laurent’s most iconic piece, the wool Teddy jacket. The tailoring and cut of the uniform (and all clothes for that matter) allowed gender-fluidity and did not restrain the audience to choose between the men and women section. The clothes from both sections can be incorporated into the uniform. Slimane was not the pioneer at breaking this dichotomy within the fashion industry, but he did do a great job of normalizing the idea as much as he could.
Regardless of what one might think of Hedi Slimane as a designer, it is impossible to ignore his influence in today’s culture. Especially in brands like Amiri, Enfants Riches Déprimés, Rhude, April 77, etc. I’ll use Amiri as an example, it’s basically a Walmart designed Saint Laurent, with an SLP pricetag. The brand is hot garbage. It gained popularity with Atlanta rappers name dropping the brand’s jeans as well as taking pictures in front of Patron Of The New, the biggest Amiri carriers. There’s taking inspiration (look at Rhude’s first season Sugarland) and then there are blatant rip-offs. Just compare the Amiri website to Saint Laurent’s and you can immediately see similarities. Amiri’s Sunset Sneaker looks identical to the SLH10. The overall aesthetic Mike Amiri is going for mirrors Hedi Slimane’s during his time at SLP. I’m not saying Hedi invented skinny jeans and varsity jackets, but one can clearly see the similarities between him and his junior Mike. Then again, I would much rather see Lil Baby in Amiri then the Hedi Slimane uniform.
A brand that started with a Hedi influence but ended up creating their own style is Rhuigi Villasenor’s Rhude. His first real collection, Rhebels, came out in the Spring/Summer of 2014 and had a heavy emphasis on modern and simplistic designs. From the lookbook, you can tell that Rhuigi took inspiration from Dior and Saint Laurent. But in his own collection, he took risks that those houses wouldn’t have dared to take: exploring functionality, fluidity, texture and different geometrical shapes. The reason why fashion critics were more appreciative of Rhuigi is that he started with an idea and throughout the years, developed and worked on that idea. Today, Rhuigi has his signature piece of clothing, the Traxedo pants in which he creates a different rendition of every season. The same cannot be said for Amiri unfortunately, which continues to make copies of Saint Laurent clothes even post the Slimane era.
Saying that Hedi Slimane’s time at Saint Laurent was groundbreaking is a stretch. Was it groundbreaking in that he created a new form of clothing? Not really. But he did create his own uniform known within the fashion industry. Other designers would try to replicate his style while fashionistas on different forums would beg other people for alternatives to SLP in order to recreate the uniform. His clothes paved the red carpet- with everyone from middle-aged white guys to 14-year-old Disney stars rocking the clothes.
Slap a pair of cargos on this man for Pete’s sake!