It's shaping up to be quite a contest between Eddie Redmayne and Michael Keaton.
And we don't mean over who'll win the Oscar for performance by a lead actor. Redmayne, who reportedly works without a stylist, and Keaton, under the sure hand of veteran Jeanne Yang, are neck-and-neck in the Hollywood style sprint this awards season.
There's been a surge of interest in how the male award contenders dress, perhaps even edging the women out of the red-carpet spotlight. Maybe there's some fatigue with how predictably safe women's attire has become — how many strapless gowns really stand out? But the prime driver seems to be the overwhelming rise in online coverage and the power of social media.
"It started sometime in the last five years, and it's just exploded. And everything is instant," says John Jannuzzi, senior digital editor at GQ.com, the online extension of menswear bible GQ. "I don't even have to watch an award show anymore. With social networks and the Internet, you're going to see it right away."
Not to mention the extensive day-after dissecting of the guys' fashion choices and nuances of style on men's and celebrity-focused magazine websites, fashion blogs and TV roundups.
After awards season opened with the January Golden Globes, GQ.com enthused, "Redmayne is now at the next level of tuxedo wearing. Wearing a Gucci velvet jacket, this is what a Brit can bring to the American red carpet. He's a super dandy … this is exactly what you want to see a young, up-and-coming actor to be wearing."
Countering, Esquire's online style blog wrote approvingly of Keaton in Ermenegildo Zegna Made-To-Measure: "Look at this one closely — it's witty. The subtle satin shine on Keaton's black tux never tricks the eye, and instead slowly reveals the sly secret in the 'Birdman's' matte lapel and velvet slippers."
By the Screen Actors Guild Awards later in the month, Us magazine's website led off its separate men's style roundup with Redmayne, 33: "The night's Best Actor winner donned a dapper Prada tux," while 63-year-old Keaton's appearance in striking slim Paul Smith moved the Red Carpet Fashion Awards blog to fawn over the "exquisite tailoring of Michael's gray shawl-collar suit."
"It's so much more exciting to talk about the men than the women; I'm a little bored with them," says Sasha Charnin Morrison, fashion director at Us magazine. "It used to be the joke section," she said of men's coverage, "with Nehru collars and crazy patterned bow ties."
No joke anymore, as red carpet outings are another essential career-making move in the Instagram era.
"Eddie Redmayne's a very talented actor but the red carpet has totally helped his career — it's taken him to being a household name," says Jannuzzi. "He's mentioned on all the morning shows the next day."
And the awards season focus on men is good for the fashion business too.
"There is no question that red carpet style has an influence on designers and the consumers," says Tom Kalenderian, executive vice president and general merchandise manager of menswear at Barneys New York.
"The effect of the red carpet is one of many sources of information that drives the men's interest in fashion, no less formal wear," he adds. "The blogs and social media are possibly the most important conduits that influence men today, naturally remixing the images and events like red carpet dressing, as well as the man on the street."
Some of those images of the current season cited by the pros include a remarkably suave Steve Carell in Berluti at the Golden Globes and Zegna Couture at the SAG Awards, David Oyelowo in a deep blue lurex tux by Dolce & Gabbana at the Globes, Lenny Kravitz in way-cool black St. Laurent at the SAGs and Ethan Hawke mixing it up with color, notably at the SAGs, where his tux was olive — a new hue for the red carpet.
Any mention of men on the this year's red carpet has to give a nod to those game-changers from last season, Matthew McConaughey, who led the way with burgundy and gold tuxedo jackets, and Jared Leto, with his rock 'n' roll edge and man bun.
"They were seeing themselves as individuals and set themselves apart," said Wendi Ferreira of the styling duo Wendi and Nicole, who are attiring Oyelowo, Channing Tatum and Chris Pine for the Oscars. "And everyone else has now been given [that] permission."
And, adds her sister and styling partner Nicole, "It's about time. Men are 50% of the human race."
McConaughey (aided by stylist Simon Robins) continues to lead the fashion pack, donning an electric blue dinner jacket for the SAGs that clearly set him apart from the sea of black tuxes. The look hailed from the storied Roman fashion house Brioni, which has dressed film stars since the "La Dolce Vita" era and is currently undergoing a revival under creative director Brendan Mullane. He says men are picking up more than just fashion tips from celebrities.
"Men are starting to look at the way they dress in a different way," said Mullane by phone from Milan. "It's becoming acceptable to create a sense of desire by how you dress, to be seductive."