PARIS — Jocks like Victor Cruz may not seem like the obvious target market for high-end fashion designers. Yet the wide receiver, who last year signed an estimated $46 million contract extension with the Giants, is a banner example of where exactly we find ourselves in the ongoing evolution of men’s wear.
Mr. Cruz loves fashion. He said so himself before the start of the Lanvin show, held at the venerable École des Beaux-Arts early on a drizzly Sunday. That a pro ballplayer like Mr. Cruz would elect on his off-time to flit around Paris amid a crowd mostly of men who think nothing of wearing dropped-crotch trousers is itself an indicator.
“I’ve learned so much from designers,” said Mr. Cruz, who has been a consistent front-row presence not just at shows by mainstream designers but also at those of insider darlings like Dries Van Noten and Rick Owens. “It’s really helped me reveal my life and my personality through clothes.”
Young, rich, handsome, confident in his masculinity, Mr. Cruz is representative in most senses of an observation the Dior designer Kris Van Assche made about the 27-year-old athlete’s generation. Secure enough financially to indulge in fashion, culturally liberated from any stigma that might once have attached to guys who expressed serious interest in clothes, he is an emblem of the future.
“Take a plane and look who’s sitting in first and business,” Mr. Van Assche said backstage before a show that opened with three tuxedos and then tried to set up a lively dialogue between formality and informality. “It’s not some 70-year-old.” When the tension between the sports- and formal-wear held — a suit in white denim comes to mind; oxfords with boat-shoe grommets — the clothes seemed just right for well-heeled highfliers. When it didn’t — the blander suiting and some overliteral references to boating — even the post-pubescent models seemed aged by the clothes.
If the Paris season has been about anything, it is an attempt by designers to capture a market share made up mostly of men who turn left by instinct when boarding a plane.