In between dadcore, blokecore and whatever the bloody-core, a new summer trend has seen young men go trucker. They’re dotted around pub smoking areas in the capital, chatting up someone on nightclub floors and looking for their mates in festival fields across the nation. The trucker has hit cruise control and is breezily enjoying one of the hottest summers on record. And boy, does he look good.
The nu-trucker is identifiable, firstly, by a white vest. Then comes the trucker cap, usually with long hair poking out from underneath, and a pair of hoisted-up Dickies.
The humble vest had its moment earlier this year, when Hunter Schafer wore one in Prada’s AW22 show, embossed with the triangular logo. Bottega Veneta and Chloe also made a case for the vest during the same season, styling it with blue jeans or leather trousers. From that point, the white vest, predictably, became the big summer trend again. Just like Levi’s 501s, it’s a piece that’s clenched onto its staying power for decades.
The white vest is, historically, rooted in queer culture. It’s a symbol of sex appeal in Hal Fischer’s Gay Semiotics, where he examined the sartorial codes of gay men in San Francisco in the late 1970s. But before that, it was coined a “wifebeater” after James Hartford Jr, a man from Detroit who beat his wife to death, was arrested wearing a white vest. In the same year, Marlon Brando wore a white vest on stage in A Streetcar Named Desire, where he played the violent Stanley Kowalaski, becoming a symbol of aggression.
Hal Fischer, who spoke to the Evening Standard, said: “In American culture the simple white vest carries with it a not-so-subtle aura of danger and violence.” Bruce Willis wore one in the 1988 action film Die Hard, Sylvestor Stallone in Rocky, Tony Soprano in The Sopranos, and Vin Diesel in The Fast and Furious – all hyper-masculine characters adopting the white vest. But as well, a symbol of the American working class, whether the naughty knucklehead of Kid Rock or the Americana of Bruce Springsteen in the 1970s.
But as Fischer spoke of its danger and violence, he also referenced the Castro clone, named after the San Francisco area, where gay men in the 1970s emerged dressing as an idealised version of the working class man – a rejection of anything overtly “feminine” or “gay”. White vests became a new, liberated form of masculinity worn by gay men on the hedonistic dancefloors of New York City’s queer clubs like Studio 54 in the ’70s, and on-stage by gay pop culture icons like Freddie Mercury and George Michael in the ’80s.
Throw on a trucker cap and Dickies and it feels like the straight men of today are, hilariously, cosplaying to a homoerotic fantasy whether they know it or not – the sleazy trucker who turns gay for a day. Trucker caps, like Dickies, became a symbol of the worker uniform in rural parts of America in the ’70s, used to protect workers from the beating sun. Now the uniform of cool boys is part greased-up mechanic, part liberated Muscle Mary in the confines of a steamy gay club.
Where gay men adopted traditionally masculine styles in the ’70s, straight men are reppropriating it through a queer lens now. Menswear is, after all, becoming less stringent. And while the white vest doesn’t exactly hold the same weight as a straight man who decides to wear a skirt, its gay history is dyed in the wool – sorry, cotton.
We’ve seen versions of these styles before, when designers like Martine Rose and Demna Gvasalia at Balenciaga popularised the suburban styles of dads: chequered short-sleeved shirts tucked into straight-leg jeans and ill-fitted jackets worn with chunky New Balance or square-toed loafers.
But now, the dad has evolved into the greasy, sweaty trucker, with oil stains covering his tanned arm. It’s a return to sleaze – partly the white-trash, glam rock style of Tommy Lee in the ’90s, the Y2K slacker slouch of Eminem and the throbbing, sexual liberation of gay men on the dancefloor. To which we say: keep on truckin’.