Tailored Testosterone

Designer John Bartlett's infatuation with all things masculine thrilled New Yorkers beginning in the '90s. Now he's taking it to the masses.



If the European men's fashion shows over the summer were any indication, legions of gaunt male models have no intention of putting the weight back on anytime soon.

Appearing as malnourished as their female counterparts, they are unsurprisingly sullen and seem to have few immediate needs, save Parliament Lights and belts for the 30-inch-waist jeans that fail to fit them snugly. Rippling muscle is woefully antithetical to prevailing silhouettes, which makes the brief glimpses of brute masculinity on the runway all the more striking. A brick jaw at Bottega Veneta, a cut torso and meaty calves complementing short shorts and fishing waders at DSquared2 -- these are the vestiges, perhaps, of an aesthetic groomed to perfection in the 1990s by John Bartlett.

You may remember Bartlett as the New York menswear scene's agent provocateur, the party boy who once designed macho half-skirts in black twill, dubbed the first season of his women's line "butch/femme," and sent a buff model down the runway wearing only a surfboard and a smirk.

Now 46, Bartlett is a new man, one not suited for Page Six. He prefers a quiet evening at home in Manhattan's West Village with his partner, John Esty, and their three dogs to, say, a paparazzi scrum at the Met Costume Institute Gala with Kate Moss on his arm. (Marc Jacobs, also 46, is on a reverse trajectory and more than happy to fill that role.) On a recent weekend shift at his Seventh Avenue boutique, Bartlett quietly worked the register himself. Tiny Tim, the three-legged Rottweiler mix who serves as his eponymous brand's icon, dutifully napped nearby.