THE CODES AND SYMBOLS OF ALEXANDER MCQUEEN EXPLAINED

THE CODES AND SYMBOLS OF ALEXANDER MCQUEEN EXPLAINED

THE CODES AND SYMBOLS OF ALEXANDER MCQUEEN EXPLAINED

The late Lee Alexander McQueen will always be known for his theatrical collections that pushed the boundaries of fashion and left us enamoured with the dark side. Since his passing in 2010, his successor Sarah Burton has honoured the codes Lee created, keeping them relevant as the fashion trends change. While there are many recurring themes on Alexander McQueen runways including lace, birds and oversized footwear, we will be looking at the details most seen on streetwear favourites for men. From bold blooms to heavy hardware, here are the six McQueen symbols all men should know. 

 

1. Skulls

The first to come to mind for most McQueen fans, skulls have been used by Lee since his 1992 graduate collection where models in harrowing stances wore garments inspired by the beauty of death. The morbid fascination continued to grow over time until skulls became the symbol most synonymous with Alexander McQueen. They may take many forms from tonal prints on leather wallets to skeleton embroideries on tank tops, but we can always be sure that skulls will endure at the British house.  

 

2. Harnesses 

Harnesses were first used in Alexander McQueen’s 2005 collection as a tougher way to tailor the male figure. Juxtaposed beautifully with sophisticated suiting and lightweight fabrics, this buckled chest piece eventually became one of McQueen’s favourite accessories for men. We may initially think of traditional leather styles, but Sarah Burton has modernised the harness concept through strap lines on long coats and shoulder panels on evening shirts without ever losing sight of Lee’s vision. 

Tape Harness Evening Shirt

Graffiti Harness Evening Shirt 

 

3. Spray Paint 

This design code came from that iconic moment on Alexander McQueen’s 1999 runway when a model was spun and helplessly sprayed-painted by two robotic arms. The chaotic and colourful display left the house with an excitement for spray paint and since Sarah Burton’s takeover, the cans have never been more shaken. Their most exciting use was in 2021 when Burton began to tag men’s t-shirts, backpacks and more with a graffiti-inspired signature that modernised Alexander McQueen’s branding and tied into Lee’s urban upbringing. 

Graffiti Metropolitan Backpack Graffiti Skull T-Shirt

 

4. Flowers

Not an immediate code that comes to mind, yet flowers had inspired Lee Alexander McQueen since the day he began designing. This floral obsession is mostly shown in Lee’s favourite monochrome tones and despite their delicate nature, they have been no less used in menswear than womenswear. With Sarah Burton’s ability to rethink the rules of masculinity, you can expect to see flowers in all their fragile forms at Alexander McQueen from graphic prints on t-shirts to embroidered patches on suiting. 

Flower Print Cotton Poplin Shirt

Tree Graffiti Jacquard-Knit Jumper

 

5. Tailoring 

Unknown by many, Lee McQueen actually began his fashion career working on the London street famed for its tailoring, Savile Row. He may have been 16 when he left school to pursue this apprenticeship in Mayfair, but he quickly honed his craft to eventually become a designer at the forefront of British tailoring. There is not one Alexander McQueen menswear show without this key design code and Sarah Burton keeps it relevant through streetwear contrasts including bomber sleeves on collared coats and cargo pockets on pressed trousers. 

Asymmetric Double-Breasted Blazer MA-1 Pocket Tailored Trousers

 

6. Hardware

Ending our code rundown is the heavy use of heavy metal at Alexander McQueen, particularly those finished in antique silver for a gothic feel. Unlike most designers who use metal for fastenings and finishing touches, both Lee and Sarah have used it everywhere from subtle zips on sheer tops to brocade-style embellishments on men’s blazers. Hardware can also be found on the smallest of McQueen pieces for men, whether that be a chain hanging from a leather cardholder or a stacked ring featuring the iconic skulls that opened our list. 

Silver-Tone Ring

Graffiti Chain Card Holder

 

Trends have certainly changed since Lee McQueen’s passing, but his treasured house codes are more relevant than ever thanks to Sarah Burton and her constant yet sympathetic reinterpretations. This is particularly apparent in menswear as Burton presents streetwear staples including t-shirts, scarves and jumpers with symbolic motifs as well as chain-link jewellery to layer on top. Not sure which code to incorporate into your wardrobe this season? GIULIO has a wide selection of Alexander McQueen must-haves for men and our handy size guide will make your search for the perfect piece even easier.