Fashion's American Psychoification
Regardless of ephemerality, American Psycho fashion has a factor lacking in elevated basics — rage, mirth, and a hint of audacity to go beyond.
The first time I witnessed the phenomenon was during my airplane wait in Stockholm. A young, tall, and attractive man was standing in front of me. He was wearing a simple suit and a pair of black headphones. Although the cut was common, there was something in it that made everything more extravagant, bolder. It was a red tie — bloody red. It was there, in the airplane queue from the Swedish capital to Porto, that I found a name for what I’d been seeing on runways and in real life: the American Psycho-fication of fashion.
While some people misinterpret Mary Harron’s 2000 adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’s novel American Psycho (1991) as a tale of pure violence, others find true fashion inspiration. When considering why fashionistas want to dress like the controversial Greed is Good-era character of Patrick Bateman, arguments abound — from the sense of luxury offered to the daring, conventional-yet-masculine lines of the look. But don’t discount social platforms’ influence, especially when it comes to romantic debates around fictional evildoers. From You’s Joe Goldberg to Wes Craven’s Jackson Rippner, psychopaths have become sex symbols — and the glorification of murder is part of the appeal.
Aside from attraction and violence, though, the erotic nature of wealth is also an oft-overlooked factor. Fashion is a reflection of our desire to consume. See “quiet luxury” or any refined, minimalist trend on TikTok: luxe sells. That’s why, all the way back in 2000, the American Psycho costume designer saw a style potential when in contact with the book’s character descriptions. Isis Mussenden found a way to disrupt the chic Wall Street way of dressing with a hint of rage — either while using designer labels or collaborating with Italian fashion designer Nino Cerruti and his name-brand to reproduce realistic suits from the mid-1980s.
From Armani’s sophisticated suits to Burberry’s classical coats, the film’s costume list evoked the excessive and disturbing luxury of the ‘80s über-wealthy. Simple but elevated, like a uniform — but an appealing one. Beige trenches there, expensive ties here, and a perceptible level of refinement that could make everyone in the room tremble a bit for not being at that level.
Regardless of ephemerality, American Psycho fashion has a factor that is lacking in recent elevated basics — rage, mirth, and a hint of audacity to go beyond.
Contrasting the book — and subsequent film adaption’s — graphic violence and misogynistic undertones, fashion creators are attempting to address these throughlines by diversifying the wearer. Switching the stereotyped sex roles of female and male, runways have become dominated in recent years by women walking in Patrick Bateman attire: authorial beige trenches and impacting suits, red ties, and briefcases in hand. Meanwhile, men move with tied white shirts and no pants — just underwear, á la Miuccia. Seeing this dynamic on the runway causes an instant click in the audience's brain: it’s refined, diverse, and a little bit neurotic — a perfect answer to workwear in our current times. After all, your job is fashion… and work. There is nothing more relieving in a career than this.
Everything about the American Psycho style is well-calculated, just like Bateman’s methodical skincare routine and systematic process to kill. Professionalism is well-suited to neutral shades, mostly. Cleanliness and neatness are immediate while forming the appearance. The extravaganza is enough. Sewing is made in perfect conditions: form-fitting, rigorous, and polished silhouettes. Volume is strictly done. Garments are dissected, slashed, perfectly positioned, and observed. Shoulders are strong, lavish. Proportions are at the extreme — and such extremist behavior was the reason these clothes were cut in the first place. Who would have known that such a process could lead to such a sartorial legacy? Jeremy Scott’s Moschino was among the first to pull out the killer looks in his Pre-Fall 2023 collection. Even though the collection focuses on maximums, which Moschino does best — messy clothing patterns, inflated proportions, bows— the ‘80s workwear extravaganza was also revived. Scott highlighted suits and trench coats reminiscent of Patrick Bateman's office looks, and did so with finesse.
The Bateman appetite has only increased since Scott — and has enveloped couture in recent years. It all happened with Schiaparelli’s 2023 Haute Couture collection, when Kylie Jenner appeared in a fake lion’s head black dress — an invention of CD Daniel Roseberry. After converting Dante's Inferno to faux-fur animal heads, Roseberry then incorporated the psycho-maniac character in Spring Couture 2023. With a surrealist and robust suit proposal, Bateman was elevated to the fantastical world of Elsa Schiaparelli.
Just as Bateman’s motivations for killing were esoteric, so were designers' impulses to keep representing his style. The strict, refined movement kept going on with Luar, Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini, and Givenchy's Fall 2023 collections — each one molding the character to their distinctive visions. Givenchy and Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini stuck to the basics and Luar chose a bolder approach. With a bulky, oversized gray trench, the wealthy sophistication of a Wall Street broker was re-interpreted with a hint of futurism. Like this little contemporary indication wasn't enough, Pierpaolo Piccioli decided to take it one step forward in modernity at Valentino’s Fall 2023 collection. Through cropped white office T-shirts and black skirts — occasionally including minis — the creative director of the Italian label opted to take a brand new view on the proto-Wolf of Wall Street: Feed me a stray cat, Patrick. Or don't — we don’t really care.
This indifference to Bateman’s beliefs — yet a keen interest in maintaining his style, dominating the creative spirit of some of the most renowned designers of this generation — gave business attire a special place in Anthony Vaccarello of Yves Saint Laurent’s heart. Either by the professional costume code or because of the ‘80s magnitude being Saint Laurent’s main incentive, it was decided that the Fall 2023 looks needed to command the room. With models walking the runway in dramatically oversized blazers effused with structured shoulder pads, an '80s-tinged office uniform was, after all, the result of that succinct commandment. Saint Laurent protocol was so established that even during the Fall 2021 editorial campaign, which featured actress Chloë Sevigny — who also starred in Harron’s film some 21 years earlier — the brand went in the Authoritative Chic direction.
Since bossy sophistication can always solve problems at work, Gucci’s team, after being dislocated without their boss, decided to adhere to authorial killer looks to fill the void. Gucci’s Fall 2023 collection was all about trenches. Interpreted through long, tailored gray coats, Bateman left his mark in the yellow-mustard runway room. Across the English Channel, Alexander McQueen’s Sarah Burton also opted for killing luxe, something her predecessor helped to define. From top-heavy structural suits to refined, classic trenches, Alexander McQueen Fall 2023 was filled with timeless, bold workwear staples. Besides the essential business markings — such as le smoking, ties, and overcoats — there were also some indicative nods to the Batemanesque: black leather boots with rigid zippers resembled cadaver bags, and the same is valid for The Peak black bags, which gave the true tenebrous vibe of a body pouch.
While some of the most esteemed brands’ creative heads felt the urge to deliver an elegant, sharp style in their expressive collections, it was little to no time until the inspiration took control of the minds and intellect of some colleagues. With the dominance so prominently clear, you could feel the splash of blood from across the Atlantic. Louis Gabriel Nouchi started things in basics: it was a casual menswear Fall 2023 show at Paris Fashion Week, where actor Lucas Bravo (Emily in Paris) was responsible for opening the runway of the American Psycho-inspired collection. The wealthy details were noticed, and so were the more temperate ones: here were traditional pieces of Bateman's day-to-day wardrobe, such as strict tailoring, trench coats, leather gloves, ties, and suits. Paris Fashion Week now had a busy killing boss in charge — so busy, in fact, that there wasn’t even time to clean the remnants of his victim (yet not busy enough to not serve sharp fashion).
Spring 2024 Ready-to-Wear collections weren’t immune to the trend, either. The Row, Vetements, Khaite, and Luar’s collections managed to bring back Bateman style through the domination of trenches; at Alaïa, Pieter Mulier opted for latex. With safety and style knowledge, how to get away with murder looks have proved, yet again, that the brutally elegant side of Wall Street fashion deserves a reexamination.
However, it wasn't just creative directors who felt captivated by the Wall Street way of dressing. What was first noticed on runways emerged on the streets. For last year’s Halloween season, many girls embraced Christian Bale’s character look, sharing their cosplays of the character via social media and poxed with everyday pieces from the wardrobe. The celebutantes, on the other hand, chose a more polished take on Psycho. During The Times 100 Summit, Kim Kardashian appeared at the event wearing a Rick Owens SS23 Lido transparent leather blazer and matching Bolan bootcut transparent leather jeans. The similarity between Kardashian and Bateman was immediately spotted, with her walking the New York streets in a see-through combo worthy of getting away with murder. Meanwhile, actresses Jennifer Lawrence, Taylor Russell, and Elle Fanning honored Harron’s character style through timeless trench coats, Rhode’s founder, Hailey Bieber — either deciding to go fully Bateman in Saint Laurent Fall 2023 or just including some psycho-chic elements in her daily looks — declared that no matter the occasion, sophistication and extravaganza are always welcomed.
With celebrities reinforcing that psycho-chic is here to stay, catch this signal: it’s time to dig out our trenches, blazers, blood-splattered ties, and whatever else connects with our inner psycho. 🌀