Redressing Keanu: black suits, collars, beards and fashioning ageing masculinities.

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


With a career spanning 68 movies, actor Keanu Reeves offers a beguiling and stylish star-celebrity persona with intergenerational appeal. He is ageing, yet ageless, and Reeves’ cross-media representation on and beyond the screen spans a dialectic of surface and depth (Govil 2022, Middlemost 2022).

This paper will focus on the close textual analysis of Reeves’ ‘re-dressed’ star-celebrity persona with a particular focus upon a fashion editorial for men’s style magazine Esquire (D’Agostino & Goldberg, Winter 2021) and advertising for French fashion brand Saint Laurent (Sims 2019). Adopting an interdisciplinary approach drawing upon critical work in fashion, film, celebrity, cultural and gender studies, I will examine the ways in which desire is displaced from the materiality of the torso of the male body onto clothing, accessories and the star-celebrity face. Through Reeves’ black three-piece suits, exaggerated collars, and beard, his ageing image not only evokes his characters in the John Wick and Matrix franchises, but his monochromatic redressing speaks to and reframes a much longer history of fashioning not only ‘suffering, self-restraint’ and sacrifice, but also power and desire (Breward 2022, Harvey 1995).

I will argue that despite ageing, and the memefication of his ‘sad Keanu’ persona across social media platforms, Reeves is repeatedly constructed as an aspirational and desirable figure of masculinity with cross-over appeal for Gen X, millennial and Gen Z audiences. He may age, but he remains always and perhaps immortally Keanu.
Period13 Oct 202214 Oct 2022
Held atVictoria and Albert Museum, United Kingdom
Degree of RecognitionInternational