‘Married At First Sight’ Australia: Deciphering The Men’s Style, From Tight Trousers To Exposed Ankles & Man Buns

By Dan Ahwa
Specific menswear style codes have emerged from the current season of ‘Married At First Sight’.

With the latest installment of Married At First Sight Australia screening now, it’s only taken 11 seasons for Dan Ahwa to finally fall down the rabbit hole of this reality television phenomenon.

In episode two of the current season of Married At First Sight Australia, the show’s problematic gym bro

Throughout the endless episodes (I’m up to 20 and counting), a pattern emerges with Jack’s specific style. The proud alpha often talks about “his integrity” with the other contestants, but gets defensive when he’s in the firing line, particularly in episode 16 when he tells fellow contestant Jono McCullough to “muzzle your woman” during a heated argument with Lauren Dunn.

To assert his alpha status, Jack likes to show off the silhouette of his body in clothes that look like they require a sledgehammer to remove. Painted on his body is a rotating wardrobe of shirts unbuttoned to the cleavage (a styling trick very few men can get away with i.e. Lenny Kravitz) and equally tight trousers that can best be described as capri pants — a sight difficult to ignore. By episode 20, Jack is on a campaign to rebuild his “integrity” with a faux apology to Lauren dressed in a white shirt (the colour of purity), a softer centre part and a slightly lower bun.

Although I’m a strong proponent of people wearing whatever they feel good in, the show does highlight some interesting specifics about how men behave during what is basically the equivalent of mating season at a zoo.

Because identity is tied up in how we dress, physical appearance and how we dress it is one small tool in the box used to attract a potential life partner.

Four Lads on a Night Out meme.
Four Lads on a Night Out meme.

Guys in tight going-out clothes is a look that’s already made its presence known via a viral 2020 internet meme — four lads in jeans in the UK on a night out. UK-based tattoo artist Connor Jordan Humpage posted a photo with him and three friends all wearing tight jeans. For a look that feels specific to the era of 2016-2019, it’s surprising to see it has stuck around with some of the show’s contestants, despite Connor having seemingly moved on from tight jeans — on further investigation, Connor is now happily wearing wide-leg oversized trousers as recently as a week ago.

Jack Dunkley’s signature tight shirt and trousers combination.
Jack Dunkley’s signature tight shirt and trousers combination.

In episode three, we meet professional kickboxer Jayden Eynaud who is also a fan of tight formalwear. For his wedding to bride Eden Heart, he’s wearing a suit that looks like it could combust at any minute; again with his hair piled up into a bun, the second “man bun” of the season. Like Jack, he is also wearing no socks and loafers.

In episode 20, at one of the show’s notoriously heated dinner parties, Jayden is wearing an outfit that my colleague Johanna Thornton describes as looking like “a card dealer at a casino”.

The silky red brocade jacket could have been taken directly from a tablecloth at a three-star Italian trattoria and fashioned into a dinner jacket with a black satin lapel, worn with a black shirt and what appears to be shiny black trousers.

The combination of the gold cross pendant and a pair of oversized gold-framed Versace sunglasses could be dismissed as another example of Sydney flash. However, it can also be viewed as a dressed-up take on “Eshay” style, a male subculture that is the Australian equivalent of the British term “Chav”. Often found in an Eshay’s hypermasculine style arsenal are sportswear, mullets, and gold jewellery.

While Eshay — much like Chav culture — has its roots in low-income communities, it’s a subculture whose fashion sense has developed and evolved to include people from any economic background; the common thread being casualwear inspired by the streets, and formal wear veering towards overt designer fashion to the point of looking slightly garish.

Eshay-inspired style may have a subtle influence on the contestants’ personal style, but it is most apparent when we meet Tim Calwell’s best man Ben in episode one, who sports a freshly cut mullet. As one of the bride’s unkind guests says, “usually a guy with a mullet is a bit of a f**kboy” (please refer to Urban Dictionary if you need here).

Jayden Eynaud in the offending outfit.
Jayden Eynaud in the offending outfit.

Hair is another interesting part of men’s style choices on the show.

Jayden’s hair is a focal point key to his overall look. Piled high up on his head, it’s less manicured than Jack’s, and in one close-up frame, you can see the effects the constant scraping into a bun has taken on his head with stressed follicles and hair loss visible at the temples.

While his hair is tied up, he likes to use a scrunchie, and as the series develops, the bun is set free to reveal a cascade of lank, greasy hair that sits incongruously with another long-haired contestant — gay hairdresser Stephen Stewart and his mane of artfully disheveled and highlighted locks.

Ben Walters’ fallback of a T-shirt and blazer for dinner.
Ben Walters’ fallback of a T-shirt and blazer for dinner.

Man buns, in the case of these contestants, speak to a broader view of men’s lifestyles right now. Both Jack and Jayden barely drink and like to work out, part of a population of men around the world who have taken vanity and self-care to an entirely new level.

Their respective buns are an example of a popular hairstyle among the straight-edge community, with its roots in Eastern spirituality; man buns go as far back as the Edo period (1603-1868) in Japan, when samurai and sumo wrestlers popularised the look with their “chonmage” hairstyle. Much like any appropriated element of Eastern culture in the West, it’s a signal of some desire to appear more zen and much more interesting than they often are. As the group’s self-appointed elder statesman Timothy Smith pointed out in episode 20, “Every man with a hair bun on this show thinks they’re f***ing Tony Robbins or Dr Phil all mixed into one.”

Tim Calwall wearing one of several linen suits that have appeared on the show with wife Sara Mesa.
Tim Calwall wearing one of several linen suits that have appeared on the show with wife Sara Mesa.

Aside from gym bros, we also see several male contestants who can be considered as “basic”, like contestant Ridge Barredo, a psychiatric nurse who toes the line between being both a gym bro and a basic bro. While our first introduction to Ridge is as a playboy, his marriage to executive assistant Jade Pywell is one of the stronger marriages in the series. We see Ridge in a parade of T-shirts under a blazer and white sneakers, a common theme with the other basic men including Tim, Jono and tour guide Ben Walters, whose polo shirt with mini embroidered cocktails is another attempt for him to appear easygoing, when in fact he spends the entire season gaslighting wife Ellie Dix.

As with Ben, there is a real desire here for the basics to appear a little more stylish than they are — like Tim in his open-collared linen shirts and double chain necklaces, and Ridge in a high-neck polo knit sweater or a pair of Burberry shorts with an enlarged tartan print, which Tom Wambsgans from Succession might describe as ludicrously nouveau riche. Unfortunately for Tim, his wife nutritionist Sara Mesa is much more advanced with her personal style of strategically cut-out tops and dresses as the epitome of a slick Syndey fashion girlie.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have the nerds — executive assistant Collins Christian and event manager Tristan Black. Both are fairly unremarkable in the way they pull their outfits together too, but while most of the men seem allergic to wearing socks, Tristan is seen wearing his wardrobe of linen shirts and chinos with a whacky pair of printed socks, if only to signal to the rest of the group he really is happy-go-lucky and not at all over-analysing every single second of the experiment (he is).

In episode 20, we see this on full display with a black shirt, black trousers and black dress shoes punctuated by an aggressively bright pair of blue and red patterned socks. Another serial whacky sock wearer is Ohio transplant Michael Felix, who is seen wearing animal print socks for the fourth dinner.

Michael dresses very much like what you would expect a car salesman to dress like — slightly corny. His mix of a purple velvet blazer over a printed shirt and blue jeans looks like a formula found in a Ted Baker catalogue or a menswear category at a Fashions in the Field competition. In contrast, his husband Stephen is also a result of dressing like his occupation as an upmarket hairdresser — trendy, cool, adhering mostly to a languid, coastal Australian sensibility which provides a welcome tonic to the ill-fitting clothes worn by the other men.

Richard Sauerman and Andrea Thompson on the couch during a commitment ceremony.
Richard Sauerman and Andrea Thompson on the couch during a commitment ceremony.

Another style revelation comes via charismatic brand consultant, 62-year-old Richard Sauerman, who is proof that no matter what age you are, you can look and dress well. The motorcycle enthusiast has a wardrobe of great leather jackets that can be worn off-duty, and his whimsical collection of scarves adds an interesting layer to his looks that highlights his creative energy and open-mindedness, both pivotal traits in his marriage to photographer Andrea Thompson.

Overall, the menswear on the show is an insightful snapshot of a cross-section of men who are dealing with a heightened reality, while trying to remain true to themselves. The unfolding of their reality and the emotional insecurities each man harbours comes to light, and for each man their style is a reflection of this and the life experiences they’ve learned along the way.

Every marriage requires effort, but unlike most marriages, the courtship happens after the wedding on this show, which is of course its selling point. So in this unique situation, all cards are on the table and, along with exposed ankles and chests (and at one point Sara’s derriere in a black lace dress), personal style is a tactic used strategically here as a short-cut to finding someone to love — and to be loved in return.

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