Let’s say that fabled, elusive french designer, Thierry Mugler, is trolling for a new men’s fragrance campaign face, and he’s after someone as principally limitless as himself. Does he look to the dimwitted, emaciated boy toys we like to sit on couches at our parties and sedate with non-talkative drugs so they fulfill an aesthetic but don’t embarrass us conversationally, or does he look to the radical, uncaged, and charming man of muscle? You can guess the answer. Behold South African dash-king Oscar Pistorius, “the fastest man on no legs,” who is the new face of Mugler’s A*Men fragrance, and worked with Mugler and designer Stefano Canulli on special pants and “blades”— chrome cladding atop his carbon-fiber prosthetics—which he wears in the campaign.
Pistorius, 24, describes this fittingness. “Well, I’ve worn A*Men for a while,” he says, following our photo shoot in Paris. “Much about the fragrance, and Mugler, kind of embodies myself. Mugler champions this kind of futuristic world—very cutting edge, very dynamic. And he talks about pushing oneself and defying expectations. I try to do the same, to not conform to the normal expectations people set out for me.”
Pistorius was born with a congenital absence of the fibula in both legs, and at 11 months old was forced to have both legs amputated from his knees down. He participated in several sports still with the aid of prosthetics, and discovered his gift for running in 2004. Since then, he’s set world records in the 100, 200, and 400-meter races in sport class T44. In 2007, he took part in international competitions for “able-bodied” runners. Contention arose, his detractors claiming that the artificial lower legs gave him an unfair advantage. The same year, the International Association of Athletics Federation concluded this contention just, substantiated by scientists’ studies of the two differing methods of racing. The results, however, were overturned prior to the 2008 Beijing Olympics on the grounds of insufficient evidence. Pistorius was made eligible to compete, though he did not qualify for the 400 meters for South Africa, despite running a personal best. He went on to gold-sweep the 2008 Paralympic Games in the 100, 200, and 400.
While the sprinter has described the notion that he gains an advantage with prosthetic legs as “weird,” he’s maintained focus on winning races, whatever category they fall. “I’m inspired by other people,” he says, “but I don’t compare myself to my competitors. If your competitors are weaker than you are, then you end up not pushing yourself. I don’t want to ever look back at my career and feel I let my talent go to waste. In everything in life, you’ve got a certain skill set, or talent, or gift, and if you don’t use it, and put in hard work and dedication, you’ll miss out. I’ve got a really good team, a great coach, and good advice from people that I can trust to really push it.” Regards this worldview within the framework of the high fashion world he’s spun into of late, he remarks, “Fashion is always evolving, and it’s interesting because you see some designers are trying to keep up with others, and other designers are creating the trends.”
Of course, Pistorius’ singular view to competitive autonomy and consistent improvement aligns with one of fashion’s most dominant visionaries, but it helps that he kicks ass, and it surely helps that he’s hot. Pistorius, though, isn’t wearing this with the bravado or arrogance you often see in 20-something athletic powerhouses. This grace and kindness—no doubt appealing to the Mugler mystique as well—alongside a handful of world records, are what will ultimately crystalize his global athletic contribution for years to come.