c.2014 New York Times News Service

c.2014 New York Times News Service

NEW YORK — Look, sometimes a cape is just a cape. When the first model hit the runway at the Public School show, he wore a wide-brimmed hat and a wool cape, beautifully cut, that suggested papal vestments and Amish rigor. Paired with a washed-out plaid shirt, it was structure and swagger in one.

But sometimes a cape is a provocation, as it was on the back of the rapper Cam’ron, who closed the Mark McNairy New Amsterdam show strutting hand-in-hand with his girlfriend JuJu, wearing, effectively, a tweed blanket fastened at the neck and cascading down to midcalf.

New York’s Fashion Week for men, perhaps more than in any other city, shows modern menswear’s tug-of-war between upholding a set of traditions and embracing a set of disruptions. And for the most part, the designers showing this year were keen to pick sides, though progressivism didn’t always go hand in hand with creativity.

But the most exciting moments came from designers who embraced that fundamental tension, creating vivid solutions in the process. Nowhere was that more evident than in the broad push toward exaggerated silhouettes, but without straying into comic excess.

In the case of Billy Reid’s vibrant show, this meant lush patterned blanket coats, and actual blankets, that effectively doubled the width of the wearer. He closed with a long plaid wool coat in muted tones that was pure sex, a 1975 Playgirl spread come to life. Steely cool Public School had its capes and restrained scarves folded into triangles and worn over the head, underneath hats, flapping in the wind as the models pounded the runway, looking like downtown superheroes. Both Michael Bastian and Tim Coppens showed anaconda-size scarves, elegantly suffocating their wearer. (There was also the stunning oversize motorcycle jacket shown by Melitta Baumeister at the VFiles show, ungainly and beautiful.) Duckie Brown, in a choppy show full of colorful androgyny, pushed in the other direction, pairing draped tops with skirts over skinny pants, a confusing mélange of fabrics and fits.

Plenty of designers took the opportunity to rescue plaid from the doldrums: it was there, and chalky, on a sleek loden parka by Coppens, and McNairy showed a siren-loud green-and-red tartan puffy quilted shirt that jolted Americana into a neon tomorrow. Orley showed a restrained plaid sweatsuit, and Ovadia & Sons, in a show that featured them at both their strongest and their most literal, both accessorized with plaid tied around the waist and showed a wool-and-angora glen plaid overcoat with real panache.

Seeing cheeky flourishes like Robert Geller’s layered coats and robes, or the shrieking yellow stripe on his collaboration boots with Common Projects; or the pony hair on the leopard-print sleeves of Ovadia’s moto jacket; or on the shoes at Billy Reid, suggested the time had come to retire some old ideas: Patrik Ervell’s mangy fleece (wool teddy-bear fur, actually) or McNairy’s colored-sole shoes. Seeing tailored jackets paired with sweatpants, felt like half angry rejection of old norms, half shrug. But where plenty of lines settled for being little more than haute J. Crew, Bastian was robust and singular, showing silk karate pants and heavy samurai necklaces and a meaty turtleneck with trinkets woven to the top creating a virtual Fair Isle pattern, craftsmanship as ostentation.

Fashion Week, in expanding and becoming decentered, now does a good job of making room for its outliers and dissenters. Some are fully realized, like Visvim and its distressed Western clothes with artisanal fabrics, or N. Hoolywood, with its elegant spy coats straight from a Godard film, or its wharf chic pants and jackets.

Some smaller labels brought a sense of humor: the jokey anti-logo T-shirts on staffers at Pyer Moss, or the virtual pop-up shop in the lobby of the New Museum for Telfar. (It was the only thing many attendees got to see, given the show’s disorganization.) Others had a sense of flair, like Hood by Air, where dancers from Vogue Evolution spent a few minutes midshow striking high-energy poses, a declaration of power on the runway that was spellbinding in a way the collection itself wasn’t quite, though it brimmed with ideas, including jackets with multiple horizontal zippers halfway open, creating a peeling-away effect, like mummies in a wind tunnel.

Hood by Air understands theater as much as fashion (its hairpieces were sublime, too) and certainly, that matters now more than ever. The rising luxury label En Noir has the same instincts, but to rowdier effect. At its Park Avenue Armory show, the lobby was as chaotic as the door at the Miami club Liv on Sunday nights, the audience sprinkled with celebrities like Amar’e Stoudemire and Meek Mill.

But when the show began, all that evaporated. The collection was lean, tough, in places morbid, and rejected practically everything happening elsewhere during Fashion Week — color, silhouette, decorum — in favor of a signature emaciated apocalyptic mood, Kevlar toughness at caviar prices. The final march looked like a scene from “The Warriors.” It wasn’t a response or a rejection, just a lone wolf.