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Fashion forecasts


Senior Member
Jul 22, 2008
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Yes, I know we all hate "fashion," but to the extent that "style" evolves over time, we have to call that evolution something, and sorry--"fashion" is what the English language has given us. We're all in it. It's part of how history keeps time. Right, then--so where do we think it's going with regard to men's tailored clothing, and why? I’ll go first. 1. Broader/curvier. The industry has sold skinny for so long that it's hard to remember when anything else was available. The paradigm shift necessary to get beyond the ubiquitous low-rise/flat front/bum-freezer look is for more men to realize that the opposite of “slim” needn’t be “baggy,” but rather “broad.” A corollary of this is that more fabric allows for more more voluptuous curves (particularly lapels, chests, skirts, and trousers), and that in fact such shaping is necessary to avoid the shapeless “relaxed” silhouettes of the recent past. This of course was the idiom in the 1930s--best recalled in those Platonic forms of men’s tailoring, Apparel Arts plates--and it flourished again in the 70s to a less eternal but still underrated extent. Let’s first address the 1930s. As far as men’s clothing is concerned, that decade has never lost its luster. Like great old Hollywood movies, they have since their day provided a benchmark against which other trends were noted and judged. Even still, the Apparel Arts aesthetic is experiencing something of a renaissance--in no small part attributable, I think, to the legions of Flusser-steeped sartorial hobbyists who are now increasingly steering taste through blogs and forums like this one. One of the things we love about that look is the masculine confidence of architecturally heavy cloth, cut with shapely drape that actually looks comfortable as well as elegant. As more men get reacquainted with well-cut broader lines, evermore dissociated with the billowy excesses of the drably “classic” double reverse-pleated middle-management look of the 80s and 90s, I think they will embrace it. It will appeal to men tired of unmanly concerns like pulling up their low-rise nut-squeezing pants or keeping their 18-year-old figure. This all ties in with what I’ll call the new “grand-dad dandyism” which has emerged in the past 6 years or so. With all its bow ties, tie clips, and pocket squares, this movement is ultimately about men once again taking pride and pleasure in “old school” dressing. Granted, the clothing that currently accompanies all those accessories tends to be on the skinny extreme, but I think those nuthuggers will literally and figuratively be outgrown as retro-hipsters reach their maturity. The skinny trend was largely a reaction to a post-feminist cultural landscape wherein young men felt increasingly compelled to dress in a manner which young women would find sexy--that is to say, as boys. It was also the first time when gay style really affected what men wore (again, tending to make them look like boys.) In both cases, clothing remained for men a means to an end, even if sex had replaced material “success” as the objective. Now that men are once again dressing with rediscovered pleasure in doing so for its own--and their own--sake, they’re going to want to be comfortable. Broader clothes feel better. Fascinatingly, the other force driving a wider look is all about sex, and that’s the 70s macho decadence incarnate in the clothes of Tom Ford. His broad lapels and pagoda/roped shoulders appeal to the would-be alpha-as-**** playboy who thinks the 30s are too square or too costumey, and the very novelty of this silhouette (which died as suddenly as it was born the first time around) guarantee it a freshness that has just begun spawning imitators (including such stubborn bellwethers as Ralph Lauren). 2. Heavier. “Heritage” brands are leveraging the authenticity of beefy staples like shell cordovan, gray flannel, and Harris Tweed, which consumers are finding aren’t so uncomfortable, boring, or oppressive as their parents had been led to believe, and which also trade heavily on their timeless/sustainable/heirloom status. 3. Bolder. The Wall Street peacockery of the 80s was all about sleek professional environments of chrome and glass, and it favored a similar minimalist subtlety in cloth. In contrast, the new dandyism is predicated on liberating tailored clothing from the office and bringing it out to play. This trend might have started ironically (e.g. ugly WKRP sportcoats for Saturday night in Williamsburg) but once people get reacquainted with things like windowpane suits, they generally like them. Bigger patterns and brighter colors--so long as they are not completely unmoored from established traditions--immediately convey that one's tailored clothing is a choice rather than a uniform. Also, sooner of later the rest of the world is going to figure out that black is boring (if not inappropiate). 4. Lower. I think the trend these days for tailored clothing to be so highly slung makes wearers look a bit highly strung. Gorges over the collarbone, button stances on the solar plexus, trouser cuffs and jacket sleeves worn too high--trends taken to such extremes don't feel comfortable to wear or appear particularly elegant. (Not the elegance is necessarily the point; the whole in-your-face aesthetic of the new dandyism is, I think, less about more upholding stuffier notions of traditional men's dress than about taking the stuffing out of it, per #3.) Part of it is also simply an insecure overreaction to the low-slung sins of the 80s and 90s. I look forward to a more balanced approach. So there are a few of my semi-organized thoughts on where style is going. Like virtually everything else posted on this forum, they have been framed with greater gravitas than they merit, but therein lies the fun. I'll stand by everything and go to the mat for nothing ;-)

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