Sketches: Emma Hopkins
LC:M – aka London’s men’s fashion week – begins its bi-annual showcase later this month, giving us an idea of what we’ll all be wearing early next year. At face value, the catwalk events can seem a little intimidating for the everyday gent, especially after last year’s “Lego stuck to model’s faces” look (thanks Agi & Sam) and Christopher Shannon’s “hats made from plastic carrier bags” (don’t try either of these at home, kids). But strip away the shock tactics and you’re left with pretty much the same rotation of classic men’s styles, reinterpreted and reimagined for the upcoming season.
The best designers don’t really design anything; they’re editors, tweakers, commercial wizards with the nous to sell us variations on the same theme season after season. And make no mistake, the theatre of fashion is all about selling things – something it has done remarkably well so far this decade.
This year, though, menswear is having something of a pause and regroup moment, a meditation on its place in the world following a run of blistering commercial expansion that’s seen a tsunami of products hitting stores in continual waves.
One thing is for sure: the suited, booted “dapper” gent look is over. Pack away those blazers and pocket squares. Undo the waistcoat. Unscrew the tie bar and unclip your tie. We’ve been wallowing in the heritage/historical/vintage cycle for too long and now it’s time to relax: the simpler the better.
The new trend is a “normcore” rejection of standing out. It’s a limbo space where we’re more concerned with fit, comfort and looking active than being a peacocking, trussed-up trendsetter. That’s not to say it’s a fashion free-for-all: there are still rules. There’s an art to looking boring. Here’s how it’s done.
Think smart gym wear in a palette of masculine neutrals – black, navy, grey and white. Try a smart pair of joggers, for instance, but make sure they’re pristine, rather than the kind of thing you’d actually consider working out in. For colder days, ditch the tailoring and go for a fitted bomber jacket. Christopher Raeburn is a master of this pared-back, utilitarian style; he’s been doing it for years – check out his latest collection for inspiration.
This next trend may sound like a hard sell, but bear with me: brands including Dior Homme and Givenchy have recently showed sheer (read: see-through) shirts layered over vests and T-shirts. Sheer is a good way of demurely showing off your pecs and it’s great for the warm summer we’ve been promised. But never, ever consider showing any nipple. You’ll never forgive yourself when the photos resurface in a few year’s time.
The Breton Stripe is a summer classic that you’ll be seeing a lot of over the next few months. These look good on every body-type and every age. Go for classic blue and white (Google “Picasso in the South of France” to see how it’s done).
Looking to beach-wear, swim shorts should still be short and tailored. M&S’s new David Gandy range is reasonably priced with plenty of choice. Avoid straw trilbies, look for a cotton train driver cap or bucket hat instead. Flip-flops are also a no-no unless you’re within three metres of a pool or beach. They make you look like you’re too tight to buy a proper pair of summer shoes. If you want comfort, buy a pair of Birkenstocks and some decent toe-nail clippers.
So there you go: this is a great moment for the fashion-conscious man about town, a time when you can don trackie bottoms and a sweater safe in the knowledge that you’re still playing by the rules. Just don’t try wearing them to work.