The Changing Face of Menswear
When men’s fashion began to reclaim its place in society, i’d say somewhere in the late 90s, it began with slimming lines, strong colors, and limited availability. And it came with a taboo that equated it with effeminate attributes and flambouyant attitudes. While there is nothing wrong with either of those, few men were willing to risk that association. However, recently (in the past 4 years or so) dressing well has become a popular focus for men, in the boardroom, on the boat deck, and even in the couch recliner. We can attribute this to girlfriends, wives, and a world that revolves around changing trends, but there are 2 key reasons why men now focus on dressing well: the internet, and the 60s (aka Madmen).
While the 1960s came first, the internet slowly popularized mens clothing before Madmen aired its first episode. E-commerce allows customers to purchase in the privacy of their own home, on their own time, with their own preferences in mind. Slowly men began to discover this phenomenon, and retailers were not far behind. Now, with sites like Gilt, Jackthreads, Mr. Porter, Park & Bond, and Everlane men are free to explore a variety of clothing, accessories, brands, styles, cuts, and fabrics, without the apprehension or fear of being judged as “picky.” Men have now developed a taste for the clothing that fits right, the brands that appreciate their tastes, and the fabrics that feel most comfortable.
Still, most men need to be told, or at least guided towards the right choices. They need to walk a thin line between masculine and stylin’. That is where Madmen comes in. The 60s was a time when men ruled industry, lived lavish lifestyles, and allowed shauvinism to direct their decisions. Now I am not a schauvinist (and I hope I will never get viewed that way), but the persona of the 1960’s endows a man with an aura of strength and determination that he needs and wants, he now lives vicariously through the sexcapades of Don Draper, by donning similar style. Furthermore, the late 50’s and then 60’s marked the rise of the rockstar. Elvis, James Dean, the Beatles, and more iconicized these decades and stand as the first major male icons of the modern men’s fashion landscape. Elvis’s hair, James Dean’s leather jackets, and Ringo Starr’s glasses (or was that just the drummer from That Thing you Do?) will forever live in our minds as staples of all that is sex, drugs, and rock & roll.
Now we look to athletes to invigorate our style with the musk of masculinity. I am reminded of the recent runway show by Thom Browne that sent hyper-masculinized men down the runway looking like beefed up football players, and athletes. We continue to channel this “super-male” aesthetic as a way to popularize menswear, and it works.
While most trends change as often as the seasons, this mantra and ideology of the masculinity associated with the 60s will continue to give rise to sharp menswear, and man’s growing obsession with looking good. The strong masculine lines and traditional influences abundant in modern menswear draw directly from shows like Madmen, which have spurred entire specialty lines by retailers like Banana Republic. However, what excites me more now, is the way in which we now modernize these traditional cuts of clothing with subtle detail changes, slimmer fits, interesting patterns and functional fabric. Consider the skinny tie, the side-part quaff, the aviator, the wayfarer, wing tip shoes, and now even the double-breasted suit - timeless types of clothing, accessories, and shoes that have trended the past 3+ seasons. Look around, you’ll see the past coming to life everywhere you go.
The internet was the gateway, but the 60’s was the drawing board and I am fine if we continue to utilize it for inspiration.
8:28 PM on Wednesday 7th March 2012