When we look back at the second half of the noughties, it will be through grey tinted spectacles, at least as far as menswear is concerned.
Though sparse pops of colour came through in Milan this week the only realistic route for anyone wanting to avoid grey is to avoid tailoring altogether.
Actually, no, wait. Even on causalwear, grey dominates the spectrum as a glance at Giorgio Armani’s knitwear or D&G’s outerwear proves. Still, this obsession with the shade has proven an interesting experiment, which has underlined the infinities of tone between black and white – a theme that seems to have prompted the likes of Neil Barrett, Tomas Maier at Bottega Veneta and Dolce & Gabbana to contrast these tonalities in geometric knits and patchworked tailoring.
That patchwork theme itself reflects a make-do-and-mend aesthetic which peers into the gloom of the recession and delivers a damning verdict for profit books – clothes really must last longer than one season now. That of course is not a new approach to men’s wardrobe-filling, but it has been reinforced by the classic looks on show here, which include a return to tweedy and heritage fabrications; something that brings in traditional browns and checks and admittedly relieves the grey-induced ennui. There is another alternative too, which comes in the inky blues and occasional camel shades.
In terms of silhouette, there really is a more distinct diversity and while Milan on the whole still plumps for a slimmed-down line, the emergence of 1950s looks has widened the shoulder and seen the strongest resurgence of the db for many a year. This look was key too on outerwear where the shrunken pea coat remains the most commercial offer but which also ushers in a longer-line voluminous overcoat and even the cape, one of the clearest signs that designers are casting further back for inspiration – to historical references now, not just retro twentieth century ones. That though, is hardly a surprise. Ask any two bob psychologist and they will tell you in times of uncertainty, nostalgia is the hot water bottle for the soul. So too is familiarity, and that means grey is here to stay just a little bit longer.