The trouble with menswear is that there are no rules. The rules that most books and men’s magazines harp on about existed for a rarefied bunch, irrelevant to most punters today. What does the Duke of Windsor or Cary Grant matter?
More important to your average guy is that when he goes out he doesn’t look like a waiter. Because waiters own every safe look in contemporary menswear. Black trousers, white shirt, tie. Black trousers, black shirt. Chinos, white T-shirt. Jeans.
Waiters have snatched the lot, which makes dressing up all the more tricky. In fact, dressing smart is officially a punishment, only done for a court visit or an event involving a church. When the students leave town for summer, so does the colour and the trends. Without them, you notice the mass of men trapped in dirge, wearing simple, lifeless pieces that say nothing about them (or their manufacturer).
It’s up to brands and retailers to lay down some benchmarks that make sense of the relentless waves of new styles. The most interesting stuff at streetwear show Bread & Butter Berlin came from brands whose products sprang from a focused identity, and whose style worked from head to toe. The ones pushing new trends looked like Uniqlo (although there’s nothing wrong with that). Beyond individual pieces, fashion brands could focus more on co-ordinated outfits.
There is something relaxing about having a decision or two taken off your hands. What are the clothes to own by the time you’re 21, or 30, or 50? What are the essentials of a holiday suitcase? What kit does every student need for university? Men need to be told what to wear. They’ve got enough on their minds without worrying about shopping.
- Oliver Horton is a freelance fashion writer and commentator