The Growth of Menswear

from Flickr user tweexcore

Menswear has always been fairly polarizing. On the one hand, most men would argue that a finely tailored suit is the pinnacle of a well curated wardrobe, but recent movements have been at odds with the masculine vs feminine dichotomy.

Menswear has become such a rich sector of fashion that it has even been a source of inspiration for women’s wear, including the horribly named “boyfriend” options of late to menswear-inspired suiting from Jil Sander (F/W 2010) and Chloe (below)

Besides actually being a man, there are other reasons for my excitement about the increased popularity of menswear. Before recent niche movements, menswear was divided by the fashion literate into two visible camps: heritage modesty and overt flamboyancy. Work wear was at a time blue collar and gauche, while street wear was relegated as a skater attachment and nothing more. A myriad of sub categories have always existed, but until recently, these pockets had not been considered vogue – or, at the very least – mainstream and accepted (but thanks to the internet’s wide net, this is changing).

Just Shoot Me’s Nina Van Horn once said that she is tired of the sweat pants and track suits of modern America. She wondered why people did not take pride in their manner of dress. This attitude still exists (how many times have we heard “people don’t dress for flights anymore”), but I believe our theories about what does and does not look good have drastically changed.  I mention Nina Van Horn because 1) Who doesn’t love a Just Shoot Me reference once in a while and 2) she possesses an affected fashion elitism – one that contributes to divisions that do not necessarily help the community grow.

photo by Flickr user CAMO GRAPHY

Ch-ch-changes

I believe that recent changes in fashion are in part due to (and in response to) globalization – our sense of fashion blends from continent to continent. If you look at any street style blog, you’ll notice that there is a ‘girl with lace bra over fur coat and harem pants’, or ‘man with cuffed slacks and beard’ in every city (the exception to this rule is Anna Dello Russo, but she’s one of a kind). We each possess our own personal style, but our inspirations are global, which is why there is a demand for more fashion – the industry will always grow to support itself and its people demand more because fashion that does not change is simply boring.

However, until recently it seemed like men were perfectly content with their essentials that date back hundreds of years.

What changed?

Designers began to move beyond brute masculinity, because the backlash to this was boy heels and irksome man bags and fur stoles. This wave took time, because even designers like Jean Paul Gaultier who attempted to re-introduce skirts for men on the runway in 1993 could not make a dent in the menswear milieu. Even now, with brands like Alexander McQueen, Comme Des Garcons, Walter Van Beirendonck and Dries Van Noten (to name a few) having brought skirts to the runway, they still do not (often) see the light of day. Apart from being “too feminine” for some, skirts won’t become a seasonal option for most because there are ingrained gender binaries in place that make it difficult for some to stray. In some cases, a colour can appear “gay” and a shoe too pointed, too “dainty,” which suggests that for most men, their wardrobe is limited by how masculine they can look. However, with the introduction of colour here and a holiday bowtie there, fashion has slowly matured to a point where most men have a place depending on their level of comfort – for once, mens fashion is not too restrictive.

The man boy who will wear whatever-he-wants, Bryan Boy

The following categories have added to a growing market and bring nuance to what is considered mode-appropriate, thus ensuring that a burgeoning menswear market is something to watch:

Neo Casual

Mjolk Fall/Winter 2010

A Broader Spectrum of Colour

Jil Sander Spring/Summer 2011

New Shapes (courtesy of some draping)

Uncommon Creatures Fall/Winter 2010-11

Gone are the days when a denim shirt was reserved for oil rig jockeys and rodeo cowboys. A man can wear short shorts and a festive blouse and not be considered a homosexual. It would seem that new modes of fashion can assist with the stability of the societies who participate in them. This is thanks to designers who had the foresight to push the industry and the internet for keeping everyone current. Without both parties, impulsive trends  would continue to seem so unusual (read: gay). Instead, we are less shocked and better dressed. Most of us, anyway (I still cannot get behind a blazer with a t-shirt).

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14 Comments

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14 responses to “The Growth of Menswear

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