In the 1990s, the digital age entered our lives in bigger ways than we could ever have imagined.
A quarter of a century later, we can instantly process countless images and information according to our interests–from vintage cars to fine cigars, from reading to fishing, from getting ripped to taking trips, and the list goes on to include mate-finding and soul-searching.
In our realm of menswear, the news continues to be positive, with the global menswear market experiencing fast growth which outpaced the womenswear market in recent years. According to a report from Technavio, the value of the global menswear market was $418.9 billion in 2015 and is expected to reach $522.3 billion by 2020.
With blogs and social platforms a-plenty, it’s easy to feed the hunger for content on men’s style, with the subject of style, often being held in higher esteem than the clothes themselves.
We decided to zoom-in on the more recent classic menswear scene of the last six years, to see if we could dissect and identify “micro style periods”. See if you recognize some observations:
2011 – 2013 : The Menswear Scientists
In these years, men suddenly rediscovered their “Flusser”, namely Dressing the Man : Mastering the Art of Permanent Fashion by Alan Flusser.
It was a time when “the science” of combining colors, patterns and textures was at its height in popularity.
To know how to put an outfit together, simply consult an expert in interior design, who’ll teach you that tiny patterns like checks and stripes may be mixed with all kinds of other tiny patterns—just remember to keep the size scale the same, small with small, medium with medium, and large with large.
Yet, forget the previous rule if you’re wearing 100 percent checks or 100 percent stripes…mix strictly checks with different check sizes, and strictly stripes with different stripe sizes for a cohesive look.
As for colors, pinks go with grays, blues go with browns, olives goes with rust, but use your eye to discover new color combinations…
Suits selection and accessorizing were mathematical formulas that could render mind-blowing effects, where, if pulled off correctly, you could shock and amaze others without looking indubitably odd, completely ignoring your mother’s advice to “never mix stripes with checks!”.
The guru of the pattern-mixing-era was likely Tom Ford, who shared the company interpretation of the ‘ultimate suave man’, through somewhat shocking but pleasing pattern and color combinations—whose photos seemed to go viral with each and every collection-introduction at the time.
Take a look at some more examples:
2014 – 2016 : The Rise of Sprezzatura
After three years of learning many of the formulas needed to look snappy, men had had enough of complexity, as their vision-centers became fried with more images each month than their fathers could have dreamed of seeing in a lifetime.
“Accidental style” became the next big thing, and Italy became the sweetheart country of menswear, rising to the forefront of sartorial attention.
No need to wear socks or pay attention to how you tie your tie–just let your extra-long tie blade flap in the wind.
For extra points, stuff your gloves and eyewear into the chest pocket of your jacket. Don’t go outside without unbuttoning at least one or two buttons on your suit coat sleeves (to show you’re relaxed and wear the good stuff). And never go outside without your sunglasses.
Eight (or why not nine) random bracelets may be thrown on one wrist, and the left shirt collar tip can point up while the right shirt collar tip points down. Random hair, clipped suspenders, and an “I don’t care but I really care” attitude ruled :
2017 : Tempered Sobriety
It’s not like the past.
We can’t attribute a downturn in the economy or a current event for halting hyperactivity in classic menswear. Maybe we just short-circuited and the hype started to gnaw at our nerves.
Whatever the cause, after a long binge of sartorial storms…a handsome calm ensued.
Looking dope (i.e., gnarly, cool, hip) is now becoming an exercise of balancing the austere with flair—to be done with pleasure–not formulas or mind manipulations. Emulating Agnelli’s long tie blade was a lot of fun, but applying an assimilation of style knowledge and instinct has become more interesting than hacking a few tricks from the web.
And that was it. Wei Koh from The Rake called it “getting sober”. Perhaps if it were possible for the Hollywood set of the 1930s and 1940s to look into the future and see our “classic style” examples of the last half decade, then Wei might be right, and those film stars may have thought that we were “drunk-dressing”.
But why have we embraced a new sobriety in the way we dress?
Maybe it was David Gandy’s fault. Even though we groaned to see yet another photo of the guy, he did adopt a lovely not-so-uptight British style that won a lot of us over again.
Or it could have been the sartorial know-it-alls, the self-appointed-intellectuals–those menswear spinsters who badgered us to death about how ridiculous we look when we try too hard to rock our suits.
Those pranksters tried to tell us.
They called us clowns, while analyzing how close each extended tie blade approached the family jewels. Those with slim trouser legs were called “carrot-legged”, and those with pocket squares spilling out of their breast pockets conjured metaphors of giant hand-rolled sushi.
Entire forums were dedicated to exposing our sartorial schizophrenia, rendering countless hours of laughter at the expense of humiliating the guy deemed to fail miserably at his latest sartorial endeavor.
Still, as GQ Style Editor aptly put it during an interview with BoF last year, “when you see a guy who looks like trends exploded on him, you can’t help but mock him a little bit. But we all need that guy to pull the future forward”.
Yet in some ways, those pranksters got it right.
Some of us became too proud of ourselves and were gobbled up by the monster of egocentricity. We forgot about being gentle and generous, and we forgot to proceed with grace down a sartorial path that can take years to get right.
The fellows who often have it worst are the ones who are just trying to learn, and need some space to make mistakes. Here’s hoping that those guys never gave up the cause.
For examples of style in 2017, look to yourself and dress how you like, damn the torpedoes of thumbs up or thumbs down, and remember judgments and judging don’t really matter—because we know better than that and we are better than that.