The devil is in the detail for today’s dedicated followers of fashion, who are redefining masculinity with their wardrobes
Let’s face it: when it comes to dressing up, men have traditionally got the boring end of the deal. Weddings and special occasions have been about wearing a tasteful suit, customisable in only a few limited ways. Women who wanted to express themselves at a formal party could slap on a flashy lipstick and slip on a glittering dress or pair of show-stopping shoes; men who wanted to be creative could only splash out on a new pair of cufflinks.It wasn’t the richest environment for those craving an opportunity to show off their personality.
But change is most definitely in the air. This autumn, not one but two galleries have held exhibitions celebrating modern men and their personal style: in London, The Photographers’ Gallery’s Made You Look, and in San Francisco, MoAD’s Dandy Lion. The menswear label of the moment, Gucci, recently launched a winter campaign featuring beautiful boys out on the town in pussybow shirts and tassled jackets. The dandy – a man who takes pride in dressing with flair – is back in all his fabulous glory, pushing the boundaries of dressing up and redefining what it means to be a stylish fellow.
Nigerian designer Adebayo Oke-Lawal is right on trend. He helms menswear label Orange Culture, with an emphasis on originality: his loose-knit sweaters and soft tunics are consciously gender-fluid. ‘I think the modern-day man sees clothing as a form of self-expression – it’s a more exciting process,’ he says. ‘I remember when we started doing sheer pieces three or four years ago, we were attacked so much for using organza and chiffon. Now they’re among our bestsellers every season.’
So why has this spirit of adventure taken hold? Social media is a major factor. ‘We’re now able to see what the peacocks at Pitti Uomo and the street trendies of New York are wearing instantly,’ says men’s style consultant Sammy Aki. ‘This starts to influence our everyday choices.’ London Collections Men, with its parade of fashionistos, is one source of regular Instagram fodder. The event has arguably encouraged designers to push the envelope too. Since 2012, LCM has shown Britain’s most traditional tailors alongside the country’s avant-garde creatives. The result is that both have to work harder: the young designers to really focus on quality, and the Savile Row set to think beyond the norm. ‘We still offer the most beautifully cut two-piece suit, and we’re very proud of it. But when you’re on a platform with other designers, you need to do something a bit more eye-catching,’ says Christopher Modoo, senior creative at Savile Row tailor Chester Barrie. ‘It’s given us an opportunity to be a bit more adventurous in our fabrication and our cuts.’
‘I think the modern-day man sees clothing as a form of self-expression – it’s a more exciting process’ - Adebayo Oke-Lawal
One of the ideas that has flourished at LCM is what Modoo calls ‘cocktail dressing’ for men. ‘It’s always been my bugbear that if I went to a party, the girls would be in cocktail dresses and the guys would be in chinos,’ he says. Chester Barrie is one of several tailors now offering more imaginative options for a night out. Its ‘blazedo’ – a blazer-tuxedo hybrid – has proved a hit with young customers who want to be smart, but don’t want to wear business suits or black tie. ‘It’s that dressed-up casual look, but a bit more glamorous and sexy,’ says Modoo.
So what else is in the dressing-up box for winter 2016? Aki is nudging her clients towards opulent velvet suits with embroidered accessories. ‘Ties and pocket squares can have beading and embroidery in tone-on-tone colours to add something extra to your look,’ she says. ‘I also believe men should wear more hats, especially in winter. Invest in a great haircut and a fantastic trilby, and don't forget to take it off when you walk in the room to show off your new coiffure.’ Shyness is, after all, passé: yesterday’s wallflower is now this season’s dandy.
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