We’re in the midst of London Collections: Men – a bit of fancy-pants terminology for London menswear, or Men’s Frock Week as I’ve heard it termed. I’m flippant there, rather than downright derogatory like David Gandy, who slagged off some of the best and brightest of British talent on Alan Carr’s chat show a few weeks ago. You expect more from a member of the London Collections: Men committee, no?
I was less interested in the drivel he was spouting than what he was wearing: when Gandy decided to denigrate the work of maverick menswear designers Sibling and Craig Green, he did so in a stereotypically spivvy three-piece suit. It was an interesting physical embodiment of his views. For many people, pinstripes versus plain is the conservative confines of menswear, British or otherwise. That blinkered viewpoint has led to the presumption that the sombre suit is all menswear can offer. It even permeates the more dressy and fashion-conscious occasions, few though they are, on the social calendar. Example: while this week’s Royal Ascot allows flights of millinery fancy for women, men must wear morning dress. That dictates grey or black silk top hats with not even a coloured ribbon permitted. Given the strength of our fashion talent, especially in menswear, why is that still the case?
I’m not anti-suit. Far from it. The suit is modern; the Industrial Revolution in cloth. It’s also remained fairly unchanged since the early 1800s – look at the rapid change in women’s dress during that period and compare it to menswear. Especially menswear at Ascot – the blokes in the seminal Cecil Beaton-costumed race scene in My Fair Lady could be treading the Royal enclosure this week. The suit is not just for men: the defining female fashion item of the 20th century is the trouser-suit, courtesy of Yves Saint Laurent. And those still look modern today.
But I can’t help but bemoan the fact that a suited, booted and hatted gentleman is still our stereotypical image of menswear. How reactionary. How antiquated. How downright dull. Maybe that’s what you should have said, Mr Gandy.