Your new-season shopping list: Menswear essentials
Print, pastel and Fifties references – menswear takes on a new and dynamic aspect for spring, says Lee Holmes
Monday 23 January 2012
Colour abounds again this summer. But gone are the vibrant jewel hues of 2011, replaced with sun bleached pastels.
This, of course, is enough to fill most of us with dread. And understandably so – who in their right mind wants to look like an extra from Miami Vice or, depending on your fancy, The Golden Girls.
In the world of high fashion though both Mugler and Versace gave us pastels galore, sometimes from head to toe. Be warned that great men, both fictional and real, have tried and failed when they've taken this route. Even F Scott Fitzgerald's sartorially elegant anti-hero Jay Gatsby failed to pull of a pastel pink suit, looking plain gaudy and faintly ridiculous when he wore it. In the real world steer clear of this type of folly. The simplest option is to invest in a good pair of pastel shorts or chinos, Ralph Lauren or J Crew. Roll them at the cuff and wear with grey socks.
Fifties fashion doesn't have to begin and end on Madison Avenue – a less buttoned-up way of dressing has been quietly bubbling away for a season or two now. And so it's the turn of the rebellious Teddy Boy to have his moment in the sun. Marni's high neck, loose-collared shirts are experiencing a renaissance of sorts. Tuck them into trousers or jeans and accessorise with a narrow leather belt. If you have the hair for it, meanwhile, finish the look by coiffing locks into an eye-catching pompadour. Use your combing skills to good effect: Elvis in his prime should be your yardstick. Too much height and you risk aping the wily mistress that the style was named after.
Waterproof jackets are perfectly designed for the UK, where even in summer there's always the potential for a downpour. Weather aside, this is also a textbook jacket for urban living. Rolled and folded, it takes up minimal space in your bag – perhaps that's why British labels have always been such champions of this unassuming garment. From Folk to Margaret Howell, those who have reinvented the waterproof are impressive. Christopher Raeburn, winner of the Emerging Menswear Category at the British fashion awards, consolidates this long standing love affair with eye-popping reds and greens for spring.
Red White & Blue
The nautical stripe is a tried and tested style for summer, usually in horizontal navy and white. However, this season at Dries Van Noten and Alexander McQueen, white and blue stripes, together with red, make for a refreshing take on this trend. Maybe it's Olympics fervour, or perhaps it's to do with our very own diamond Queen and her jubilee, but looking patriotic has never been so easy. Don't be too brazen though: stripes should be confined to the top half of the body only. Top to toe Union Jack colours will blend in with the bunting.
Shoes come in all shapes and styles for spring, with the ubiquitous deck shoe set to make a predictably seasonal appearance. Less obvious is the return of the brothel creeper. As with many a successful menswear staple, this style of shoe has its origins in the Second World War. Worn by soldiers stationed in North Africa, its thick sole was comfortable and hard-wearing, with its very sponginess ensuring silence underfoot when sneaking up on the enemy. In civilian life too this has proved useful. Legend has it that anyone wearing a pair of these shoes could move deftly from illegal drinking den to brothel, without as much as a squeak. By the 1950s the shoe was an indispensable part of the Teddy Boy look. But a pair from Burberry Prorsum are given a 1970s twist with the cork sole.
Navajo-inspired patterns made a fairly large splash in menswear last summer and the ripple effect is very much in evidence. But it's the smaller details that have the most impact in your everyday wardrobe. A beaded rucksack is a well-considered nod.
Those Teddy Boys weren't all about quiffed hair and brothel creepers. Back in their colourful Fifties heyday, prints – especially Hawaiian – were a weekend staple of the dapper man's wardrobe. And this season there's a feast of showy patterns and prints to choose from.
It makes a welcome change from that most overused and ubiquitous of men's wardrobe staples, the lumberjack checked shirt. The floral print flourishes at Prada in particular, make this season a veritable hothouse of colour and pattern. Some of the best prints may also be found at Givenchy, where creative director Riccardo Tisci's beautiful bird of paradise prints dominated the catwalk. Eye-catching as they may be, these designs are only for the brave-hearted male, but Italian label Marni's monochromatic flower print T-shirts are a masterclass in more restrained yet dramatic blooms.
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