Forget fashion victims, real men wear clothes

Not all the menswear shows in Paris last week were outrageous and determined to shock; Tamsin Blanchard saw some wearable outfits that fit the body without flaunting it

"I kept thinking, who's going to wear these clothes? Who's going to buy them to put in their shop? I saw a very nice suit. It was single- breasted, three buttons, narrow trousers. In black." Except it was in the body of someone in the audience,not on the catwalk.

These were the words of an "outsider", someone with no other interest in fashion than that of wearing it. We took him to see the menswear shows, a preview of what he may or may not be wearing next summer. We had just left the show of Issey Miyake. The collection was a fine display of new technology and the latest synthetic fabrics and, according to our man in the street, what not to do with them. There were trousers that draped like those of an Eighties New Romantic. There were jackets that bounced as you walked, there was a tartan nylon cropped jacket ruched at the back into a cheeky little bow. There were clothes that our man could not relate to.

What the average man (the average British man, at least) wants to see on the catwalk are the sort of clothes made by John Rocha, Paul Smith, the Spanish designer Antonio Miro, and Dries van Noten, a Belgian, who showed his naval-inspired collection in Florence a fortnight ago. Clothes that are not so fussy and over-designed as to make the wearer feel conscious of every move he makes. Clothes that will not make him feel like a big girl's blouse.

But on Planet He-Man, created by the fashion models, the hair slick runs freely, trousers are rolled up at a jaunty height, Lycra tops are stretched so tight over the pecs that you wonder how the lungs can still function, and shirt collars are just too tricky for words.

Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garcons experiments with clothes without making innuendoes about the wearer's sexuality. Her collection for next summer was modelled by men of all ages and physiques. You do not have to be an Adonis with pumped-up muscles to wear her tailored suits sewn with plastic panels and reflective tape, which fitted the body without flaunting it.

At Jean Paul Gaultier there were clothes for men with the bodies of superheroes, although more Robin than Batman. In a surreal show that took place around a karaoke soundtrack, the beefy, muscle-bound male equivalents of Claudia Schiffer and Elle Macpherson - Marcus Schenkenberg, Cameron and friends - camped their way down the leopard-print catwalk in exaggerated teddy- boy quiffs and bouffants, wearing a collection of Village People uniforms in fluorescent colours, matching clutch bags, stretch hipster jumpsuits and brightly coloured Elvis suits, with a few of Gaultier's highly wearable "straight" suits thrown in along the way.

This was a show designed to make the boys whoop, and whoop they did when the walking blow-up He-Dolls appeared in nothing but jock-straps and their sheer pink nylon frilled negliges. It might have been more entertaining than the Chippendales. It had about as much subtlety, too. But then, men design sexual fantasy clothes for women all the time, so this is nothing new.

For men who do not spend hours each day working out on the pec machine at the gym, Walter Van Beirendonck, the Belgian designer of W&LT, whose spectacular show included an interactive CD-Rom with a virtual-reality catwalk show that became physical reality, had just the thing.

His inflatable plastic muscle jackets will make the puniest man look like beefcake. Despite the theatrics, the moving stages, the flying dinosaur, the black horse and its warrior rider, the clothes at W&LT were wearable by real men, whether muscle-bound or not. At times they degenerated into sci-fi costume, but the wide military trousers, the printed techno T-shirts and the fold-away jackets in intense, bold colours were eminently wearable. This does not have to mean boring or staid.

What British designers Paul Smith, John Rocha and Griffin Laundry all offered were clothes that our fashion outsider could relate to. He liked the way the Griffin Laundry clothes did not have that brand-new, just- ironed look - they appear lived in and comfortable. He liked the soft safari shirts in pale summery colours at Paul Smith. He liked the bright and groovy checked trousers and the softly tailored jackets at John Rocha.

What these clothes all had in common is that they were unfussy. They did not have fancy seams or silly pockets just for the sake of "updating" a perfectly good jacket shape. The average British man does not want to look like a Chippendale, he wants to look like himself, an individual, and these are clothes that will let his own identity shine through.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Voices
Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and David Cameron appeal to the audience during the Question Time special
voices
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

    £28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

    £16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

    Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

    £16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

    Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

    £17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living