Handsome is as Hanson does
style police: Mmm Bop is sweeping the country and Raf Simons is showing grey flannel schoolboy shorts. Can these two facts be related? asks James Sherwood
Sunday 15 June 1997
Well, hang on to your twinset, Mary, because Hanson style has already hit London. Belgium's hottest menswear designer, Raf Simons, has based his Autumn/Winter collection on Eton schoolboys, US sportswear and adolescent punks and his most controversial pieces are the grey flannel school shorts and matching blazers modelled by Hansonesque pretty boys.
To the sound of the Smashing Pumpkins, Simon's models (mostly found on the trendier streets of Antwerp) combined Eton smart with Hanson hair and Bronx streetwear. The collection is intentionally too tight, to suggest the schoolboy on the cusp of adolescence. You might think that this is a look restricted to fashion victims and kinky QCs. Apart from the odd Tory MP, few men will relish squeezing themselves into ball-crunching shorts and the old school tie. Hanson hair is equally unfashionable and unflattering for anyone over 20. Even Simons, 29, claims he is too old to model his own shorts. So, is this simply the male equivalent of putting a pouty supermodel in a gymslip and ankle socks a la Versace?
To take a brief reality check, think about current menswear. Even the most pedestrian high-street suit is lean, single-breasted and closely cut to the body. Simons is simply taking that direction in menswear one step further. The blazer (exquisitely cut) is combined with Simons' signature crisp, white shirts. The shorts are long - falling just above the knee - and made in fine wool. You're more likely to find trainers than Clarke's regulation school shoes on a Simons devotee. There is a case for thinking menswear is too grown-up and the gap between street style and designer smart is too wide.
The Library, Browns and The Changing Room are the only London stockists of Raf Simons. Peter Siddell, owner of The Library, says, "He's unfussy, clean and the shapes are perfect for this season." Simons' themes of Lost Children last season appealed to Siddell. "Many of us are looking for a new direction in fashion. Raf bridges the gap between sharp, smart designers and street style."
You know a label is hot when these stockists buy and Harvey Nichols plans to follow. You know a label is really hot when a fashion editor from Dazed And Confused agrees to model it next season. Alistair Mackie was approached by Simons at the Ann Demeulemeester show this season. "I really identified with the schoolboy meets rock musician look," he says.
The rest of us will buy the tailored blazer and wear it with hipsters. We will buy the simple Ts at a more affordable pounds 50, and, drumroll please, the schoolboy shorts to pair with Simons' cobweb fine-knitted tops. Just one word of warning. Leave the burgundy tank tops to re-runs of Grange Hill - or you'll be in fash detention for months.
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