Luke Blackall: British's men's dress-sense generally runs from the unimaginative to the plain bad

Man About Town
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The Independent Online

Of the many inequality "gaps" in our society, wealth, opportunity and so on, perhaps the least talked about is in the area men's fashion.

This could, of course, be because in the world of the haves and the have-nots, the issue of male style is the least important. But it is one of the most obvious. The dress-sense of so many of our nation's men covers a narrow range: from the unimaginative to the plain bad. This is probably why men's magazines seem to be devoted to teaching our chaps something that comes naturally to their continental counterparts.

To the outsider, it can at times look as if as we are wont to do in fashion as we do in world affairs: that is, to think we are better and more important than we really are. Of course, when the twain meet, it invariably causes scenes of poignancy, be they politicians sitting awkwardly on front rows at catwalk shows, or ministers dressing up smart and inviting designers to Downing Street.

Male sartorial shortcomings were brought into focus over the past few days as designers, retailers and dedicated followers of fashion gathered for the London Collections menswear week. There were shows, launches, parties and dinners, many filled with the sort of celebrities who are either wealthy enough to buy expensive outfits or just get sent loads of free stuff. But all of them want to project an image of style.

Some of the leading names in fashion put on events, and there were several collections that expert commentators seemed very excited about. But if you were the averagely-dressed man reading the average coverage in most papers, the story you were likely to see was a round-up of the "craziest" and most outlandish outfits, along the lines of: "Ooh-er guys, those fashion types want us to wear dresses!" The sorts of garments that male shoppers will actually see on the racks and rails in the autumn were ignored.

With the exception of the extremely stylish staff at i (I have to say that, don't I?), male newspaper executives rarely look as if they've strolled off a fashion shoot. And just as the tabloids abhor anyone slightly clever (the boffins!), there is a prevailing attitude in the media that any man who dresses well is either dandyish, camp or peculiar. While that myth continues to perpetuate, we British men are going to continue to dress badly for a while yet.