A roundup of the trends set at men's fashion shows recently in Milan and Paris.
Menswear trends: in the footsteps of the fathers
The dark side
Most men are not really comfortable in too much colour. There's even a name for it: chromophobia. Now they can breathe a sigh of relief. One might expect winter collections to veer towards the dark side but, perhaps in recessionary mood, they have gone this time for the positively funereal. Colour is not entirely absent but it is sober and saturated - Valentino's and Dior's green suiting, Burberry's darker green velvet jacket or Gucci's claret knitwear, for example, with camel from the likes of Margiela providing light relief. But the leading choice is far more dramatic: black, with yet more black, worn tone-on-tone with variation found in different finishes, from matte wools to glossy surfaces and even metallic leathers from the likes of Gucci, Paul Smith, Costume Homme and Yves Saint Laurent. Black is, of course, a high fashion favourite. But this may prove to be overkill under a hot sun.
Cardigan, no slippers
The cardigan continues to shed its reputation as a garment for the older man feeling the cold, worn with slippers and accessorised with a pipe, rather than an eminently practical, slouchy-chic option. Indeed, thickened up in more heavyweight versions, it becomes the cardigan jacket. In dark tones but with plenty of surface detail in the weave - nubbly or basket-woven - the mostly drop-shouldered and shawl-collared versions from the likes of Burberry, Hardy Amies, Gustavo Lins and Missoni actually hint more at Steve McQueen and Frank Sinatra than anything grandfatherly, especially when shown, as it often was, worn over suiting. And as for the slippers? They didn't tread the catwalks, but the shoe style of the season - the chunky, fringed or tasselled loafer - did.
Looks, lest we forget, are just one aspect of clever fashion design - the more subliminal touch can be just as alluring. That is something the menswear for autumn/winter 2012/13 has remembered, with the tactility of corduroy and velvet - a long-running trend - pushed and plushed to the fore. In recessionary times, the hard-wearing nature of both fabrics is a bonus, although that consideration was probably not to the fore in designers' minds; rather, the cosy, comforting luxuriousness of the higher-grade fabrics. Certainly their old-mannish connotations have been dismissed: Canali, for instance, uses striped velvet for a striking formal coat, Ermenigildo Zegna for a businesslike three-piece, double-breasted suit, while Burberry Prorsum takes cord for more slimline, country-meets-city suiting. Velvet also appears on suit-jacket collars - teddy boys will be at home.
If men are often fearful of colour, they are petrified of bold pattern - both typically equated with womenswear. And yet it is through pattern that designers appear most keen to institute a fresh take on what is, in form and style, essentially classic. The new season's prints are not shy ones either, interestingly making a showing as much on suiting as on the casual wear where it might be more expected: Roberto Cavalli, for example, uses a scaled-up taupe batik for a dinner suit, Moschino a brick wall effect visual gag for his two-piece (Gaultier too), Dries van Noten has taken a more abstract, painterly approach while Versace and Vivienne Westwood have both played with forms of contemporary camouflage. What makes the use of print all the more striking in these instances is that each designer has presented it in top-to-toe fashion, with shirts and T-shirts to match. Those after the twist without the sometimes clownish effect might opt for the more subtle ornate scroll patterns used by Nicole Farhi and Canali.
After the Studio 54 1970s/1980s style applied to tailoring last autumn/winter - all those wide lapels, low-rise trousers and kick flares - this season the style heralds a return to structure and rigidity, providing tailoring with its most modernist, super-neat look for years. While the three-piece suit remains favoured by some - Prada, for example - others opted for as pared down as possible: close-fitting, cut-to-the-shoulder jackets with slender lapels and two-button fastenings, neither fashionably short, nor classically elongating. For those with an eye on etiquette, some catwalk presentations sought to challenge not only what we wear but how. The rules of proper dressing, for example, have it that with a three-button jacket only the centre button is ever fastened, and with a two-button one only the top. Instead, here all buttons were shown done up.
The little things
Menswear, they say, is all in the detail, so keep in mind other trends of the coming autumn/winter season: marled and brushed knitwear; horizontal stripes and chevron patterns, also in knitwear; coats either tailored - think classic covert or Crombie styles, sharp at the shoulder, traditional in the buttoning and fabrication, such as those from Yves Saint Laurent - or, as at Louis Vuitton, given a distinctive silhouette through tight belting, especially on macs, or nipped-in drawstring/elasticated waisting, as with the more casual, four-pocket, Barbour International-style jacket; and, for those who want to push the fashion boundaries, pullover tops. And no, I don't mean a nice sweater, but tops in high-shine leather, felted wool, tweed or with exotic skin panelling from the likes of progressives Jil Sander and Neil Barrett, among others.
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