x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Shorting out the minefield of menswear

Menswear, far more restrictive than womenswear in terms of fabric, shape and form, is nearly impossible to stay on top of the game.

Fashion editors get the opportunity to get a sneak preview of the new collections and trends before anyone else – and feel pretty certain that, most of the time, we’re ahead of the game, informed enough to be confident to pass on a certain amount of measured judgement.

Then comes menswear. Far more restrictive than womenswear in terms of fabric, shape and form, it’s nearly impossible to stay on top of the game. Then there are all the rules and regulations – black tie, white tie, morning suits, dressy casual, casual and business casual: it’s a minefield out there.

The problem is that what we see at the shows and in editorials is mostly suits, jackets and coats, more often than not in varying shades of black, navy, white and grey. Nothing much to get giddy about. Something, however, has been cropping up over the last few seasons that can’t be ignored. Something that needs addressing. The culprit? Dress shorts. You heard me: fancy shorts for men. Shorts that are not made for the beach, golf or barbecues, but shorts specifically designed for occasion wear. Still unsure? Think Pharrell Williams at the Oscars in a “shorts tuxedo”.

I’m all for experimentation. And it’s certainly unfair to favour the fairer sex – but the fact of the matter is that it’s always a bit of worry when menswear gets “risky”.

When it comes to dressing ­within menswear, there are fewer windows for exception and little room for a curve ball. Pretty much anything without a solid purpose is deemed inappropriate. If you must, though, let’s take you through some rules to avoid the inevitable embarrassment.

Don’t even consider the cheap option. The ultimate in quality is the only way that this is ever going to work out for you. Learn to understand fabrics. Know that when you squeeze a fabric it should bounce back into shape without leaving wrinkles. Think simple and subtle. Leave dapper for those who are able to invest a lot of time and energy in creating a “look”.

For hot weather, linen and cotton are the best options, although linen tends to crease, so go for a heavier fabric. Length-wise, aim to hit just above the knee – not too long and not too short – and pair with a casual, long-sleeved (that’s imperative) shirt with a rolled sleeve. I’m not categorically against pattern, just be wary of the obnoxious type.

Then comes swimwear. It sounds easy, doesn’t it? Surely a pair of trunks are a pair of trunks? Well, not so. If you don’t pay attention, the whole thing has the opportunity to go catastrophically wrong. Think droopy board shorts, high-waisted “dad shorts” or worse still, the tight trunk. There is only one style of acceptable trunk: one with a Velcro fly and a lace tie and a comfortable leg opening that hits a couple of inches above the knee. If you’re a little, err, doughy around the middle, black or navy will be your friend. Try not to budge on that. Even if squats are as important to you as breathing, resist the urge to show off with anything with Lycra. Nobody needs to see that.

Let’s face it, most men have little interest in beach fashion, thankfully. All we’re looking for here is something that is well-cut, flattering, subtle but (crucially) comfortable and cool. And remember, there’s very much the right and the wrong way to get noticed within menswear, especially when it comes to exposing flesh. Let’s stick to the former for everyone’s sake, shall we?

ktrotter@thenational.ae