Wednesday, 20 January 2010

The Trouble With Men

Milan menswear finishes and the press caravan moves on to Paris, hoping to find the excitement there that was so lacking in Italy. But I don't think many journalists are holding their breath (not that there are that many of them in any case – the times have meant a dramatic cut in travel right across the board). Perhaps this doesn't really matter. Rather like couture, menswear shows have a diminishing point and purpose. Not because there aren't any ideas. Despite the banality of most of the shows in Milan this time, there are usually some worthwhile ideas in most seasons. But Paris is the true home of cerebral excitement in men's as well as women' fashion, in my opinion. The next few days will tell if that is true this season.

But – again, like couture – it could be said that ideas that never leave the runway or are only worn by a tiny percentage of young urbanites in half-a-dozen fashion cities in the world are basically stillborn, with no potential for growth. The similarity ends there, of course. Couture – especially in the hands of Galliano at Dior – engenders ideas on which ready-to-wear (especially the up-market high-street chains and labels) feeds for many seasons to come.

Men's fashion is different. Whereas women are excited by the new and respond naturally to an outrageous idea in couture as a challenge to be captured and tamed for reality, men hate all dress ideas that can be seen by onlookers – not to mention mates – as new, let alone fashionable. It sounds a cliche but it is as true today of most men as it was in Beau Brummel's day. As many people, including a lot of men, acknowledge, it is part of the Great Male Insecurity that lurks behind virtually everything men do, especially in dress. Only the most outrageously extrovert – who used to be called cads – want to draw attention to themselves by their clothes.

Which is why such Milan catwalk moments as camel-hair coats worn with no socks are not going to have men shouting, 'ME! God, that's so me!'; ditto for tartan trousers halfway up the calf (memories of the Bay City Rollers clearly still not far enough away to be forgotten yet); and I think we can all agree that calf-length fur-trimmed gilets aren't going anywhere either. It is desperate, but so are the designers. What can they do to ease men forward with ideas that are new but also accessible enough to stand a chance with most young guys while still keeping the attention of the experts in their audience with excitingly original looks? No-one in Milan seems to know.

The sad thing is that I am sure it doesn't have to be like this. Where I live in London there are plenty of cool young guys who look great … but very few of the ideas in their dress originated on the catwalks of this city.


  1. i thought fashion always went in that direction anyway, from street to runway. what you have identified as cool in your area will make its way to the catwalk eventually. designers are out of touch with their customers while at the same time copying them. very odd.

  2. by the way, for the most part it is insecurity which drives women in hoards to grab up some new and trendy idea, only to drop it at the mere glimpse of the next new and trendy idea. their insecurity drives them to behave differently from men, but it is insecurity all the same. the man who knows himself will explore and discover ways to dress and express himself just as sure as the woman who knows herself will feel confident to remain loyal to the best, most developed sartorial expression of who she is.