POSTED ON FEBRUARY 18, 2009:
As women's fashion falls to the wayside, men's clothing receives unexpected attention
A few weeks ago I told a sad tale about the state of women's fashion this season and its tendency to look boring and frumpy (see "Ain't No Sunshine" in the Jan. 29-Feb. 4 issue of Urban Tulsa Weekly).
But it's all going to be okay. No matter how plain Jane spring looks are, girls always look better than the boys. We might be rocking basic tees in so-so shades and comfy jeans like the guys, but ours are clean. And, we have better shoes.
One might think that if women's spring fashion is so drab, then dudes are probably in for a nasty treat, with looks barely a notch above potato sacks in color, texture, and shape.
However, this is not the case. While it appears the fashion world has thrown in the towel for gals, it turns out designers have been spending their time turning regular guys into dapper gentlemen.
This spring feels like a big uh-oh in the fashion world. Men's trends this season are suave and dashing. Designers are dangling clothing in front of men that requires thought, time and the name of a good dry cleaner. Will our T-Town boys take the bait?
Maybe it was the return of the vest that was met with such positivity or maybe it was the Chuck Bass-ification of America (did that Gossip Girl reference just go completely over everyone's head?). Suits have been seen on the runway and its components are now arriving in stores en masse. These looks are still ideal for work, especially for those who are used to toned-down business looks (i.e. khakis and polo shirts); but the suit has recently crept into other areas of our life.
Spending last week in jury duty, I can attest that Tulsa men still own a pair of dress pants. It appears, however, that they only break them out when summoned by the call for "business casual." Whatever the hell that means, men respond by wearing dress pants. Other opportunities to dress up include visits to nice restaurants, religious services, white-collar business transactions, etc.
Outside of circumstances like these, men will most likely don jeans, cargos, shorts or perhaps some kind of athletic wear. Men are encouraged to wear "fancy pants" for life's more mundane tasks. This season's pants are plain in structure -- there are no pleats or cuffs -- in shapes that are fitted and straight-leg. A small amount of the population may want to go with a slimmer pant, which is also acceptable. These variations cut slimmer on the body and give the appearance of tapered legs. This is only appropriate if that is the wearer's intention. Chinos trying to pass themselves off as regular dress pants should not hug your ankles.
Stick with basic cotton fabrics; but keep in mind that although they are a hassle-free fabric, they require upkeep in terms of dry cleaning or ironing in between wears. Unlike jeans that can be worn day after day without being obvious, these pants crease when worn. This spring's shades are heavy on shades of gray from light to dark.
When possible, find pants that feature a subtle pattern. These may appear to be a single color, but closer inspection reveals a faint plaid or striped pattern in colors so similar to the overall shade that they are practically monochromatic. Subtle accents give the pants texture and a muted extra kick. You'll also find later in the season that a full white look (white shirt, white pants, white jacket) will be in vogue.
When taking this look to the grocery store or running the kids around, simplify with a white v-neck tee and a lightweight knit hoodie. Tees work with these pants; but they must be fitted. Oversized graphic t-shirts or solids can appear sloppy. Having a basic t-shirt poking out from the neck or from the bottom of the sweater adds a subtle layer and knocks the look down to more casual.
I'm not totally sure how men feel about dress shoes, but they aren't entirely necessary for this ensemble. Instead of the traditional elongated round-toed, shiny lace-ups that normally come to mind, take a more Euro approach with soft leather shoes that easily slide on and off. These versions have a square toe and come in neutral shades. These are not, however, the shoes that became strangely popular a few years ago, as these shoes do have a heel. This season is about manly sophistication that allows for comfort and personality; feel free to mix the pants with Chucks, leather flip flops (no cheap rubber ones) or Tom's.
My concern is that by advocating the idea of dressing up, men will take this as an excuse to simply wear button-downs. Yes, the look of wearing button-downs with jeans is eternally in; but do exert a little effort. Add a tie and a vest with your jeans. Wear a graphic t-shirt or one with stripes or a contrasting color over the long-sleeved shirt.
Many men appreciate the subdued hues of these looks, which allow them to feel whole-heartedly masculine; the sophisticated concept of a spring line may have been swapped with women's but the color palette remains the same. A big spring hit, khaki reigns supreme in jackets and pants. Argyle prints, ideal for everything from scarves and sweaters to socks, are featured in traditional shades of navy blue and Kelly green; as are plaids, which have taken a turn from fall/winter's lumberjack persuasion to a more traditional, Scottish appeal.
A guy can invest or not invest as much as he desires in these looks. With the timeless classicism of these items, jackets, dress pants and even dress shoes made of high quality (and therefore a higher price) won't be a wrong investment. Men eager to get this look especially right may also want to contact a tailor, a profession whose job it is to ensure that elements of a suit specifically fit your body.
And ladies, while you might truly desire your man to wear these looks, they aren't something that you can easily coerce your guy to wear. He will either embrace these looks or ignore them. If your guy naturally dresses well and is trendy, he might go for it. If he wakes and wears (grabbing the nearest non-smelling t-shirt and last night's jeans), it may be a lost cause.
In all, men's spring fashions are not that much different than women's. These looks aren't bold or eccentric; they aren't exciting in a need-to-go-shopping-now kind of way. We've created new looks for so long that now we've neglected some of fashion's great basics.
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