Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The State of the Menswear Union

[ed. I have more nice clothes to wear than I have opportunities to wear them.]

A man in his early thirties relaxes outside a barber shop on Crosby Street one humid New York afternoon. He scrolls intently through his iPhone, the square ice cubes in a cup resting by his elbow tinted brown by what little remains of his coffee.

He looks great: thick black dreads piled in a haphazardly perfect manner atop his head, an off-white linen shirt that's both stylish and functionally appropriate for the unrelenting heat, baby blue pants that hug — not squeeze — his body, canvas sneakers, no socks. He's the modern man, cool and comfortable and aesthetically aware.

The other guys wandering down Crosby Street look similar, many with skinny black jeans rolled at the ankles, the better to show off bright new Nikes. The coolest dude pairs pants that have huge holes in the knees with an oversized white tee under button-down chambray, plus a flat-brim hat. He disappears into a building that's under construction. Even the worst-dressed men — five bros loudly recounting the previous night's exploits — look pretty good. They make their athleisure tracksuit pants work with the simple shirts and sneakers they chose after waking up hungover that morning.

Yes, this is Crosby Street, one of the most fashionable blocks in New York City, where signs herald the imminent opening of a Rick Owens boutique and idle stoop-sitters could be professional models. Guys should dress well here. But the focus on clothes has spread far, far beyond Soho.

We're witnessing a fascinating, exciting, very specific moment, a "choose-your-own-adventure time of menswear, where guys are letting their freak flags fly," in the words of Jian DeLeon, senior menswear editor for trend forecasting company WGSN. Information has never been more readily available, and online shopping has lowered the barrier to entry significantly. (...)

Traditionally, conversations about men's style have been quieter than the ones about women's, constantly happening only if you know where to look. In the last decade or so, though, they've become easier to find. The discussion moved online in the midaughts when forums like Ask Andy About Clothes and blogs like The Sartorialist started to enter the consciousness of a certain type of man. Guys geeking out about fashion could find each other, sharing tips about designers, history, whatever. Age mattered less than disposition. On the message boards and in the comments sections, no one knew or cared who was a teenager in Iowa or a thirtysomething in Manhattan. The only thing that mattered was that the poster had a smart sense of style, which meant focusing on timeless quality rather than of-the-moment trends, and offered an intelligent opinion.

Fast forward a few years, and the menswear conversation shifted to Tumblr, where you could find an endless stream of guys dressing to impress, often to the point of absurdity. This became known as #menswear, a reference to the Tumblr hashtag, and was epitomized by images of wannabe tastemakers peacocking at Pitti Uomo. (The mockumentary The Life of Pitti Peacocks features garish paisley suit jackets, absurd floral-print pants, and more in just its first half-minute; it illustrates the see-and-be-seen insanity perfectly, as do so many Instagram photos.) In response, satirical Tumblrs like Kevin Burrows and Lawrence Schlossman's Fuck Yeah Menswear cropped up, injecting a bit of fun into the increasingly self-serious #menswear movement. It was, after all, just clothes.

The ultimate distillation of this scene came with Four Pins, the Complex-owned site headed by Schlossman and his team of rabble-rousers. They took aim at anything and everything, mixing biting commentary with long explainers that placed trends in historical context. Readers had their laughs while learning about the clothes they were wearing, or at least aspired to own.

When Four Pins shut down in January, it felt like the end of an era. "It wasn't like someone was going to make their own Four Pins," says Schlossman, who now works as a brand director at the resale site Grailed. "It was more like if Four Pins can't succeed, then maybe this movement is done. It wasn't that the door was open. It was like the door was slammed shut."

Green agrees. "If ever there was a menswear punk-rock era, where it was like the Wild, Wild West — a bunch of uncool dudes talking shit and building this following that no one had ever really seen before, having fun, and making fun of these designers and men's clothing — that was it," he says. "As annoying as some of those guys are and as corny as some of them are, I think a lot of them are really witty and really smart. We made fun of it at the time, but I gotta say, I think it was special."

While #menswear might be dead, menswear has never been bigger. Online menswear sales in particular grew faster than every other category between 2010 and 2015, and show no signs of slowing down; research firm Euromonitor International speculates that the global menswear market will rise from $29 billion in 2015 to $33 billion by 2020. (By comparison, the women's clothing market actually declined by 0.9 percent annually between 2011 and 2016, according to research company IBISWorld.) One-third of men reported they'd like to spend more money on clothes in 2016 than they did in 2015, according to Rupa Ghosh, a retail analyst at Mintel.

Menswear is moving to the masses.

by Noah Davis, Racked |  Read more:
Image: Lindsay Mound