By: Andrew Tuck
Monocle, January 10, 2013
It’s that time of year when the world’s menswear fashion writers and retailers drag their wheelie suitcases from London to Florence, Milan to Paris, determined to decipher the direction that gents’ clothing is heading. Well, I say “fashion” but I am not sure they like that word any more. Indeed a lot of people seem to have the hump with the fashion moniker. It’s got form.
Yesterday I heard, on a rival radio station, a well-known actor explaining to a reporter that he had no interest in the world of fashion, no what he liked was looking good. He then really spoilt it all by saying that what he actually loved was “style”.
Like a train on an overblown frock, for many people fashion drags in its wake connotations of frivolity, of the throwaway. Fashion means ephemeral. And in an age of austerity that doesn’t feel comfortable in some quarters. It’s why fashion firms try to reinvent themselves as craft ateliers even when their product is made in factories continents away from their HQ in Paris or Milan.
It’s a discomfort that has some perverse ramifications for shoppers too. There are men who feel that it’s wrong to spend €500 on a suit from a fashion label but then lure themselves into spending €3,000 on a bespoke version. They will tell you over Martinis that it’s an investment. That they will still be able to wear it in 10 years time, they insist, because it’s a classic cut and the tailor is so old school.
Well as someone who recently emptied their wardrobe of a lot of suits with dusty shoulders, let me assure you there are no classics. The dullest, most demure suit will look out of date whether it’s made in Savile Row or bought in Selfridges. The three-button jacket looks wrong; then the single button jacket looks out of place. Even when double-breasted makes a reappearance, the jacket you have kept just for this moment still feels, well not quite the thing, when you take it from its zipped bag. Buy bespoke but don’t think for a moment that you have dodged the fickleness of dress codes, aka fashion.
Perhaps we no longer like words that hint at glitz. It’s a moment for stripping things back, keeping it real. Just as foamy creations are being scraped from plates and replaced with organic, handmade burgers, so our language is having the froth blown away. It’s why the man you are interviewing in the white apron tells you he’s not a chef, he’s a cook. It’s why the 1990s hair stylist (let alone hair designer) has returned to his or her roots and become a hairdresser again – or tells you simply, “I cut hair”.
I get it and I edit a magazine that puts the emphasis on the well-made, the durable, the furniture or architecture with some longevity in its DNA. But, frivolity isn’t evil. The disposable can be fun.