Embracing the past
Menswear is on the rise. Within the last year we’ve seen it turn in a new direction; a rugged ‘wilderness’ image characterised by heavy knits, checked shirts and the ever more ubiquitous military boot. But the lumberjack epoch is coming to an end this summer, as the sun comes out and mens’ fashion emerges, blinking, from the sartorial woodland shack.
The key trend this season is unavoidably preppy, prompting a barrage of chinos and boat shoes. Once the sole preserve of the public-school lawn-party, the cotton trouser has been taken away from the relaxed golfing image and tailored for the modern silhouette. Skinny fits and vibrant colours now flood the market.
The return of the chino is just one push in the overall drive towards a more cohesively preppy image, derived from vintage sources. The movements of Ivy League fashion, previously only enjoyed by designers such as Ralph Lauren and Brooks Brothers, have exploded out into contemporary fashion. Books such as Teruyoshi Hayashida’s Take Ivy have dramatically influenced this trend: the author spent several months on the campuses of America’s most elite universities in the 1960’s, taking candid shots of the male students and their sartorial style. Herringbone blazers, smart oxfords and button-down shirts were the costume de rigeur.
Dapperness has invaded all branches of men’s fashion; none more so than occasion wear. This summer, as we move into wedding season, an air of nostalgic elegance is returning. In many ways this is epitomised by the reintroduction of the pocket square to many collections. There is something decidedly 1940’s about a sharply peaked square resting in the top pocket. The association with glamour is unavoidable, with Hollywood and newscasters alike adopting the silk square for generations. It can be worn in several ways, from the Dunaway Fold to the Guido Puff, but ultimately it comes down to choice. Sometimes the best looks can come from throwing away the formal trappings and creating something altogether more carefree.
As Durham moves into its final academic days of the year, the various Summer Balls come around. This is the time for formal wear. For men, this invariably means a tuxedo. It seems a relatively easy piece to wear easily; on the surface its just a black suit and girls find a man in a bow tie irresistible, right? As it turns out, there are tuxes, and then there are tuxes. Luckily price is no longer a problem as such, with Topman and Burton offering tuxedos in the region of £100.
There are three types of tuxedo, revolving around the shape of the lapel. First the classic notch lapel, differing only from a regular suit by including satin. Secondly the shawl collar, a rounded lapel with little textual features, it brings to mind something of the casino. Lastly is the peak lapel; most common on formal wear, it became incredibly popular in the 1920’s and has recently come back into vogue.
Next to consider is the bow tie. The best effect is given by a ‘self-tie’, which is considered ‘bloody difficult’ to get right and is often avoided. However with a little time (try an hour) and some helpful Youtube tutorials, they can be mastered. The self-tie is a vast improvement on the clip-on, even when tied slightly crooked to add a touch of personality. If do you opt for a clip-on, just remember that you will miss out on the one reason men look forward to wearing a tuxedo (James Bond fantasies aside): letting your bow tie out at the end of the evening and feeling like a boss.
The key thing to remember with formal wear this summer is to keep it modern. Jacket styles should be slim and short to avoid the ‘borrowed-from-my-dad’ look. By getting the right sleeve length (so a half-inch of shirt cuff is visible) and a neat fit, you’ll immediately stand out. Think of adding more details; cufflinks, a pocket square and a real bow tie will bring you above the crowd.