We’ve all witnessed the rise of the “metrosexual”, the heterosexual urban man with an interest in fashion and shopping that was previously far more closely associated with women and gay men.
We started to watch his suits become slimmer and nattier, his trousers become more cropped, and his shoes worn without socks, even on those we considered conservative.
Then this man started to play with colour. Wear designer sandals. Carry expensive leather bags and satchels. Grow a beard and get a great haircut. Smell fantastic. Wear jewellery that wasn’t horrible. And do these things all at once.
That was the big change.
It was a very long time coming, but men have taken up this approach with aplomb and are, in my opinion, starting to outstrip the women.
I recently realised why this was the case. I was walking around Barney’s in New York last year and flicking idly through the women’s section and pondering life’s big fashion questions.
Do I really want to look like a 80s warrior princess in woven leather and a wide belt? No. Neither am I feeling very Victorian (at my age, a high neck blouse and long skirt would add, oh, about a century). I dispute the idea that crop tops on the red carpet are a legitimate, translatable “trend”.
Shoe boots that expose your toes in winter are dumb. Everything is too short if you don’t have pin thin legs. I can’t wear a bra with anything. Why is a really nice evening bag US$2000? Where the hell are the gorgeous pantsuits?
I ended up in the men’s department and all of a sudden everything made sense. Beautiful pieces, classic shapes that had been reworked in fantastic fabrics, YSL dinner jackets, leather shirts that were as soft as butter, new fabrications in knitwear that looked and felt better than any knit in history.
Velvet and brocade loafers, cashmere jackets and ageless overcoats, silk-printed suits. Design that was pushing boundaries but was still realistic, still wearable and of a certain quality, a quality that was meant to last more than a couple of seasons.
That’s the problem with womenswear, the constant focus on the now, and the new. No sooner has a trend come along, one that you actually like, then it’s forced out next season by the return of the baby doll mini dress.
My friend Damien mentioned that he had complimented a woman on her jacket and she replied “oh, but it’s three seasons old,” almost apologetically. Most men don’t do this. Men would think that doesn’t matter because it doesn’t.
A beautiful piece of clothing is a beautiful piece of clothing, full stop. There is something really smart about the way men shop – they replace things (“Oh I need a new white dinner shirt” or “I probably need new jeans these are ten years old”) rather than constantly following insane trends that don’t suit them.
They don’t throw out the Paul Smith chalk stripe suit after one season and replace it with some tartan lederhosen, although good on them if they want to.
Their sense of simplicity and logic, of appreciating one really nice thing and wearing it often, rather than distracting themselves with constantly acquired mountains of landfill tat is really very admirable.
It means you can know your style, and change it gently with different fabrics, details and silhouettes, rather than getting caught up in the frenzy of choices that women have which, ultimately, leave us confused, unsure, and worst of all, badly dressed.