British Menswear 101

by Katie on January 4, 2013

Thanks to another recent death, this time amongst my extended circle of friends, I found myself in town on the hunt for a new black tie – out of respect for the deceased I always buy a fresh black tie for each funeral I attend.

When I got my purchase home (not to slim, a subtle self-coloured moiré with a soft sheen), I noticed how these ties varied in weight and construction, and how something as seemingly incongruous as a black tie could offer a snapshot of fashion when it was bought. The width of a tie dictates the knot the tie is worn, which in turn not only dictates the type of collar the tie is worn with, but the cut of a suit itself; for example you would never think of pairing a skinny tie and a double-breasted suit with wide lapels. The composition of the tie itself allows even more insight, and my collection of black ties ranged from squared-off knitted numbers in wool mixes to high-fashion, high-lustre numbers in intricate geometric weaves.

It occurred to me that even something as traditional as a black tie offers a multitude of design possibilities, and how we are often too fixated on what’s edgy and subversive in men’s fashion, and sometimes too willing to write something off as Paleolithic old-hat.
Some of my favourite collections at last season’s London menswear showcase worked within the confines of “traditional” menswear. For instance, imagine Jonathan Saunders’ menswear without the rich palette and pattern, or E.Tautz bar the bursts of neon pink (pictured above) and Hacienda yellow. Subtly sporty details lifted both Matthew Miller and Richard Nicoll’s collections, but the basic foundation was precisely that.
Stoke-born Royal College of Art graduate Miller has leapt and bound in relatively few seasons, and showed a refreshing level of maturity and refinement, as did peers Baartmans & Siegel (Pictured below). Some said this was the season that British menswear grew up but whilst newcomers such as Agi & Sam gently honed their art there was enough insurgence to appease the most rabid avant-gardists.
One of the biggest surprises to emerge this season was the emergence of Nicky Wire as style muse, with J.W. Anderson’s offering (below) owing much to the Manic Street Preacher’s mid-Nineties make-up and headscarves period, whilst Meadham Kirchhoff’s fashion squat resembled one of the band’s early NME photoshoots, all hastily-applied warpaint and femmy thrift store finds.
Nineties pop culture informed many collections, Nu-Metal posterboy Fred Durst became an unlikely fashion icon at Shaun Samson, and Alex Mattsson celebrated slacker skater-boy chic. Another unexpected influence was Walter Van Beirendonck’s celebrated late-Nineties Wild and Lethal Trash label, both at Martine Rose and Sibling, whose riotous mash-up of knitted gimp masks, giant pompom headpieces, and willow pattern jumpsuits was a highlight for many.
Sibling is a quintessentially London label, whose luxury knitwear is as much informed by contemporary art as it is by traditional artisanal techniques. Fellow designers Christopher Shannon (pictured below) and William Richard Green are also profoundly British, and whose upscale streetwear is deeply-rooted in an urban reality. These are clothes that stretch beyond season, and beyond class boundaries.
The Autumn/Winter 2013 London Collections: Men showcase starts on Monday and what can we expect? As the climate noticeably changes seasonal dressing has become largely irrelevant. Widescale trends are dead in the water, leaving us commentators to join the dots and invent nano-trends of our own. In a sector which fetishises techno-fabrics, will there ever be a focus on ethical and sustainable men’s fashion? We’ll have to wait and see, but you can be sure that whatever happens you’ll read it here first.
Article written by Lee Clatworthy (@TeamChutzpah) for Katie Chutzpah blog.

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