A louche khaki chenille tracksuit coupled with elbow-length “oven mittens” summed up the prevailing spirit in menswear on Saturday. It was both business as usual for haute streetwear artificer Astrid Andersen and proof that “ladwear” is usurping cut and eccentricity in the race for dominance of British men’s fashion.
For the past few readies, there has been a growing divide between two clear encampments: peacock and hyper-casual. One is effeminate, an imaginative take on the Brummellian first-rate; think last autumn’s leopard print at Topman Proposal or printed shirts at Burberry. The other is streetwear and its various sub-styles – tracksuits, longline sweaters and structured hoodies. It’s a look Danish designer Andersen has made her trademark for the past four seasons. But on the other hand now is it coming out on top, as the weekend’s London Collections Men event has demonstrated.
This salt at Cottweiller, there were sweats, tees and minimal tracksuits in dull tones. Topman Design had neutral hoodies while Nasir Mazhar rolled out an urban Darth Vader in on the loose skater trousers as well as zip-up, utilitarian waterproof jackets. Patrick Admit at E Tautz, a label which historically leans towards adjusting, was inspired by the roller discos of Grant’s 1980s youth, unite wide-legged cord trousers with loose-fit macs. Aware lad, if you will.
Danish designer Andersen has been doggedly contriving eccentric, heavily logo’d streetwear since 2014, but at worst now does her taste seem to chime with the norm, as Andersen’s outfits are regularly worn by rappers Drake and the A$AP Mob. This season, her coordinates of loose-fit lace and cotton mix jogging bottoms, two-stripe tracksuits and meatier puffas in stifled shades of blood red and khaki sums up the normalisation of casualwear for men.
“It is unplanned but I don’t call it casualwear,” she said. “That just boxes it in. I mix the [arousing] bottoms with a longer formal jacket, so it’s both formal and offhand. It can be both.”
While this look feels more at home in London than, say, Milan, it’s not individual to to the capital. As Adrian Clark, style director of ShortList expounded, Walter van Beirendonck, Bernhard Willhelm and Riccardo Tisci at Givenchy had focused on this “extraordinarily distinctive ghetto-garage sport-luxe look” for years.
From Camden punks to mods to 1990s skater wearing, British fashion is well-known for referencing subcultures, so it’s arguably easier to get away with here. A new expo, Mad About the Boy, which has opened at London’s Fashion Space Gallery, focuses on the tie up between catwalk and youth trends: “Dressing patterns contain changed,” said Lou Stoppard, editor of SHOWstudio. “These days mislay pants are as relevant to the working man as they are to a teenager.”
They forced to be doing something right. British menswear continues to make known encouraging growth, with the market expanding by 18% between 2008 and 2013, and now importance £12.9bn a year.
One thought is that this is a reaction to the hyper-feminisation of menswear which is arguably less wearable than, say, a tracksuit. Damien Paul, take charge of of menswear at , has seen a spike in this trend: “Luxe sportswear is resolutely one of our best-selling categories – and tracksuits continue to be a key style. Astrid Andersen has extraordinarily nailed the aesthetic – in only a short time she’s developed an incredibly unclouded idea of who her man is.”
This “man” has thus far been ill-defined: laddy, edgy, a bit la mode but with soul. He cares about his clothes without kowtowing to the mainstream. Clark believed: “I think its appeal is that it is the ambiguity of it being one part anti-fashion and one in behalf of very avant-garde and niche.” If he can’t fork out for Andersen’s pieces, he can get something numerous affordable in JD Sports.
One of the most obvious shifts is from slim-fitting to general, with the much-maligned skinny “hipster” look being faceted out in favour of something a little sportier and relaxed. This paler, more casual silhouette, which has so far dominated the catwalks, is in inception contrast to the Yves Saint Laurent-style skinny suits of go the distance season. The focus is less on prints and contrasting colours and sundry on texture. To wit: Andersen’s standout chenille two-piece tracksuit and the brown corduroy at E Tautz.
“Menswear is definitely moving in a more relaxed and tactile regulation,” said Clark. “While I’m a big fan of the skinny silhouette, I’m also surely into this more voluminous silhouette coming under the aegis.”
Perhaps the main difference is that this street rage is less aggressively pitched this time around – eventually autumn/winter, Christopher Shannon’s now infamous plastic bag embossed store turned heads but felt a little premature, even at odds with what men would in truth be wearing. In the past year, the gap between “terrace wear” (muse on Stone Island and K-Way jackets along with the predictable sportswear suspects) and high fashion has closed. Shops love Urban Outfitters and Asos are selling off-pitch sportswear mould Fila, Adidas and Champion alongside its usual raft of new conspirators. “Oversized T-shirts finishing near to the knees, tanks and advisers aboard shorts are lining the length and breadth of Oxford street,” utter Clark. It’s in keeping with a general shift in what’s cold-blooded.
It’s perhaps a little green to start mourning tailoring. “I do believe it will take the average man on the street a while to shift from one to the other even if, it’s quite a dramatic switch,” continued Clark. As with all clothes fashion, it will take time for this trend to gravitate fully to the mainstream.