Style and fashion are two very different things. To paraphrase an Oscar de la Renta quote, fashion is about dressing according to what’s fashionable, but style, well, style is something altogether apart. It’s about dressing for you. It’s about sticking to what you like and what suits you.
Which is cool, but when’s the last time you saw a street style photographer trip over themselves trying to snap a bloke in an Oxford shirt and slate grey chinos? Yeah, thought so…
Style might be timeless, but unless you’re Steve McQueen, clinging to the enduring basics isn’t going to earn you your own “f*ckyeah” Tumblr anytime soon. Why? Because that’s what fashion is for. After all, if you’re not nailing tricky up-to-the-minute trends, how else can you prove that, when it comes to matters of menswear, you’re not a laggard, but a leader?
The catch is the cash. Catwalk-watching is a pursuit that can quickly burn holes in your pockets. Buy into one too many designer trends and your Armani could put you in arrears. So, to keep both your wardrobe and your wallet on point, we’ve pulled together a cut-price guide to copping six of the latest fashion trends. You’re welcome.
The current trend for roll necks – aka Steve Jobs’ style legacy – has turned a relatively obscure knit once beloved of Bond villains and suave burglars into the jaw-skimming height of sophistication.
But how should you weave this trend – a current favourite from Milan to Paris – into your wardrobe when you’re not exactly, umm, rolling in it? “Stick with premium fabrications such as merino, cashmere and blends thereof,” says Kenny Ho, stylist and fashion director of Article magazine. “Brands such as Reiss, COS, Uniqlo and Marks & Spencer carry a wealth of high-grade options that let you channel that air of luxury for less.”
If you’re on a budget, go for chunkier knits, which should hold their shape and be less likely to unravel or bobble than more intricate patterns. Ho’s best tip? “Steer towards neutral colours such as navy, camel and light grey, which – even in less than top-tier fabrications – carry an air of luxury about them.” In other words, fake it until you make it.
Menswear’s current soft spot for shearling jackets dates back to 2015, when stateside label Coach unveiled a variety of fresh takes on the time-honoured aviator silhouette. Since then, designers have spawned a fleet of similar styles that, while unquestionably luxurious, are often – from an ethical standpoint at least – questionably produced. Plus, price tags in the thousands make it clear the sheep aren’t the only ones getting fleeced.
The fix? Channel the shearling trend with a collar, rather than a full look. “Try to avoid collars and/or linings made entirely from man-made fabrics,” says Sam Middleton, CEO and founder of men’s style concierge service The Chapar. “Blends are okay, but for guaranteed warmth and a pleasing handfeel, the higher the natural fabric content, the better.”
Faux shearling will also be kinder on both the livestock and your bottom line. Made from acrylic and often thicker than the real thing, a sign of good quality artificial shearling is that it feels as soft as the stuff that costs four figures. If in doubt, deploy Middleton’s litmus test: “If, when you run your hand over the fabric of the collar, the hairs on the back of your hand stand on end, then take it as a sign to keep looking.”
Not just a modish way to pay tribute to the late, great Hugh Hefner, silk shirts are also cropping up in collections from opinion-leading names such as Prada and Louis Vuitton. The trouble is, you’d have to be heir to a Playboy Mansion to afford them. An Alexander McQueen silk shirt is currently going for £995 at Mr Porter. And that’s not including the bills from the dry-cleaners.
While you can find modestly priced silk shirts – albeit probably not cut from the best cloth – the most important thing to remember outside of fabric is fit and colour, says Topman buying director Rachel Morgans. “Go for a one-colour style in classic black, navy or cream, or a seasonal shade that’s still suited to the fabric, such as plum or dusty pink,” she says.
If you want to channel the resurgent seventies trend, boldly go for an intricate pattern but keep your colours muted and everything else pared back. Fit-wise, Morgans recommends something that’s loose and drapes nicely – err too snug and even the best silk shirt comes off a bit “bargain bin”.
If you want to go man-made, viscose is the material you’re looking for, and a silk-viscose blend should still have that subtle shimmer. Whatever your material, there are two signs of quality to look for: it should be smooth and soft to the touch, not coarse, and it should reflect natural light well, without looking like a disco ball. The seventies are back, but let’s have some restraint.
It’s never been more stylish to make your threads talk. Thanks to Vetements, Gosha Rubchinskiy and a handful of similarly subversive brands, wearing your heart on your, er, chest is now de rigeur. But short of screen-printing a batch of Fruit of the Loom’s finest basics – and getting slapped with an IP lawsuit in the process – how can you tap the inherent cool of iconic slogan T-shirts without having to totally empty your coffers?
“You need to use your best judgement,” says the Chapar’s Middleton. “Obviously certain slogans are linked intrinsically to specific brands – Vetements’ ‘May The Bridges I Burn Light The Way’, for example – but just because you don’t want to/can’t shell out for them needn’t mean you resort to some of the dire options at the lower end of the spectrum – ‘Orgasm Donor’, anyone?”
Instead, Middleton recommends sticking to something that’s of personal significance or, failing that, a slightly more ambiguous slogan that’s intriguing, rather than outright offensive.
While not exactly a novel idea for the colder months, quilting – that sometimes two-, usually three-layered material you might find lining a jacket – has in recent seasons moved beyond its traditional role of backstage warmth-retainer to star of the show. AW17 collections from Craig Green, Dries Van Noten and Ermenegildo Zegna all featured jackets or proper winter coats that shone the spotlight on quilting.
Now, if it’s purely aesthetics you’re interested in, you can check this high-end trend off your list – and save – by scouring the high street instead; M&S, River Island and Uniqlo all carry solid options. But, if you want quilting that looks the part and keeps you warm, then your best bet is to plump for something premium that promises value based on cost-per-wear.
“Now is the time to invest, because I don’t see this trend disappearing anytime soon,” says Morgans. “[A good-quality quilted jacket] will look good, keep you warm and can be easily styled with most of what’s hanging in your wardrobe.” To make sure it’s something you’ll wear and wear, pick a colour that goes well with the rest of your wardrobe. For most of us, that means grey, navy or black, but don’t discount something bolder in red or yellow hues, either.
Three years ago, colorful embroidery was something only your nan got stoked about. Now, thanks in no small part to Alessandro Michele’s maximalist turn at Gucci, men the world over clamour for clothes more decorated than Christmas trees. Trouble is, unless you’re Liberace, many of these jackets aren’t exactly what you might call “all-occasion fare”. Which makes it difficult to justify spending several months’ rent to buy one.
“You can tap this look for a lot less by visiting haberdashery shops,” says Kenny Ho. “You’ll find great quality embroidered and decorative patches and trimmings that you can use to easily customise clothing you already own, or add to a piece bought from a high-street or vintage store.” For an extra touch of refinement, have your local tailor embroider a shirt or jacket with your initials for luxury monogramming sans the mountain of debt.
Embroidered patterns can also be found on the high street, particularly in shirts and souvenir jackets, but also in tees and sweatshirts with simple embroidered motifs (you don’t have to go full, Gosling-approved scorpion). Look out for frayed or loose stitching, which is the surest sign that the garment won’t last as long as the trend itself.