I was browsing in a bookstore in Nottingham a few days ago, having just had an interview (which I think went okay) and I wanted to celebrate. However, the more I looked, the more disheartened I felt myself becoming. I wanted something on men’s fashion, but nothing GQ or full of opinion. I wanted literature.
Yeah, I know what you’re thinking; it doesn’t exist? I felt the same.
I took my search to the Internet and eventually found that the founders of one of my favourite magazines had made a book about the history of ‘top-buttoning’, a style choice I’ve always been devoted to. Needless to say, this book was bought on next day delivery and I hadn’t been as excited to read something ever (and I’m an English student). The book arrived in all its tactile beauty and I indulged in the entire text in a day. However, this is a rare example of menswear literature. Not even a diamond in the rough, there isn’t any rough around it. We need a revolution in this field.
It’s shocking, when you think about it. Name the biggest fashion brands in the world. Louis Vuitton, Armani, Dolce and Gabanna, Alexander McQueen… it’s all founded by men? So why is men’s style literature so dire?
In short, I suppose we can blame the high street. It’s the most accessible point of fashion. On the widest scale, this is our exposure to fashion. Here, menswear is at it’s worst. The over-saturation of safe clothing: lazy efforts with tailoring, shape and design are all evident on the high-street and there’s nothing to be given to the imagination, and there’s no encouragement for fashion as an art or a science.
The same can’t be said for high retail. Although, this lacks accessibility. Of course, as a fashion junkie, I can rant all day about Raf Simons as a genius and monumentally important designer, but I can’t sport the clothing for myself. This can become deflating (or bankrupting, depending on whether you buy or not) and ultimately leaves the interesting fashion for those in the elite; often people either too occupied or too accustomed to appreciate fashion as anything beyond a statement of economic identity.
“The male catwalk is quite unexciting.”
The lack of coverage is also reflected when looking at fashion weeks. By and large, the male catwalk is quite unexciting: suits, jumpers, the occasional whacky piece, shoes, trainers. That’s it. The categories are suits, modest style, or weird: us men are far too conscious to even look at sporting the weird. You can see this trickle down onto campus.
I only know a handful of guys who wear interesting, questioning and fashionably conscious clothing; this is compared to the women who boast all kinds of quirky outfits. Why? There’s more demand in the female market and therefore seriously pretty and interesting clothing can be found for half the price of a decent piece of menswear. You could put this down to men having fewer types of garment to experiment with, but that’s problematic in itself.
We only have fewer options because there is historically a great conservatism in menswear. It’s probably why so many of the top male fashion designers are working primarily with womenswear; it’s just more exciting, and men are too reluctant to invest in anything new the fashion world might bring. Does anyone remember when H&M and Kenzo collaborated? No I thought not: Google it, it was sick.
I guess things are slowly changing though, and androgyny is helping to blur the boundaries in fashion and perhaps the start of experimental menswear will come within the unisex market, with a brave few championing the artistry and expression of these garments. Also, despite the lack of literary coverage we can likely count on magazine culture to propel menswear as a perfectly normal interest for guys in the future. Edward Enninful’s new role in Vogue might be the pinnacle of this, but also the surge in magazines such as Fantastic Man will help bring talking menswear into the mainstream in far more exciting ways than GQ does at the present.
It is not that there’s anything wrong with GQ’s current editor – Dylan Jones – as he’s transforming the magazine slowly but there’s only so much he can do.
“I’m sick of the lack of opportunity to talk men’s fashion in the University.”
Of course, smaller magazines such as yours truly can help to provide a credited and respected voice for male fashion. Perhaps this is the point of me writing this. I’m sick of the lack of opportunity to talk men’s fashion in the University. We all wear clothes, and most of us give a shit about what we wear. Why are we voiceless? If you’ve ever read a fashion article and found it engaging, influential, interesting or even slightly worthwhile, come chat sometime.
You know you want to, man. We’re the future after all, and where have you ever seen stigmatism against a well-dressed guy, by a well-dressed guy?
Yeah, I haven’t either.