Men’s Fashion: The Difference Between Trends and Style

The relative complexities of women’s and men’s fashion

Both men and women can feel the pressures of keeping their wardrobe up-to-date and in season, yet men’s fashion often feels a lot less complicated. Of course, for both genders, outfits and fashion choices can be equally as intricate, and there are many ‘trendy’ items that can quickly become fashion faux pas – who can say they often see people walking around in 70s flares? On the other hand, men’s fashion has a few staple items which will exist forever – which man is going to look out of place with a good-quality, tailored suit, for example? Choose classic cuts, colours and fabrics and you’ll never look out-of-place.

Why classic men’s fashion is timeless

The classic man’s suit has barely changed for over a hundred years. True, there are several varieties for different occasions, but they are all common in their pursuit of a smart, sharp look for the wearer. The great thing about classic fashion for men is that it is effortlessly stylish; effortlessly cool. A well-groomed gentleman will almost always look his sharpest in a well-tailored suit, and this is a testament to the design of such clothing. A suit will be worn to work in many careers because of the professional look it affords to the wearer, instilling a sense of respect and trust. Equally a suit will be worn to many social occasions, such as a tuxedo to a black-tie event. This incredible versatility that allows suits to be worn in almost all occasions is what gives it its timeless edge and a permanent place in men’s fashion.

Contemporary trends in classic men’s fashion

Whilst classic men’s styles will never be replaced, it is interesting to note that shifts in men’s fashion trends have brought certain classic garments back into fashion. The popularity of vintage clothing, particularly, has brought back a wide-variety of classic styles into men’s wardrobes, such as that of the dandy gentleman. ‘Dandy’ is a term used to refer to men who dress in a classic yet extravagant way, placing importance on appearance and acting in a refined manner. This trend for almost ‘over-the-top’ classic fashion for men is evident from events such as the ‘Tweed Run’, where men and women of all ages dress in notably Victorian-style attire and take to the streets on vintage bicycles – with many of the men sporting impeccable mustaches! This is just one of many examples of evidence displaying the resurgence of such styles. There are also numerous blogs online which focus on gentlemanly style – such as ‘The Dandy Project’ and ‘Dandyism’ – as well as entire websites such as ‘The Art of Manliness’ dedicated to providing articles on classic men’s fashion and grooming.

In summary, whilst certain facets of classic men’s fashion can be brought back as new trends, the fundamental garments that they are based on will never slip out of fashion.

“All it takes are a few simple outfits. And there’s one secret – the simpler the better.” – Cary Grant

Men’s Style by Russell Smith – Book Review

Writers on sartorial style tend to have a lovely prose style. This is certainly the case for Russell Smith, author of Men’s Style: The Thinking Man’s Guide to Dress. His book is full of interesting and entertaining anecdotes, paragraphs and turns of phrase, yet he never comes across as trying too hard. He’s able to explain the technicalities of fine dress while writing in plain English — easier said than done.

The one problem with any style guide is that, at bottom, style is a matter of personal taste, and the rules become more subjective as you gain expertise. Russell does not deny this, but he is also firm about his convictions. I’d personally much rather read a book like this–even if I disagreed with most of the author’s prescriptions and proscriptions–than a book full of wishy-washy relativism (“Leisure suits are not my thing, but wear them if you want to.” How helpful would that be?).

Rules of style are meant to make dressing less confusing, since “it is useful to know the rules, particularly if you are new to this whole game and don’t trust your own taste.” Fred Astaire may be able to pull off an outfit that would leave you or I looking like a dressed-up ape, not because he’s handsome (he isn’t) but because he’s a pro. He can break the rules because he knows them, and he knows the loopholes.

The book is a good introduction to men’s style, especially traditional and somewhat formal style. It shows you how clothes can make you feel sexy and cool. It shows you how to dress for different occasions. It’s also a fun read. But if you’re looking for advice on, say, how to pick the best color shirt for your skin tone, or how to dress for your body type, you might want something more practical and technical.

The book has wide margins, which allow quotes, illustrations and sidebars to frame the page. The illustrations, by the excellently-named Edwin Fotheringham, are a nice addition and help illustrate the author’s point: a chapter about casual dress features a man dressed in a paisley leisure suit with a gold chain. The caption: “Casual dress is probably the contemporary male’s weakest point.” Point made.

This is a great gift for a man who is interested in style, or at least in sleeping with women. (If he’s interested in sleeping with men, he’ll still find it entertaining.) If you have a spouse, brother, or friend who makes abysmal fashion choices, consider giving them this book as an introduction to style. I’ve combined this book with an old picture book of Fred Astaire or Carey Grant, just to point out how important good style can be.