Understanding Male Fashion Trends

I sat down recently to begin writing my interpretation on the upcoming male fashion trends for the 2014 fashion year, now that New York Fashion Week has made its statements, and North America is beginning to thaw out to temperatures that will welcome some lighter apparel. But first, a little introspection into how what you and I wear comes to be.

Personally speaking, one of the most mystifying things for me, even with a reasonable understanding of the mechanics of the process, is how what’s seen on the runways every spring — the things most of us would never dream of wearing — trickles down and transforms itself into what we see in department stores. There is a method to the madness, but it’s somewhat akin to standing in a art gallery – concrete floor, white walls, black ceiling with no visible top overhead – trying to make even some marginal level of abstract sense of what you’re seeing.

To make sense of it though, there are some general (read: “vague”) considerations to keep in mind, whether you’re taking new male fashion trends and designing for some of the more dynamic menswear lines such H&M, Zara, TopMan and the like, or interpreting to be a legit fashion leader in your own circle. For those who don’t really know, this is the general idea.

One of the most common misconceptions (and I’ll keep this short, I promise) is that fashion shows exist to tell you, in terms of being the most credible source on the whole chain of couture authority, what to wear. That couldn’t be farther from the truth, though. While it’s true to a certain degree, the whole goal of fashion designers is an opportunity for them to unleash their creativity, to create wild things to inspire, not to prescribe.

I think Miranda Priestly described it best in my favorite movie of all time – The Devil Wears Prada. Andy Sachs, the “blithely unaware” fashion intern at Elias Clarke made a rather uncouth statement after a chuckle that solicited “the look” from Miranda. What follows is not only one of the best readings I’ve ever witnessed, even if it was on film, but also, a satisfactory analysis of the creative process involved in consumer fashion:

Andy: No. No, no. Nothing’s… You know, it’s just that both those belts look exactly the same to me. You know, I’m still learning about all this stuff and, uh…

Miranda: ‘This… stuff’? Oh. Okay. I see. You think this has nothing to do with you. You go to your closet and you select… I don’t know… that lumpy blue sweater, for instance because you’re trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back. But what you don’t know is that that sweater is not just blue, it’s not turquoise. It’s not lapis. It’s actually cerulean. And you’re also blithely unaware of the fact that in 2002, Oscar de la Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns. And then I think it was Yves Saint Laurent… wasn’t it who showed cerulean military jackets? I think we need a jacket here. And then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of eight different designers. And then it filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic Casual Corner where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin. However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and it’s sort of comical how you think that you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you’re wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room… from a pile of “stuff”.

A round of applause, please? Fashion designers are out there to have fun with what they do. They pick what they want and create fantastic pieces of wearable art, even if they are completely impractical. From there, designers a little farther on down the chain, the ones that design the pieces that you and I wear day-to-day take their inspiration from them. They use these ideas to create practical pieces that combine interesting concepts with functionality and utility. There’s really nothing one way or another that you can look at the runway pieces and know with any certainty what’s going to show up in stores. It’s all a matter of what catches on in the eyes of the artists.

So, whether you’re predicting what we’ll see in the stores in coming months, or looking for a way to take your favorite elements from the shows and turn it into something unique and original, here are some things to watch for. Spotting trends involves looking for elements that have appeared with some frequency between designers, are appearing for the first time ever, or are making a return after having been gone for a while. Basically, you’re looking for certain patterns, textiles, shapes / cuts, or certain forms that are profound to you in some way or another. The truth is, anything is game. Take the art the designers create, and use it as inspiration for creating your own sense of art.

Photo: Myer Spring Summer Fashion Launch Kris Smith by Eva Rinaldi / CC BY-SA

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