Yesterday, Ben Jones broke down just how much of an influence the world of sport is having on current menswear collections. He argued that even though menswear is moving in a much smarter and more refined direction, sports and athletic wear was keeping the industry grounded and even making current spring/summer high fashion collections ‘wearable’.
Trainers, hoodies, sweatshirts and polos have long been a part of the everyday males casual wardrobe, but this season they are being pushed back into the spotlight. By pairing these relaxed wardrobe staples with tailored pieces, it is helping to create a more sophisticated casual look that is appealing to the modern man – who wants to wear something both stylish and comfortable. After all, at the end of a long working week, we don’t all want to be dressed in shirts, ties, trousers and blazers for the rest of the weekend as well.
With this in mind, today we are going to take a look at the key sportswear inspired pieces you should be looking to integrate into your spring/summer wardrobe this year. For those of you who were hoping I would declare your tracksuit bottoms/shorts fashionable, I would probably stop reading now.
The sports (inspired) jacket is probably one of the most versatile and useful pieces you will own – not only in spring/summer, but all year round. Today we will class these as Varsity jackets (often worn by the ‘jocks’ in America), blousons or lightweight, waterproof windcheaters.
One of the reason’s they are so desirable is due to the fact that you can just ‘throw them on’ within most casual outfits. Whether you are pairing them with chinos, shorts or jeans; with a shirt, tee or polo underneath; they provide easy and effortless style in an instant.
These jackets are also perfect for the transitional seasons. We all know the weather here in the UK is unpredictable, so there is often the need for lightweight outerwear that can be layered on for those cool days we often get during spring and autumn.
All 3 styles mentioned are trending this year. Ben has already detailed just how popular the blouson has become for 2012, whilst the Varsity jacket has undoubtedly showcased its staying power by returning to prominence for 2012 after becoming a key piece during both 2010 and 2011. The lightweight utility jacket will continue to be a practical and stylish option, especially in bold nautical colour ways such as blue or red – which will help cement its place in your spring/summer wardrobe for the foreseeable future.
In terms of our favourite? It has to be the Varsity jacket. It’s a style that can adapt to all seasons, has proven that it wasn’t a fleeting trend and it can be incorporated into a variety of looks. Pair with chinos, loafers and a polo shirt to channel true American Prep, dress it up with a pair of smart trousers and an Oxford shirt for a clash of formal and casual, or wear it with dark denim, a checked shirt and some Chelsea boots for a bit of a Rockabilly edge.
Nothing screams sportswear more than a piece of clothing that was specifically designed for exercise. The humble sweatshirt’s rise in popularity began last autumn/winter, and it is continuing to make waves this spring/summer. After being seen on both the catwalks and in all the latest high street campaigns, the market has been inundated with traditional, plain sweat tops – which could be just the piece your wardrobe is missing.
The main advantage of a sweatshirt comes from its effortlessness – a theme you will find runs throughout all these key pieces. A sweatshirt is never going to make a statement on its own unless you have some form of loud graphic print on the front of it; but then again, it doesn’t need to; it will instead anchor your other statement pieces.
Why not try wearing with bold coloured chinos and some loafers? How about layered over the top of a shirt with some pastel shorts and deck shoes? Underneath a blazer with some textured trousers? The options are endless, and this versatility is exactly what you require from a casual piece that you can utilise over and over again.
Our favourite styles on the current market are the soft laundered versions. This design technique produces a vintage aesthetic, which in turn gives the sweatshirt a lived in appearance and some desired character. Other key styles to look out for are contrast arms, raglan sleeves (diagonal seam from the underarm to collarbone) and subtle colouring of pockets, cuffs and necklines.
A close relation of the sweatshirt, the hoody has long suffered negative connotations due to the stereotypes of people who are typically seen wearing them. However, like the sweatshirt, they are versatile and can be worn in much the same way. You will probably all own a hoody already, although our favourites this season are the pull-over styles, which often come with a Henley-esque buttoned neckline – allowing you to layer a shirt underneath for a well considered clash of smart and casual.
Alex Woodhall featured the polo shirt as one of his top 5 essentials for the spring/summer season, and then followed this up with a detailed look at this menswear staple. The polo shirt has always been rooted in sportswear – the original design was by René Lacoste, who wanted to replace the uncomfortable and unforgiving tennis attire of the time.
Since then, the polo shirt has been adopted by many other sports, especially those where a smart appearance was a requirement, such as golf and (of course) polo. However, the same characteristic that made it so popular with these traditionally upper class sports is the same thing that has made it so popular within the fashion industry – it provides the modern man with the perfect smart-casual crossover.
We have already wax lyrical about why you should own this piece in your wardrobe, but the preference for the coming season are the classic sporting inspired polos – think tipped collars or bright white with minimal detailing. These simple styles will anchor any outfit and can be worn with virtually any other colour under the sun. Pair with striking yellow chinos to make a statement, patterned shorts for a subtle take on this season’s biggest trend or simply throw it on underneath a blazer for effortless chic.
The other style that is making waves is the jersey polo. More relaxed than thicker pique cotton varieties, these soft cotton versions have a hint of Mediterranean about them – and we all know how effortlessly stylish the Italians are when it comes to casual attire.
Although you may have been hoping that the accessory I recommended would be the sweatband, we are never EVER wearing them as a fashion statement again people! (I believe it was Justin Timberlake that started that hideous trend during the noughties?) Something much more appropriate and contemporary comes in the form of the casual sports bag. These are both practical for everyday use and effortlessly stylish as well.
A bag that has always had roots within outdoor pursuits and activities is the backpack. We should all know that the backpack has been trending for the best part of 3 seasons now, and for good reason too – they are relatively inexpensive, hard wearing and easy to carry. A we detailed in our recent report, they are also available in every colour under the sun, so you are sure to find one that suits your taste.
However, they are not suitable for everyone, and some of you might be looking for something slightly more refined or ‘grown up’. You will find this in the holdall, and more specifically, the barrel bag. The barrel bag is named as such due to its shape, which is cylindrical. Although most designers simply label any large bag with two shoulder straps a holdall these days, you can still find some great barrel styles on the market (they may also be referred to as ‘duffle bags’).
Often coming in soft fabrics such as canvas, they are what I consider to be the stereotypical sports bag; something you would chuck your gym/sports kit into on your way out of the house. You may even label it as your “gym bag” and specifically use it for these occasions only. There are many more refined versions on the market these days though, which come in premium materials such as leather or suede. These still have the sporty, relaxed aesthetic we desired, but it makes them much more suitable when pairing with smarter items like blazers or even trousers.
The hi-top is back in a big way this year. The amount of runway shows that featured the hi-top was overwhelming, with designers often pairing them with traditional suiting for a real clash of smart and formal. Although we would not recommend you transfer this look over to your personal style, the hi-top will always have a place in many men’s wardrobes – whether that be in the form of an iconic white Chuck Taylor, or something more substantial that makes a statement.
Following the underlying sports influence, the key hi-top styles for this season are the simple, minimalistic white versions. Although it is not a ground breaking recommendation, there is an obvious emphasis on being able to pair all these traditionally ‘casual’ pieces with more refined clothing so that you can create sophisticated, comfortable and relaxed looks on a daily basis.
Although predominantly seen in white on the runways, as long as you keep your choice streamlined and in premium materials (think leather and suede), there is no reason why you can’t integrate coloured trainers into the very same looks mentioned above. We are particularly fond of the vintage styles, which are effortlessly cool in their own right and would look great combined with your laundered sweatshirt.
For those of you who just can’t stomach the hi-top, you have a ready made alternative in the white leather trainer. Our very own Matt Allinson has always been the “grown up” trainer’s biggest advocate, due to the fact that they are so versatile and timeless. As seen in the lookbook above, this is a style that can be easily paired with smarter pieces and still look great.
So there you have it, 5 key items that are making their way back to the forefront of men’s fashion this season due to the increasing influence that the world of sport is having on the industry. Each and every piece is versatile and adaptable, which should allow you to integrate them seamlessly within your existing wardrobe.
However, perhaps the biggest benefit is that they are all effortless – easy to throw on, comfortable to wear daily and can be dressed up or down to suit your personal requirement.
But now I want to hear what you think:
Let us know in the comments section below…
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