The New Rules Of Masculinity
Menswear tends to oppose social changes. That’s to say that designers tend to work in contrast to the uniforms we’re meant to wear. Take tailoring, for example: at the start of the decade, as office dress codes relaxed in reaction to the world’s wealthiest and most powerful men sporting hoodies to multi-billion dollar IPOs, razor-sharp tailoring and double-monks suddenly became the style-conscious gent’s preferred attire. It wasn’t what was necessary, or expected. But then fashion always seeks out difference.
Five years on, and the contestants on The Apprentice – men whose unofficial role is to mark when a trend has joined bootcut jeans in sartorial purgatory – turned up in Lord Alan Sugar’s office sporting pocket squares (matched to their neck wear, naturally), tie bars (unattached to their shirt plackets) and ankle-bearing suits. Meaning? It’s probably time to stow yours in the back of wardrobe.
Your replacement though, is equally contradictory. With most men chained to desks, designers are harking back to a more masculine era, when clothes were about protecting you from sparks and grease. Enter functional fabrics and heavy duty jackets that look like you could weld in them.
These days, your inspiration isn’t a man who knows fifteen different neck tie knots, but one who can fix a gearbox. Here’s how to evict Beau Brummell from your wardrobe to make way for James Dean.
Opt For Workshop-Appropriate Denim
Workwear that looks like it would be appropriate somewhere the machines don’t have glowing apples on the front means fabrics that can withstand a battering.
The king of which remains denim: the favourite of US prospectors in the 1850s and the garment of choice for cowboys, factory workers and even your dad on DIY weekends ever since.
Pristine selvedge may have been your go-to for the last few years, but many designers are now moving towards denim styles that look lived in, not rail fresh – think Hedi Slimane’s shredded knees and Gucci’s paint-spattered jeans.
Instead of shelling out half a grand for trousers someone’s destroyed, though, it’s time to rough up that raw indigo-dyed pair you’ve obsessively protected from rain, spilled drinks and washing machines for the last year or so. Either run them through a delicate cycle on 20 degrees Celcius or leave them in a cold bath overnight. The fades that emerge are the signal they’ve seen somewhere other than just your house and office.
Keen to go the whole hog? Use a scalpel to slash a pair of thin lines at your jeans’ knees and let the threads fray. You could even add another couple of subtle slashes on your thighs – just take care how high you go; don’t confuse modern masculinity with the Rick Owens dick-slip.
Ideally you would invest in a pair of raw selvedge of jeans, wear them daily, and refrain from washing them for at least six months. However, if you want the look quickly and without the effort, brands from high street to high-end are producing pre-distressed washes and ripped styles for SS15, meaning we’re spoilt for choice:
- Allsaints Keiko Cigarette Jeans
- He By Mango Slim-fit Premium Dark Steve Jeans
- Levis 511 Slim Fit Jeans In Tam Heights
- Asos Skinny Jeans In Mid Wash With Rips
- Denim & Supply Ralph Lauren Slim Jeans With Repair And Patchwork
- Levis 501 Ct Tapered Jeans In Shoreditch
- Uniqlo Men Regular Fit Straight Jeans Selvedge
- He By Mango Loose-fit Medium Wash John Jeans
- Nudie Jeans Thin Finn Slim-fit Washed-denim Jeans
- Saint Laurent Slim-fit 15.5cm Hem Ripped Denim Jeans
- Levis Vintage Clothing 1954 501 Spare-wash Denim Jeans
- Simon Miller M002 Park View Regular-fit Washed Selvedge Denim Jeans
Swap The 1950s Sweep For 1970s Roughness
It’s time to bid adieu to that perfectly preened barnet. The 1970s trend that exploded over the autumn/winter 2015 runways extends to your hair too; think the collar-brushing locks of Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman in All The Presidents’ Men – and Chris Hemsworth in Thor today. It’s a mop that, pushed roughly off your face, says: “I’m too busy exposing corruption/saving humanity to worry about pomade.”
Not that it will grow in overnight, says Lilly Dillon, master barber at London’s Ruffians. But start now and you’ll be able to pull off that ‘straight out of the ocean’ surfer swagger come summer.
“It doesn’t need quite as much care,” says Dillon, “just a tidy up every six weeks or so”. Ask your barber to trim any bushy neck bristles or sideburns, and to level up the hair growing from the top and sides to avoid mismatched ends falling over your shoulders. “It’s the difference between looking rugged and like you just don’t care.”
And don’t heed too closely the cries of ‘peak beard’ – ten-day stubble gives off the desirable impression that you’ve been too damn busy bringing your A game to bother with shaving.
Recommended Styling Products
We all know that ‘just got out of bed’ hair does require a little bit of styling, but the right products will help you produce that natural, textured finish you desire quickly and effortlessly:
- Fudge Dry Conditioner 100g
- Fudge Hot Hed 200g
- Kevin Murphy Body Builder Volumising Mousse 350ml
- American Crew Ultramatte 100ml
- American Crew Curl Construct 125ml
- Kevin Murphy Hair.resort. Spray Beach Look Texture Spray 150ml
Invest In A Shearling Statement Piece
Back when men spent most of their lives outside, the hardiest materials were reserved for workwear, to protect you from the elements while herding cattle across wind-ravaged plains. Less vital in your air-conditioned office, sure, but a statement piece fashioned from the hide of something once living is still the key to looking like you might not show up at your desk tomorrow because you’ve hitched up your wagon and gone exploring.
Considering its prevalence on autumn/winter 2015 runways, picking up a shearling jacket now means you’ll get the most wear for your money. But be warned: shearling is pricey. Not all that surprising, considering that this wool inside, suede outside material is removed from the sheep and tanned in a single piece.
“Still, you need to invest,” says menswear writer Mikey Dale. “You can’t pull this look off in pleather. It’s one that needs to wear in well over time.”
Though man-made options exist, don’t be tempted to scrimp. “Spend a little and your leathers will age like George Clooney,” adds Dale. It’s the type of piece you’ll either hand down to your son, or make all your money back on if you decide to sell it in five years.
Although we would encourage you to invest what you can comfortably afford in this classic piece, we recognise that not everyone is going to have the means, or desire, to own a genuine shearling leather jacket.
More affordable alternatives come in the form of hardy denim, cord or wool designs complete with a shearling (or faux shearling/borg) collar. All of these durable materials will still give off the rugged, outdoors feel we are looking for, with the shearling detailing offering a welcome touch of both texture and character:
- Allsaints Lawson Leather Jacket
- Topman Ltd Tan Cord Borg Lined Western Jacket
- Asos Denim Jacket With Borg Collar
- Wrangler Leather Bomber Jacket Sherpa Collar
- Asos Suede Western Jacket With Borg
- Private White V.c. Waxed Flight Jacket
- Ted Baker Baelor Shearling Collar Leather Jacket
- Ted Baker Willems Shearling Leather Pea Coat
- Burberry Brit Caban Shearling Jacket
- J.crew Faux Shearling-trimmed Wool-felt Jacket
- Ami Shearling-collar Wool-blend Bomber Jacket
- Hardy Amies Shearling-collar Wool Bomber Jacket
Make A Statement, But Don’t Shout
Whichever rugged statement piece you choose, don’t overdo it. That multi-zipped biker jacket is great. However, pair it with accordion panel trousers and buckled boots and, unless you’re astride your hog, you look like the kind of guy who wears a Ferrari baseball cap and sweatshirt when he rides the tube.
“Don’t make it too literal, otherwise you end up looking fancy dress,” says Dale. “You may have lofty visions of channelling a sweet sartorial combo of Marlon Brando in The Wild One via Clint Eastwood in The Good, The Bad and the Ugly. In reality, though, you don’t want to come off as Woody from Toy Story.”
No matter what model of masculinity you’re channelling, the basic uniform should remain the same: that weathered denim and a classic white T-shirt. When your basic palette is so simple, whatever you choose to layer on top will pop, emphasised by contrast rather than fighting what’s around it.
Tweaks offer personality but should be kept subtle – a capped sleeve and cigarette packet like James Dean, or a beaten up neckline, courtesy of a few sharp tugs, à la Ryan Gosling. As Dale notes: “Bolo ties and boot spurs are surplus to requirement on this occasion.”
As you can see below, the timeless distressed jeans and white tee combination, whether on its own or layered, is an all-time classic:
Mix & Match
A dip into rugged waters nods to the lantern-jawed icons of eras past, but you’re not expected to chuck your job in marketing to start fixing vintage motorcycles.
Instead, use the texture offered by wool, zips and leather for contrast; a biker or denim jacket over a knitted tie and button-down, an oversized shearling coat draped over your suit, or simply the introduction of a rugged denim/flannel shirt to your nine-to-five rotation plays off the relationship between what workwear meant then, and now.
The key to making this look work is opting for classic designs. “A timeless piece is both functional and aesthetically pleasing,” says Dale, who wears his masculinity in the form of a luxe leather aviator jacket.
“Simplicity is what has made that iconic style and shape endure” – so don’t be tempted by avant-garde silhouettes or patterns. Stick to the classics and you’ll be able to wear that bank balance-bruising purchase a decade from now, rather than regretfully trying to recoup your outlay on eBay when trends inevitably change.
But now we want to hear what you think – will you be introducing any of these vintage workwear elements to your wardrobe this year? How about switching your perfectly preened hairstyle for a more dishevelled cut?
Let us know in the comments section.