As a style-conscious gent, you will be well aware of the trend-led nature of the fashion industry. Each season designers pedal ‘new’ key pieces and specific looks that go on to influence what is stocked at high street retailers and, ultimately, what we wear (within reason).

Although the importance of a versatile, classic capsule wardrobe cannot be underestimated, trends are important as they help breathe new life into your wardrobe, ensure your style does not become stagnant and can even encourage you to experiment and evolve your look.

However, not every trend is in your face or touted as the ‘next big thing’. Certain styles, colours and accessories are slow burners that build up a presence within the industry over time, until you suddenly realise they are everywhere.

Suede shoes, lapel pins and round-framed eyewear are some recent underground trends that have steadily risen to prominence over the past couple of seasons, and the latest one, which began picking up steam during AW12, appears to be contrast sleeve detailing.

The Contrast Sleeve

During AW12, fabric blocking and statement outwear were touted as two major trends within menswear, although neither really took off as expected. Fabric blocking was the next logical progression from colour-blocking, a major trend during SS12, combining the textures traditionally seen throughout the colder months with the visual appeal of distinct sections that offered a way to effortlessly stand out from the crowd, without the need to layer.

Statement outerwear, on the other hand, typically came in two forms: bold coloured coats, or jackets with contrasting suede/leather sleeves. Again, the mix of textures and distinct sections offered something different to your traditional overcoats and leather jackets.

Even though these trends didn’t exactly set the industry on fire – perhaps they were a step too far for the majority of men – the concept of contrast sleeve detailing continued to develop as we progressed into SS13. Offering men a sure-fire way to individualise their look with ease, especially during the warmer months when multiple layers are not always practical, a couple of key pieces could be just what your current wardrobe has been crying out for.

Lookbook Inspiration

Below you will find campaigns from this season and next that feature the contrast sleeve:

allsaints ss13 allsaints ss13 allsaints ss13 pull & bear ss13 lacoste ss13 gant rugger aw13 river island aw13 river island aw13 tommy hilfiger sportswear aw13 zara man aw12 river island aw13 river island holloway road aw13

Contrast Sleeve Outerwear

Fabric blocking and statement outerwear will be pushed harder this year by both fashion houses and the high street, becoming huge trends for AW13 – check out River Island’s AW13 lookbook and our London Collections: MEN trend preview for confirmation. With this in mind, contrast sleeve outerwear is the best place to start if you are looking for a standout piece that will become a trademark of your personal style.

Suede and leather mix outerwear looks particularly great due to the combination of luxury materials. Both materials also age beautifully, becoming softer and developing character, ensuring that your jacket will look even better in years to come.

For those that desire a trend piece which will get them noticed, consider contrast sleeves that are bold and/or colourful. A mix of vibrant colours or prints cannot fail to make you stand out from the crowd, although the longevity of this style is questionable and therefore you should consider wisely how much you spend.

Those in search of a more timeless or refined style should gravitate towards tonal combinations – think black/grey/charcoal palettes, or tonal blue/grey. The subtle difference in hue will be enough to differentiate the body from the sleeves, and these styles are more likely to remain appropriate long term. Alternatively, look for a piece that creates a contrast through textures rather than colour, such as a black suede body with black quilted sleeves.

Key Silhouette: The Bomber Jacket

The bomber jacket is THE outerwear silhouette for SS13, yet it is a style that can work nearly all year round. A transitional season essential, a well considered bomber will take you through the early stages of spring through to the start of winter.

This season we have spotted a plethora of bomber styles featuring contrast sleeves. This detailing has also been combined with the industry’s current penchant for print, with multiple versions available that feature printed or patterned sleeves/body – an interesting twist but one that is likely to only stay relevant for the remainder of 2013:

  • Allsaints Muroto Bomber Jacket
  • Allsaints Henan Bomber
  • Topman Navy Paisley Bomber Jacket
  • Topman Grey Blue Suede Tipped Bomber Jacket
  • Arcteryx Veilance Subset Cotton-blend Bomber Jacket
  • Alexander Wang Bonded-leather And Wool-blend Bomber Jacket
  • Asos Bomber Jacket With Contrast Sleeves
  • Vintage Renewal Bomber Jacket
  • Topman Burgundy And Navy Textured Jersey Bomber Jacket
  • Tapestry Bomber Jacket
  • Lacoste Live Heavy Satin Blouson Jacket In Navy
  • Bellfield Quilted Bomber With Contrast Sleeves
Contrast Sleeve Tops

Contrast sleeves are starting to appear on everything from shirts and knitwear to t-shirts and polos for SS13.

With layering often impractical on hot days, a contrast sleeve t-shirt or polo can add something extra to your look without any additional effort. Combined with a pair of tailored shorts and some loafers, it will provide a welcome twist to a high summer daytime outfit. The same goes for short-sleeved shirts, which are currently experiencing a moment (another example of a slow developing trend).

Formal shirts are an option for working environments or events that would allow such pieces. A white version with black contrast sleeves would give the appearance of a traditional work shirt when layered underneath your blazer – and transform into a truly unexpected aesthetic once revealed.

Classic baseball-type jerseys and raglan sleeve sweatshirts have long adopted contrast sleeve detailing, making them a worthwhile addition to your casual wardrobe. They are offered by everyone from Topman and American Apparel to premium brands such as Rag & Bone and Our Legacy.

Building on the current bomber trend for printed/patterned sleeves, this technique has also been applied to t-shirts. Whether block-coloured bodies are combined with patterned sleeves or multiple prints are utilised, these t-shirts offer an affordable way to separate your casual style from the masses this season, and can be transitioned into layering pieces as we progress into AW13:

  • Topman Contrast Short Sleeve Shirt
  • American Apparel Poly-cotton 3/4 Sleeve Baseball Placket T
  • Asos Crew Neck Jumper With Contrast Sleeves
  • Allsaints Kazama Shirt
  • Topman Navy Contrast Scale Print Long Sleeve Smart Shirt
  • Carven Contrast Sleeve Shirt 146496
  • Bellfield T-shirt With Contrast Panel
  • Nn.07 Mens Mile T-shirt
  • Asos T-shirt With Printed Stripe Sleeve
  • Asos Cable Jumper With Jersey Arms
  • Asos Polo With Oxford Pocket
  • River Island Power Jumper In Colour Block
  • Topman Contrast Raglan Sleeve Sweatshirt
  • Alexander Wang Contrast-sleeve Cotton Shirt
  • Etro Pattern-front Wool And Silk-blend Sweater
Final Word

So there we have it, a detailing trend that only looks set to continue to build in popularity as the days get colder and the nights draw in.

Not all trends have to be revolutionary concepts, and something as subtle as a tonal contrast sleeve can be enough to individualise your look in a subtle and effortless manner.

But now we want to hear what you think:

  • Would you consider contrast sleeve outerwear?
  • Do you own any contrast sleeve pieces?
  • If so, how do you wear them?
  • Do you prefer a contrast in colour or fabric?
  • Is this the year that fabric blocking becomes a key trend?

Let us know in the comments section below…