Vintage Americana

Much like nautical and military, Americana continues to influence and play a prominent role within menswear each and every season.

The term Americana is undeniably wide-ranging and its definition differs depending on who you ask. For SS14, designer and high street collections have made clear references to 1940s and 1950s America – from Ivy League-inspired aesthetics and Hawaiian prints to the timeless style of silver screen icons such as Marlon Brando and James Dean.

A perfect accompaniment to the warmer spring/summer months, this year’s Americana trend combines a colourful palette and vivid patterns with a slight rebellious streak for those daring enough to embrace the look.

On The Runways

Two major design houses showcased strong Americana influences in their SS14 previews: Louis Vuitton and Missoni.

Kim Jones, Head of Menswear at Louis Vuitton, was inspired by a road trip across America and looked to echo this feel within his spring/summer line, referencing everything from Ivy Leaguers and frat boys to greasers and trust fund babies. A wide and varied collection, it was clear to see the development from one look to another.

Following the end of World War II in 1945, men’s fashion started to move away from traditional monotones hues and began embracing colours/patterns in a form of rebellion after a period of austerity and rationing. Louis Vuitton looked to visualise this transition by applying check and plaid motifs to classic blazers, suits, shirts and shorts. The label went on to combine bold coloured and checked separates, creating a mish-mash effect that worked extremely well and helped bring this vintage aesthetic bang up to date.

Surprisingly, wide collared, peak lapel shirts were prominent throughout the collection – a style described by GQ as being worn “by the Beat Generation’s finest: Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William S Burroughs”. These were offered in bright hues and paisley patterns, while other more subtle prints included an interesting black and midnight blue tie-dye.

Outerwear has long been a key component of preppy style, particularly the varsity jacket, and a highlight of the label’s SS14 showcase came in the form of a striking red cropped jacket complete with collegiate patches and a big ‘V’ letterman-style logo. Other cropped blousons and baseball jackets also featured in various colours and fabrics, including navy cotton, light brown leather and pillar box red snakeskin – with shapes and cuts reminiscent of James Dean’s iconic red windbreaker in Rebel Without A Cause:

Missoni followed suit by featuring multiple short-sleeved peak lapel shirts in vivid Aztec-style patterns, which were worn with the collars open and matched with suits in wide-legged fits, giving them a distinct 1950s Americana feel.

These trousers were worn high on the waist, typical of beatnik/rockabilly styling, and printed tees were often layered beneath the open shirts – a great look for the current transitional months where temperatures can be wildly unpredictable.

The Missoni collection also combined cardigan-style blazers with high-waisted, loose-fitting khaki trousers or chino shorts, championing the Ivy League aesthetic commonly associated with 1950s middle America:

Elsewhere, Ermenegildo Zegna featured a variety of relaxed cut, high-waisted suits paired with coloured/patterned shirts; these were also layered underneath knitwear with the sleeves rolled up so that the colour/pattern of the shirt was visible at the cuffs.

Nicole Farhi was another designer who favoured peak lapel shirts, including short-sleeved versions in textured olive green and blue-grey fabrics. They were worn with the collar open and paired with wide-legged textured trousers and espadrilles for a laid-back Americana feel.

Similarly, Canali featured open-collared shirts in plain and patterned styles, which were combined with blazers and non-matching, relaxed-cut trousers:

Fashion Press Reaction

As Americana influences and aesthetics are prominent within menswear year after year, it comes as no surprise that the fashion press has reacted positively to the trend.

GQ picked out Americana as one of SS14’s top ten trends, while MR PORTER highlighted varsity jackets as a core component of the look in a recent edition of their acclaimed Journal.

The March issue of Deluxe, a supplement within London’s popular Evening Standard newspaper, included a multi-page feature on this season’s Americana influence, highlighting a number of stand out runway pieces including a Saint Laurent bomber jacket, Gant’s selection of khakis, a Paul Smith Hawaiian print pocket square and a range of chunky collegiate-style cardigans.

Similarly, the SS14 issue of Shortlist Mode picked their fifty key pieces for the season and included a variety of items with clear Americana links, such as a Hawaiian print shirt by Karmakula, printed blouson jackets by H&M and River Island, and a palm print sweater by Franklin & Marshall.

Focusing on the darker side of the trend, Mode also published an article breaking down the influence of 1940s/1950s cinematic anti-heroes on menswear. Marlon Brando’s classic leather jacket and white tee combination from The Wild One and James Dean’s white t-shirt and red windbreaker jacket from Rebel Without A Cause were identified as two iconic looks that continue to inspire contemporary fashion both on and off the runways.

Yet the Americana influences didn’t stop there – Mode went on to include an editorial photographed in the mid-West desert, utilising several peak lapel shirts by designers such as Prada and Missoni, along with blouson bombers by Saint Laurent and Louis Vuitton. Another article featured night surfers, providing the perfect opportunity to showcase some of the best Hawaiian-inspired patterns that have been applied to shirts, shorts and tees for SS14.

It’s interesting that a biannual publication would dedicate such a huge portion of their content to one overarching theme – which just goes to show how far-reaching and popular the Americana trend is likely to be this season.

Modern Lookbook Inspiration

With Americana influences so wide and varied for SS14, this is a trend that can be incorporated into any wardrobe. Whether you want to create an edgy rockabilly-inspired aesthetic, inject some life into your wardrobe via a Hawaiian print or simply add a preppy touch to your ensembles with a classic varsity jacket, there is something for every personal style:

Gant Rugger SS13 T.I For Men SS14 Loewe SS13 Marc Jacobs SS14 Tommy Hilfiger SS13 Pepe Jeans SS14 Ovadia & Sons SS13 Zara SS12 Ben Sherman AW12 Ben Sherman SS12

Key Pieces
  • Levi’s Hawaiian Print Shirt In Dark Green
  • Asos Hawaiian Shirt In Short Sleeve With Floral Print
  • Afends Panther Varsity Jacket
  • Obey Varsity Jacket In Red
  • Universal Works Baseball Jacket
  • Pepe Leather Bomber Jacket Beat Slim Fit
  • Uniqlo Men Belted Shorts Glen Check
  • Topman White Gothic Baseball T-shirt
  • Gant Rugger Chambray Varsity Jacket
  • Marni Regular-fit Cotton-blend Trousers
  • Reiss Stanhope Formal Pleat Trousers
  • M&S Crease Resistant Active Waistband Single Pleat Lightweight Trousers
  • Reiss Williamsberg Tile Print Shirt
  • Topman Makahiki Hawaiian Short Sleeve Shirt
  • Reiss Rego Cuban Collar Shirt
Final Word

Americana is not a particularly original or new trend, but that doesn’t make it any less important in menswear this spring/summer.

But what do you think? Is it good to see the return of a recurrent trend in a slightly different guise? Or is it just more of the same, in your opinion?

As always, we welcome your thoughts and musings below…