The industry’s love affair with sportswear has continued for spring/summer 2014, as sports luxe aesthetics dominated the runways and global fashion weeks.

The Guardian recently published an article stating that menswear has two major sportswear-inspired looks to choose from for SS14: ‘Team Retro’, tying in nicely with the prominent 1950s Americana influences of the season, and ‘Team Tech’, which focuses on futuristic-looking fabrics and man-made elements. Vintage Americana has previously been covered at length on FashionBeans, so today we turn our attention to the more progressive side of the trend and, specifically, the inundation of mesh fabrics in menswear.

Instantly conjuring images of American sports such as baseball and basketball, mesh is really set to stamp its mark on the industry this spring/summer. Although a seasonally-appropriate and breathable fabric, its use outside of functional, sporting circles is relatively uncommon, which means applying mesh to other items of clothing is a revolutionary concept for fashion designers.

On The Runways

In our opinion, the most successful inclusion of mesh on the runways came courtesy of Emporio Armani. The show started with the label’s typically well-cut suiting, yet these tailored pieces were given a twist: blazers featured zip fastenings instead of conventional buttons and some designs even incorporated a mesh outer layer.

The collection included several translucent mesh t-shirts – coming in full mesh or featuring fabric patches – which were worn beneath slim-fit blazers/open shirts and paired with formal trousers and black lace-ups for a smart take on the trend. These mesh t-shirts later appeared in shades of blue and white, some of which incorporated a honeycomb pattern that added visual interest to the natural movement of the fabric.

Emporio Armani also sent a range of mesh knitwear down the runway. Coming in both cardigan and jumper form, they featured an all-over mesh effect or more subtle perforated detailing applied to the shoulders and sleeves.

Towards the end of the showcase the looks gradually became less formal, and this is where the sports influences really came to the fore. Mesh vests were paired with matching jackets and bombers, while mesh sweatshirts were teamed with sports-inspired trousers and white shoes complete with grey mesh detailing.

Mesh was even applied to a white barrel bag, demonstrating that this material works just as well on accessories:

Other designers that took a casual approach to mesh included Tim Coppens and Rick Owens. Coppens’ collection showed a clear Formula 1 influence, with his futuristic-inspired theme combining leather with mesh to create the illusion of metals and sharp, geometric lines.

On the whole, the collection sat at the more extreme end of the spectrum, with the signature piece being a fashion forward mesh jumpsuit with short legs and sleeves – perhaps not the most wearable of garments:

Rick Owens’ showcase was clearly driven by athletic influences, with the designer combining a range of unconventional spring/summer fabrics such mesh, leather and PVC.

The collection incorporated a lot of loose vests and short sleeve tees in translucent black mesh with zip detailing, as well as standard black cotton versions with cut-out geometric mesh panels:

Elsewhere, Christopher Raeburn featured a cream sweatshirt with mesh sleeves and an all-over mesh jumper with contrast solid cuffs and waistband.

Similarly, the undisputed King of sports luxe, Alexander Wang, jumped on the unconventional summer fabric bandwagon by featuring a lot of leather in his collection. However, the designer counteracted the stifling nature of the fabric by perforating it and using it for jerseys and shirts.

Wang proved that interesting visual effects are possible by layering mesh with other more dominant fabrics, with the combination adding depth and movement to an ensemble:

Fashion Press Reaction

On the whole, futuristic sports luxe influences – and, by default, the use of mesh in menswear – have been well-received by the fashion press. The Guardian, in particular, has dedicated many column inches to the mesh trend, claiming that “the new word to drop in men’s fashion is ‘athletic.’ From Kim Jones at Louis Vuitton to London’s Christopher Shannon and Humberto Leon and Carol Lim at Kenzo, the influence of sportswear looms large.”

The Guardian also published an article introducing the ten NewGen designers to watch out for in 2014, which included Astrid Andersen – the designer is renowned for taking sportswear staples and adapting them to create high fashion pieces, her most recent of which involved the reworking of hot pink mesh.

Elsewhere, GQ identified the self-titled ‘Fast-forward Modernism’ Calvin Klein Collection as one that made great use of mesh and other lightweight fabrics, which were applied to formal pieces rather than restricting them to casual sports attire.

Similarly, a recent issue of Shortlist specifically mentioned Ricardo Tisci’s SS14 Givenchy show, which took place on a basketball court separated from the audience by a wire mesh cage – a textural and visual mesh effect that carried across to the clothing itself.

Current Key Pieces

The use of mesh by high fashion designers has not gone unnoticed by the high street and online retailers. Visit any branch of Zara, Topman or River Island and you will find a wide range of mesh pieces, from tees and knits to bomber jackets and shorts.

Topman is stocking a range of simple cotton t-shirts featuring mesh emblems and motifs in different shapes, including stars and triangles as well as colourful images such as sharks, renaissance prints and floral patterns. This use of coloured mesh is interesting as the designer collections generally only featured monochrome pieces.

Likewise, Zara are currently pushing mesh tees and vests with number emblems reminiscent of American football jerseys within their latest lookbook, while River Island are selling a range of tees and sweatshirts with mesh sleeve detailing and matching mesh shorts:

boohoo ss14 asos ss14 topman h&m ss14 river island ss14 boohoo ss14

At the more expensive end of the spectrum, designer websites such as MR PORTER and oki-ni are currently stocking shirts and t-shirts from Tim Coppens’ collection, along with a range of Sunspel polos in mesh fabrics.

Other key pieces include a pair of Paul Smith mesh detail boots and a Marc by Marc Jacobs mesh tablet case in camouflage print – showing that mesh can be applied to accessories in a more hardy fashion:

  • Christopher Raeburn Men’s Black Mesh Sleeve Sweatshirt
  • Asos 3/4 Sleeve T-shirt With Mesh Sleeve
  • Asos Vest With Mesh Overlayer And Extreme Racer Back
  • Topman Black Longer Length Mesh T-shirt
  • Topman Black Mesh Panel Polo Shirt
  • Zara Mesh Blazer
  • River Island Purple Mesh Panel Jumper
  • River Island Red Mesh Yoke Polo Shirt
  • River Island Black Ri Studio Mesh Bomber Jacket
  • Gucci Double-layered Mesh And Crepe T-shirt
  • Topman Black Mesh Panel Short Sleeve Smart Shirt
  • Sunspel Riviera Long-sleeved Cotton-mesh Polo Shirt
  • Tim Coppens Slim-fit Mesh-panelled Cotton Shirt
  • Topman Silver Mesh Shorts
  • Topman White Open Mesh Jumper
  • Rick Owens Drkshdw Mesh Snapback Cap
  • Richard Nicoll Mesh Pointelle Sweater 187398
  • Topman Black Mesh Barrel Bag
  • Paul Smith Shoes & Accessories Rocco Lace And Mesh Shoes 185450
  • Paul Smith Men’s Black Morrison Mesh Boots
  • Rivieras Cotton Mesh Slip-on Shoes
Final Thoughts

The increasing use of mesh within designer collections is quite clearly a direct response to the sports luxe trend that continues to dominate menswear.

Although lightweight and perfect for the summer months, brands such as Burberry and Vivienne Westwood also made use of mesh within their AW14 collections, meaning that this fabric trend looks to have some longevity.

So what do you think – the amount of items currently available on the high street is huge, but is this a trend you see yourself following? Or should mesh remain a fabric used for activewear and sportswear only?

As always, we welcome your opinions below…