Unconventional Summer Materials

Although snakeskin and leather are not the first fabrics that spring to mind for the warmer months of the year, it seems SS14 may be the season where menswear turns normal expectations on their head.

The volume of leather and snakeskin on the designer catwalks during the spring/summer 2014 previews was surprisingly high, while the variety of garments given the leather/snakeskin treatment was also vast.

So, forget all redneck cowboy and Jimmy Nail associations and read on to find out how these edgy materials have been given a warm-weather update…

On The Runways

Without a doubt, the biggest proponent of the snakeskin and leather trend was Trussardi. This probably comes as no surprise given that the brand has been a stalwart of accessories and leather goods for well over a century.

In February, Gaia Trussardi (daughter of founder Dante) was appointed Creative Director of the label’s mainline and her spring collection was fabricated almost entirely from skin, making use of thin, supple leather along with snakeskin prints and patterns.

The Trussardi collection included a gunmetal grey leather vest, white leather round neck t-shirt with matching leather shorts, and leather trousers in a dark silvery-grey.

In fact, leather trousers featured prominently throughout – coming in blue, grey and tan tones – with the brand opting for wide-legged and relaxed cuts rather than more traditional, slim-fitting styles.

Yet perhaps the boldest garment showcased by Trussardi was a terracotta leather boiler suit, paired with a matching blazer. Although a bit too much cow hide for our taste, it was certainly a striking look:

Trussardi were also one of the biggest supporters of the controversial snakeskin trend. A burnt orange snakeskin short suit made a real statement, while a slightly more understated pair of snakeskin trousers in grey-brown were combined with a tan leather shirt and snakeskin-effect sandals.

The same python-skin pattern applied to the trousers later featured on a shirt and was paired with beige shorts and brown ankle boots for a distinctly reptilian feel:

Versace was another brand that fully embraced leather in their collection, demonstrating an obvious penchant for biker jackets. These slim-cut bikers came in bronze, black and gold patterned leather, as well as more traditional black versions with extravagant bullet hole detailing.

All were paired with matching leather trousers, with Versace opting for slim-fitting styles in comparison to Trussardi’s more relaxed cuts.

That being said, baggier leather trousers did follow in interesting shades of mint green and light beige, for a true spring/summer feel. Versace even featured leather suits in single- and double-breasted cuts, which came in khaki and dark grey for a head-to-toe leather effect. An interesting fabric concept when applied to a traditionally formal garment.

Backing the reptilian trend, Versace also included a two-piece snakeskin suit in black and a cropped snakeskin biker jacket in a dark burgundy tone, which gave a textural feel to their leather goods. Interestingly, the snakeskin biker jacket was paired with a pair of non-leather trousers, creating a much more wearable outfit that would transition well to the high street:

Other designer advocates of the leather trend were Dior Homme, who featured leather jackets in shiny patent leather, and DSQUARED2, who included denim and cotton mix jackets with contrast leather sleeves, proving that leather detailing can be just as effective as an all-over leather piece.

Elsewhere, Christopher Raeburn opted to use snakeskin prints rather than snakeskin material, applying them to t-shirts and lightweight summer jackets. GQ online described the print as a ‘kaleidoscopic T-Rex pattern’, insinuating that Raeburn went a step further than traditional snakeskin by opting for an altogether larger beast:

Key Show: Richard Nicoll

However, our favourite designer collection to feature the snakeskin and leather trends while remaining stylish and wearable was Richard Nicoll.

Nicoll paired leather and snakeskin pieces with contrasting fabrics, which helped to balance each look, rather than creating the all-leather and head-to-toe snakeskin ensembles favoured by other fashion houses.

Stand-out outfits included a black leather biker gilet with zip detailing paired with a cotton short-sleeved shirt, black trousers and Converse-style shoes; and black leather trousers paired with a black mesh jumper, trainers and leather necklace for a slightly Gothic feel.

Nicoll went on to feature leather trousers in soft grey and turquoise shades, combining them with knitwear in similar tones, as well as black leather shorts, which were matched with a black leather t-shirt with contrast grey cotton sleeves.

The designer adopted the snakeskin trend in a unique way too, applying snake motifs in bright red and green to leather-sleeved bomber jackets and sweatshirts. More traditional snakeskin patterns were also seen on leather shorts, trousers, t-shirts and even a double-breasted overcoat – sounds garish, but due to the muted cream palette the effect was actually quite understated and didn’t overwhelm the look.

Nicoll completed his show by opting for a snakeskin pattern in a brighter, more summery electric blue shade – injecting a bold pop of colour into a predominantly subdued collection. This blue pattern was applied to t-shirts, shorts, trousers, bomber jackets and baseball caps, with the hue working particularly well as an accent or when worn as separates:

Fashion Press Reaction

With leather a recurrent fabric in menswear season after season, it’s unsurprising that its popularity – even during the warmer months – reigns supreme, with the fashion press wholeheartedly backing the trend.

GQ wrote that although it’s unusual to see leather feature so prevalently at the spring/summer shows, “by removing linings and taking the fabric as thin as possible, leather has been reworked into seasonally-appropriate attire for shorts, light trousers and especially in the form of loose yet structured t-shirts.”

The magazine went on to highlight the prevalence of reptile skins within SS14 collections, picking out several key pieces from Trussardi’s showcase. Similarly, The Guardian identified both Versace’s and Givenchy’s snakeskin sandals as one of their own SS14 highlights.

GQ also mentioned that Alexander Wang’s upcoming autumn/winter collection was heavily influenced by alpine style and the stand out piece was a ranger-style ankle boot with snakeskin accents on the toe cap. Following suit with snakeskin influenced collections for AW14 were Philipp Plein, with his ‘Noir Cowboy’ titled show, and Vivienne Westwood, demonstrating that this polarising trend is likely to remain in vogue for the remainder of 2014.

Elsewhere, Details magazine showed their support for leather detailing in a street style feature called ‘Just Add Leather’. The article included photos of an overcoat with leather sleeves, a jumper with leather funnel-neck and a pea coat with leather collar and sleeve panelling.

Details followed this up by publishing an article on bomber and varsity jackets, classing them as the go-to outerwear silhouettes for the current transitional season. The jackets featured included an A.P.C Kenickie Teddy Varsity Jacket with leather sleeves and pocket detailing, a Balenciaga Bomber Jacket in full leather and A Kind of Guise Golden Sun Blouson Bomber Jacket with leather sleeves and a shearling collar.

Lookbook Inspiration

Publish Summer 2013 loewe ss13 he by mango ss14 Samsoe & Samsoe ss14 Timo Weiland ss14 calibre aw14 asos 2014 allsaints ss13 Todd Snyder aw14 allsaints ss14 drykorn ss13 EXTRA BUTTER x Publish 2013

Key Pieces

The high street has embraced the leather trend with open arms. Visit any branch of Zara, Topman or River Island and you will already find a wide variety of items with leather patches, panels and pouches, as well as a more traditional range of leather accessories.

Snakeskin, although traditionally reserved for shoes and briefcases, has also made the transition to other types of clothing this season, with the pattern being widely applied to t-shirts and trousers:

  • Topman Monochrome Snakeskin Bow Tie
  • Another Influence T-shirt With Snake Pocket
  • Iuter Jaques Snake Sweatshirt
  • Allsaints Lycan Zip Hoody
  • Rick Owens Mens Savage Black Leather Vest
  • Allsaints Raydon Leather Shirt
  • Alexander Mcqueen Skull And Snake Skin-print Silk Scarf
  • River Island Blue Systvm Snake Print T-shirt
  • Topman Mono Snake Short Sleeve Shirt
  • Richard Nicoll Snake-effect Jacquard T-shirt 187420
  • Richard Nicoll Snake-effect Jacquard Baseball Cap 188272
  • Acne Studios Hans Snake Glazed Elaphe Slip-on Sneakers
  • Tim Coppens Leather-panel Cotton Sweatshirt 191446
  • Topman Navy Leather Look Sleeve T-shirt
  • River Island Black Leather-look Yoke Oxford Shirt
  • Topman Black Leather Look Pocket Blazer
  • Topman Grey Herringbone Leather Look Sleeved Blazer
  • River Island Black Ri Studio Leather-look Panel Polo Shirt
  • Balmain Skinny-leg Leather Track Pants 190630
  • B-side By Wale Leather T-shirt
  • Givenchy Leather Shirt
Final Word

It’s fair to say that snakeskin is likely to be a ‘love it or hate it’ trend, but the use of leather is something that will have a far wider appeal. Although an unexpected fabric choice for the spring/summer season, the finer, thinner cuts and removal of linings has turned it into a serious contender for SS14.

Of course, a trend is only successful if it is embraced by the men of the world. So as always, we want to hear from you: will snakeskin be slithering into your wardrobe this season? Is wearing leather in summer a stretch too far? Or does it make a refreshing change to the typical, lightweight cotton and linens we are used to seeing when the sun has got his hat on?

We welcome your thoughts and musings below…