Over the past five years or so, traditional British menswear has enjoyed a renaissance. Born out of a resurgent interest in Savile Row (spurred on by events like London Collections: Men), and a backlash against the late 1990s and early 2000’s notion of the sparkly-teethed, perfectly manicured, sarong-wearing ‘metrosexual’, late 2000s menswear went old-school.
We turned our backs on bling, showy branding and conspicuous consumerism, and heralded the return of Britain’s rich tailoring heritage. With that nostalgia came the resurgence of the dandy, and many of us not being able to move for tweed waistcoats and paisley pocket squares over the course of several seasons.
But these things are cyclical and inevitably we’ve started to shed our uniform of three-pieces, brogues and bow ties for something comparatively relaxed. Thankfully, this doesn’t mean an ill-judged return to Kappa track tops but something far sleeker instead: technical tailoring, a fusion of modern tailored silhouettes with performance-led fabrics and design features.
“Today, the new consumer is looking for lighter, more active tailoring which reflects his lifestyle,” says Joe Casely-Hayford, co-founder of contemporary menswear label Casely-Hayford, a brand known for its both traditional and forward-thinking approach to design. “We use sportswear influences and features as a way of enhancing comfort and function.”
Menswear stylist William Barnes sees sporty tailoring as part of a wider 1990s-gazing trend: “There’s certainly a movement back towards technical and sport-based fabrics on the whole. Tailoring is part of this. Technical details coming into tailoring isn’t new, a lot of what’s happening now is reminiscent of Prada Sport in the nineties.”
So, as we start to once again champion sporty suiting, the question is what gear should you look out for, and which brands are leading the race?
Spearheading the technical trend is the modernised suit. Functional and fuss-free, this contemporary tailoring features deconstructed silhouettes (softer, less rigid and less formal than Savile Row’s traditional fare) in man-made fabrications such as nylon and Gore-Tex (waterproof, windproof and offering enhanced breathability).
Other features you might find are press stud fastenings and a ‘tubular construction’ – i.e. no side seams.
The absence of seams combined with lightweight fabrics and a tailored silhouette makes the technical suit a viable smarter option that’ll still offer you protection against the elements. And while this approach of enhancing tailoring with fabrications traditionally reserved for sports- and outerwear is certainly innovative, it’s not exactly entirely new: “During the 1960s and 1970s, the Japanese were at the forefront of a textile revolution,” says Casely-Hayford.
“They began combining new synthetics with luxury natural fibres to make clothing more resilient. The Japanese have a unique sensibility which enables them to reinterpret the nuance and cultural style of any nation they choose, and always at the highest level. They understand the key elements of New English Tailoring.”
Testament to this tradition is Japanese label Teätora, whose packable nylon blazers and trousers masterfully combine sleek lines with ease of wear.
Teätora Device JKT
From a styling point of view, technical tailoring’s sportier leanings will jar with more formal pieces like smart twill shirts, ties and traditional brogues. So swap these out for a simple white T-shirt or grey cotton loopback sweatshirt and some minimal leather sneakers.
Technical Tailored Outerwear
Hardly anything new in and of itself – function-first brands like Stone Island have been offering innovative outerwear for decades, garnering interest from football terrace to front row – but with the spike in demand for well-engineered outerwear, come new contenders.
New York-based brand Isaora, for instance, is rapidly gaining a cult following for re-working performance- and military-inspired shapes and fabrications in contemporary fits to suit the style-conscious. Its 3L Tech UX Parka Shell draws on a classic M-51 shape but comes with unmistakably modern tweaks including a razor sharp cut, Japanese stretch nylon and bonded seams for maximum durability.
No one does minimal style combined with total performance better than Arc’teryx Veilance though. The Vancouver label prides itself on “Pinnacle product innovation tailored to the city” and is quickly rising in status in menswear circles for its ‘micro seam technology’ (stronger, narrower seams that minimise construction weight) that makes their wares lightweight, supple and easy to pack.
- Rains Waterproof Parka
- He By Mango Inner Jacket Technical Parka
- Uniqlo Men Ultra Light Down Half Coat The Water Defender
- Stutterheim Stockholm Raincoat
- Stone Island Tank Shield Short Parka
- Norse Projects Baldur Neoshell 3.0 Jacket
- Arcteryx Veilance Gore-tex Pro Shell Field Jacket
- Arcteryx Veilance Mionn Is Padded Shell Jacket
- Isaora Jacket
The Technical Gilet
The gilet has had a bad rap. Mainly owing to an unfortunate association with West Country farmers and a certain Chelsea–based TV show. But all’s change: “The gilet used to be about function over aesthetic,” says Sam Lobban, Buying Manager for Mr Porter.
“Now though, we’ve seen more sharply tailored options coming through that utilise technical ingenuity for warmth rather than bulk. Less bulk makes it easier to layer and men are much more likely to wear a gilet under a blazer as a styling piece nowadays.”
Mango Man AW14
Arc’teryx Veilance are again frontrunners when it comes to this kind of technology, particularly in its Mionn IS vest, an exceptionally lightweight style filled with Coreloft – a man-made Arc’teryx insulation that’s quick-drying and warm when wet.
Throw it over a sweatshirt with slim jeans, or make use of its minimal weight by layering under an overcoat or unstructured blazer.
- Uniqlo Men Ultra Light Down Compact Vest
- He By Mango Ultra-light Running Vest
- Hackett London Aston Martin Racing Lightweight Gilet
- Stone Island Shadow Project Garment Dyed Jacquard Gilet
- Norse Projects Ivan Light Down Vest
- Patagonia Down Sweater Vest
- Arcteryx Veilance Mionn Coreloft Shell Gilet
- Belstaff Quilted Shell Gilet
- Paul Smith London Padded Shell Gilet
Drawstring & Cuffed Tailored Trousers
After years of our poor limbs being entombed in the vice-like grip of skinny fits, trousers have finally started to relax a little. Several laid-back styles have worked their way into the men’s style armoury of late, including divisive wide-legged smart trousers. Perhaps one of the more digestible current trouser trends is for a tailored take on sweatpants.
Brands like Casely-Hayford, Wooyoungmi and Public School are splicing classic tailoring with sporty features such as elastic cuffed hems and drawstring waists: “This fusion of smart and sports-inspired is a welcome trend after the restrictive silhouettes that have dominated for so long,” says Lobban.
“The appeal of the drawstring trouser is in its versatility as a garment. It can be styled just as easily with a blouson jacket and simple T-shirt as it can with an Oxford shirt and derby shoes and they’re hugely popular with our customers.”
Luxury designers have the led the charge with this style, but as ever the high street has not been far behind, with spins on this hybrid trouser available at Topman, River Island and COS to name a few.
- Zara Jogging Trousers
- River Island Cuffed Trousers In Puppytooth
- Asos Skinny Cuffed Trousers In Wool Mix
- He By Mango Cuffed Hem Cotton-blend Trousers
- Reiss Scose Drawstring Tailored Trousers
- Topman Co-ord Collection Navy Cropped Trousers
- Chalayan Slim-fit Cotton-twill Trousers
- Wooyoungmi Tapered Wool-blend Twill Trousers
- Alexander Wang Pinstriped Brushed-cotton Trousers
Are you ready to tackle technical tailoring? Or do you skew more traditional in your style?
Have your say below.