Menswear has its familiar heroes. Whether it’s Tom Ford’s tailoring triumphs or COS’ budget-friendly boundary-pushing, it seems the usual suspects are always met with adulation – most of which, of course, is usually deserved.
Away from the glorious frontlines however, several brand design teams are in a state of flux as guys the world over demand a bigger slice of the fashion pie. Spurred on by the growing menswear market, some labels have booked in for an overdue face lift.
These same brands often adapt at a rate much faster than that of shoppers’ perceptions though, and a new window display isn’t always enough to command respect. Which is why it’s sometimes worth delving a little deeper.
Enter our rundown of the once-maligned menswear brands worth reconsidering – you might be pleasantly surprised.
Believe it or not, throwing chairs at German police officers during football tournaments is no longer a prerequisite for wearing Stone Island. The brand has done a total 180 since those heady days of a Chelsea Smile.
Today, Stone Island is thankfully more Frank Ocean than ‘Mad Dog’ Frankie Fraser and the label has amassed quite the celebrity following – Drake, Travi$ Scott and Russell Tovey being just three of its ardent wearers.
“The brand pushes boundaries when it comes to fabrics, technology and execution, which we see in […] phosphorescent fabrics and water-repellent wool,” explains Samuel Monaghan, Senior Stylist at Thread. Pretty solid stuff from a brand usually sworn off to footy hooligans.
Stone Island’s old (in)famous pieces have seen a little reinvention in the form of arm-patch jackets in primary hues, neon fleece sweatshirts and utilitarian grey holdalls. The brand is still forever blowing bubbles, albeit they’re far more style-friendly these days.
“The evolution of Stone Island is up there with the most diverse, exciting and original of any [of its] competitors,” says Monaghan.
First established in 1898 as one of the world’s finest tailors, T.M.Lewin has shown itself sorely lacking Savile Row prestige in recent years. Blame this on its ready availability or the odd ill-suited Canary Wharf dweller, but the brand does offer a huge off-the-peg variety that its competitors simply don’t. Even if you’re a thick-necked spindly-legged man of 4’3, you’ll still find something that fits the bill.
“We’ve used the same traditional shirtmaking methods for the last 118 years,” explains Louis Boroditsky, a spokesperson for the brand. “For example, our shirts aren’t made with fused collars – a tell-tale sign of a cheaper garment. Instead, we craft Italian wool suits and half-sizes at competitive prices, all of which are a rarity on the high street.”
Brand standouts include a wide array of silk ties, from office-friendly solid styles to Ivy League Ralph Lauren-esque alternatives – each priced at £34.95. Better yet, you can invest in the aforementioned Italian wool suits (again, at a stitch in comparison) and a well-stocked classic shoe range – they won’t set the runway alight, but they’re more than okay for weddings and formal events.
No longer the sole reserve of Carnaby Street tourists, Diesel is attempting to shake off its previously gaudy (and usually puffer) jacket. Its current output manages to manoeuvre through a tricky situation: Diesel’s biggest fans are from the continent where high street tastes are very different, but its new approach seems to have both sides of the Channel satisfied.
The brand’s latest collection pays homage to the Land of the Rising Sun. “This year marks 30 years since Diesel arrived in Japan and I wanted to celebrate this anniversary,” said artistic director Nicola Formichetti in a press release. “I remember being excited by a biker gang that had a style which fused America and Japan, and specifically wore sukajan.” Sukajan, of course, being Japanese for souvenir jacket – undeniably one of this year’s sleeper hits.
Other key pieces include classic leathers (by Diesel’s standards, at least), elbow-grazing shirts and quality denim that can sit within any wardrobe. The brand’s signature busyness is still present – it’s got to keep punters on board, after all – but you’re sure to find some real design contenders in the midst.
With a brand reinvention still in progress, GANT hasn’t yet succeeded in perking up the ears of style aficionados en masse. Once the uniform of bumbling dads in BHS and home county golf clubs, the American brand is targeting a much younger demographic these days.
An East London meets East Hampton vibe has resulted in relaxed casual separates that can be dressed up or down. Eggshell blue (a perfect complement to sunkissed/crisped skin, delete as appropriate) dominates the current seasonal output which cleverly panders to two tribes: the menswear classicists get their fix with varsity-esque stripes, and the trend-chasers are kept happy with bomber jackets and indigo prints.
GANT’s price points remain at the upper end of the high street but the brand’s latest designs wouldn’t seem out of place in A.P.C. – smart, polished yet still very much effortless.
Finding the cool in outdoorswear is a task more challenging than having to watch Tom Cruise’s Oprah interview on loop. Let’s be honest: how on earth is Gore-Tex ever going to find a home outside of Alaska?
Well, The North Face has conquered the summit with aplomb. Much like Patagonia, the label has taken two key components of its DNA (iconic branding, technically robust craftsmanship) and combined it with something new altogether – the athleisure trend. Unlike Patagonia however, its wave is yet to crest: a good thing for those that want to stay a step ahead.
Granted, the majority of The North Face’s offering is still very outdoor-focused, yet a few gems exist in the shape of block-colour tees, patch sleeve Oxfords and nylon bill caps. As the likes of Supreme and Palace are becoming increasingly coveted (read: sold out), streetwear savants are looking elsewhere – and The North Face is more than happy to meet the demand.
Other highlights include tri-colour cagoules and a sharp collection of parkas designed to withstand freezing cold temperatures without sacrificing on style. Turns out it’s not just for the ramblers after all.
Changed your tune on any of our featured brands? Or are there more you’d add?
Let us know below.