It’s been a busy year, with highs, lows and WTFs aplenty. We had more than one royal wedding, a world cup, a heatwave, the successful launch of a reusable rocket and a bit of a fuss about Europe.
Menswear has had its moment, too. And as always, there have been well-dressed people, badly dressed people, and in some cases (Melania Trump) wildly insensitively dressed people.
So how will 2018 be remembered? By style standards, these are the best and worst moments of the year that was.
Southgate Setting The Bar
For a while there it really was coming home, wasn’t it? The semi-finals. Of a World Cup. With Gareth bloody Southgate in charge. Incredible scenes, Geoff. Which makes it all the more astonishing that it’s Southgate’s waistcoat we’re still talking about in December.
A Marks & Spencer’s special, Southgate’s decision to leave his suit jacket on the bench showed a man at ease but in charge, considered but not flashy. A new approach to England managing and dressing. The nation (and presumably M&S, which saw sales double as a result) loved him for it.
Black Panther was more than just a movie, it was a cultural movement. A celebration of Afrofuturism wrapped up as a superhero movie, it reintroduced a huge audience to the vibrancy and depth of African art, design, style, philosophy and magic realism.
So if you thought the cast was going to turn up for the press tour in two-button navy suits, you were dead wrong, son. Chadwick Boseman especially dressed in a style that mirrored the Wakandan style. Not costume, of course, but not standard issue black tie either. Embroidered tunics, patterned silk wrap-shirts, heavily textured blazers. He looked, we’re sure you’ll agree, wild.
Virgil Abloh Storms Louis Vuitton
Fashion traditionally loves hype but dislikes outsiders. So, when Kanye West’s long-time collaborator, trained architect and creative mind behind Off-White, Virgil Abloh, was announced as Louis Vuitton’s successor to Kim Jones’, the fashion world licked its lips in anticipation. If he failed, he’d be easy to dismiss, if he played it safe, so what?
Instead, Abloh managed to pull off the trickiest of feats. He remained true to his vision of streetwear as luxury while at the same time dragging the 164-year-old fashion house right to the cultural forefront without diluting the brand. Oh and, most importantly, he did it by designing a collection that was artistically credible and commercially viable. Emperor’s new clothes? Maybe, but only because Abloh is fashion’s new emperor, and the clothes he makes are outstanding.
After Eminem and frosted tips, it looked like peroxide blonde hair on men was dead forever, so perhaps this should be an award for the biggest comeback of the year. Somehow, in 2018, dying your hair bright blonde became cool again. Will this last forever? Absolutely not. Perhaps, even by the time this article is published, it will have slipped back into ’90s novelty. But for a while this year, Zayn Malik and Riz Ahmed carried on the good work of Jared Leto and, dare we say it, Justin Bieber.
If you’re going to do it, do it now and make sure you invest in a decent haircut at the same time. Witness Ariana Grande’s ex, Pete Davidson, for proof that you get what you pay for.
Prince Harry’s Royal Flush
Imagine for a second that you are Prince Harry on your wedding day. Not a bad place to be. You’re an English prince on your way to marrying the woman you love. And then David Beckham turns up wearing a Dior tailcoat. He’s looking outrageous; perfectly tailored, a mix of tradition and modernity. Handsome. The whole country’s about to swipe right. The absolute brass neck of the man. You had your wedding, Dave, there are no do-overs.
Luckily for Harry, he had an ace up his sleeve: a classic velvet dinner jacket, a drop-top E-Type Jaguar and a beautiful bride to drive off into the sunset with. Even becks couldn’t compete with that. Well played, Harry. Well played.
Sustainability Gets Cool
Whatever the motivation, sustainability (or at least a move to a more sustainable fashion model) should be applauded. Baby steps like making supply chains transparent and being open and honest about production methods are helping brands satisfy their customer’s desire for accountability. But what’s to come: investment in sustainable initiatives, clothing designed to last a lifetime and even collection bins for old clothes in stores are big steps forward.
Most exciting? Adidas’ full foray into 3D printed trainers. Imagine that: no more queuing, no more waiting for drops, just trainers printed for you, right there in your front room. Saving the world looks good.
Bonfire Of The Brands
We get it, high fashion runs on supply and demand. Restrict the supply, and you’ll increase the demand. But bloody hell lads, there’s no need to burn your clothes. Burberry in particular came in for criticism this year for destroying £28m of last season stock and cosmetics to ‘protect against counterfeiting’.
In its defence, the British brand says it works hard to minimise excess stock production and have great outlet stores, as well as saying the process is “not something we do lightly.” That this process, something widely accepted happens across the board, was highlighted this year speaks volumes about the way in which popular opinion is changing and a brand’s eco credentials are becoming as important as its status.
The Profound Dullness Of Prince William
Let’s just say for the record that we wouldn’t swap places with Prince William. Sure, he’s been born into a life of unimaginable privilege and will never have to worry about storage space, but to live his life under constant scrutiny? And to have oiks like us calling him dull in ‘end of year’ articles? No thanks.
But Will, mate, couldn’t you take a leaf out of the old man’s book and invest in some more interesting suits? We’re not talking Elton John here, just something other than navy and grey. Incidentally, you know who looks cool? Pep Guardiola. And Jason Statham. And the Rock. Why? No reason…
The Return Of The Balaclava
Great design is often born out of necessity, which is why so much of the best menswear is influenced by sport and the military. But in the case of the ‘luxury balaclava’, as championed by Gucci, Calvin Klein and Undercover looks, well, a bit over the top. Not to mention terrifying.
Unless you’re planning a winter break to the arctic tundra or a new career as an armed robber, trying to make a balaclava work out of context, as you might a diving watch or an arctic parka, relies on you having the face of an angel.
Balenciaga’s Tribbiani Tribute
Spare a thought for the style editors and buyers, personal shoppers and influencers out there. It’s hard enough working in fashion already without the people behind Balenciaga offering up winter coats like this with no real explanation as to why.
How are we supposed to defend the style world when one of its hottest brands releases a Joey Tribbiani tribute coat and tries to flog it for £9,000. We can’t justify this as ‘superior craftsmanship’ or even ‘fashion as an artistic statement’ so what are we left with? Being laughed at in the pub, that’s what.
The military, where form must follow function, has given us plenty to be grateful for. Field jackets, aviator sunglasses, heavy-duty boots, khaki green, dog tags and frock-coats. These items have now crossed over into menswear as classics and live apart from their military heritage because they serve a purpose on civvy street.
But ‘warcore’, a sort of military-cum-freedom fighter hybrid? Not so much. At its best, it feels like an important expression of rebellion, but at its worst, i.e. suicide vest-style jackets, it feels like lazy provocation.
Irony As Fashion
It is, of course, your democratic right to dress like a fashion-bin man if you so wish. Ugly trainers, cross-body bag, oversized coats, garish colours and oddly fitting garms. It’s your right to spend a king’s ransom on such things as well.
But it’s also our right to point out that, objectively speaking, you’re being played like a total div. Think about it, a brand is purposely misspelling its name before printing it on a basic cotton T-shirt and flogging it to you for about the same as your half of the rent. Who’s the real idiot here?