They say the years speed up with age. If that’s true, we must really be getting on because 2018 has been one of the fastest on record.
The time that separated the turn of the New Year and the start of Christmas celebrations raced past in a dizzying blur of bungling Brexit negotiations, World Cup Fever (read: World Cup Disappointment) and more royal weddings than you could shake a solid-gold, taxpayer-funded sceptre at.
Blink and you’d have missed it. Which would’ve been a pity, actually, because as swift as 2018 was, it still managed to bring with it a staggering amount of menswear greatness (and not-so-greatness) in the form of throwback revivals, high-profile brand hookups, hyped trainers and beyond.
From high-fashion highlights to the best and worst of the year’s trends, here we hand out the official FashionBeans Awards for services to Menswear in 2018.
Sportswear Brand Of The Year
If you’d told us five years ago that in 2018 a Fila trainer would be the second most-searched fashion item on the net, falling only behind the iconic Gucci logo belt, we’d probably have told you to take it easy on the crack pipe. Yet here we are.
Thanks in no small part to the nineties revival, the Italian label managed to rebuild its damaged reputation, going from sale rack to runway and becoming one of the year’s biggest success stories in the process. At the core of this was the Disruptor – a bulky, white, platform-esque stomper that took off with unprecedented success.
Then there were the collaborations. From young, renegades like London’s Liam Hodges to esteemed Italian fashion houses like Fendi, it seemed every designer worth their salt was desperate to team up with the retro legend this year, and things only look to be gearing up as we transition into 2019.
Most Influential Designer
Sustainability is without a doubt the biggest buzzword in fashion at the moment. However, unlike ‘normcore’ and ‘DILF’, it’s one that actually carries significant weight.
Stella McCartney has been sustainable since day one, refusing to use fur, down or even leather and boycotting suppliers if there was so much as a whisper that their produce wasn’t ethically acquired. She has also set her label strict environmental targets, like using organic cotton, avoiding endangered forests, and reducing her use of oil-based synthetics.
It’s an approach to fashion that saw her ridiculed in the past, but she remained steadfast in her commitment. Fast-forward to 2018, and all the biggest names in fashion are following suit. Gucci, Versace, Armani, Burberry and Calvin Klein have all announced their intentions to go fur-free, and as awareness around sustainability in fashion continues to grow, Stella McCartney is beginning to look less like an outsider and more like a leader.
New Menswear Icon
Jonah Hill’s transition from bumfluff-bearded, flannel-shirt-and-fedora-wearing kid into straight-up fashion killer has been a joy to behold. It made us feel all warm inside. We’d imagine it’s the same feeling you might get from watching your child excel at school after a particularly ropey parents evening, or releasing an injured bird back into the wild and watching it instinctively adapt to its natural environment for the first time. We’ve watched him grow into his own unique sense of style over the course of a decade, and it’s been epic.
Whether he’s getting papped out and about in Hollywood draped in skatewear courtesy of Palace and Bianca Chandon, or strutting the red carpet in slick black tailoring, it’s clear that this is a man who knows how to dress. For us, Jonah Hill is one of the coolest guys in Tinsel Town and a bona fide menswear icon who we can’t wait to keep watching evolve over the years.
Everyday Brand Of The Year
Marks & Spencer
Bashing Marks & Spencer has become a favourite pastime for everyone from business journalists to those who like to think they’re one step ahead of the menswear curve. They call it old-fashioned. They say it’s boring. It’s where their grandparents go to stock up on pyjamas, so why should it be worthy of a place in a sartorially superior wardrobe?
This dated outlook has seen younger consumers missing out on some of the best everyday clothing around. We’re talking selvedge denim, vegan footwear and high-quality tailoring that won’t break the bank nor your style credentials.
Speaking of which, this year also marked a widely praised suiting collaboration with brand ambassador David Gandy, as well as some good PR during the World Cup thanks to England manager Gareth Southgate and that waistcoat. Couple this with an unsung yet sturdy commitment to sustainability and it’s plain to see why M&S was the best place to stock your wardrobe in 2018.
Style Move Of The Year
Do Whatever The F*ck You Want
When it came to flaunting a bit of personal style in 2018, the rule book got torn up, spat out and quite possibly stitched back together as a suit and worn to a red-carpet event by an A-list celebrity.
It was the year of anything goes. The year when Jared Leto’s dress sense began to (almost) blend in. The year in which it became the norm to see not just dinner suits at film premieres, but also floor-length puffer jacket gowns, men in dresses and everything in between.
We saw baseball caps married with Savile Row tailoring, the biggest pop stars on the face of the Earth in tie-dye T-shirts à la your embarrassing uncle, and chunky trainer across the board. It was bold, it was brilliant, and this is just the beginning.
Luxury fashion houses have long relied on low-ticket items like accessories and fragrances to make sure everyone can buy into their brand. Meanwhile, premium products like clothing and shoes uphold an air of exclusivity. It’s a marketing trick as old as fashion itself, but this year it took a turn for the ridiculous.
Suddenly, consumers were shelling out £100 for a pair of socks or half a month’s rent on a baseball cap. Why? Because they had ‘Balenciaga’ or ‘Vetements’ slapped on them.
In reality, these items are no different to something you might buy from a street vendor, with ‘I Love London’ emblazoned across the front – some of them are no doubt even come out of the same factories. The difference is by purchasing something with that name attached to it, shoppers get the illusion of luxury, even though what they actually have is nowhere close to it.
Polo Ralph Lauren x Palace
Aside from our own tie-up with London menswear label Percival, there is one joint effort that really stands out from 2018. Rewind to mid-October. Three giant billboards popped up in Tokyo’s Shibuya district showing a simple image: a polo player on horseback with the word ‘Palace’ written directly beneath.
To the casual observer, this might not have seemed like much, but to the seasoned streetwear fanatic it marked the announcement of one of the biggest collaborations in recent memory. Iconic preppy label Polo Ralph Lauren would be hooking up with fashion-leaning skate brand Palace for the first time ever, and the hype was palpable.
The collection dropped on November 9 and included vibrant, patterned rugby shirts, a corduroy puffer jacket, plaid tracksuits and beyond. In short, the two brands had taken the key elements that make each of them what they are and combined them in exact equal measures.
Proving once again that the 20-year trend-cycle clock is still ticking to the nanosecond, 2018 was when the nineties revival really got its claws into menswear. We were treated to contemporary reincarnations of our favourite childhood trainers, the reemergence of baggy jeans and, for better or worse, the return of wraparound sunglasses.
It wasn’t just our wardrobes and accessory drawers that were infiltrated, though. Haircuts got a nineties makeover too when, against all the odds, curtains made a comeback. It was a shift that even the most open-minded of barbers would have struggled to foresee. But then again, after the man bun, anything is possible.
Perhaps the most significant side effect of the nineties revival, though, is the chance it has given to a number of brands that had otherwise faded into obscurity. These retro sportswear labels are now some of the most sought after on the market, and with sales continuing to soar, that doesn’t look set to change any time soon.
Most Wearable Trend
This year’s Fashion Week runways were awash with more denim shirts, western jackets and jeans than Ralph Lauren’s walk-in wardrobe. Americana was back, and it was taking the world of fashion by storm.
It’s one of the select few trends from this year’s catwalk shows that we regular guys can get on board with. The garments aren’t too ‘out there’, they’re nice and casual, and they can be paired up nicely with the majority of your existing wardrobe.
So, while the Raf Simons’ shiny, satin cowboy shirts and Palm Angles’ studded denim jackets probably aren’t going to be taking up residence in our rotations anytime soon, the overarching theme is something we all can definitely glean some valuable style inspo from.
High-Fashion Brand Of The Year
Any haute couture elitists out there still believing the collision of high fashion and streetwear to be nothing more than a fad were served a big slice of humble pie in March courtesy of Off-White founder Virgil Abloh.
The self-confessed former skater kid and pioneer of ironic branding made headlines when it was announced he would be stepping up as artistic director of menswear for historic fashion house Louis Vuitton. His debut collection showed at Paris Fashion Week in June, and was met with universal acclaim.
It was a smart move by LV, and marked another step toward winning over a younger and more street-savvy audience following 2017’s hookup with transcendent skate label Supreme. Appointing Abloh allowed the fashion house to compete with the likes of Balenciaga and Gucci, who until recently had considerably more clout on the streetwear scene.
Trainer Of The Year
Nike x Sean Wotherspoon Air Max 1/97
With the sheer volume off knockout trainer releases in 2018, you might think that selecting just one pair would be a difficult task. It wasn’t. Even amongst all the 3D printing, transparent uppers and mind-boggling sole technology the past 12 months threw at us, there was one shoe that stood out.
Long time collector Sean Wotherspoon’s corduroy reinterpretation of the Air Max 97 had sneakerheads climbing over one another to get their hands on a pair. And it’s not difficult to see why: the contrasting layers of pastel colour to the upper; the wave motif on the tongue; the textured fabrication; and, of course, the fact that this is not one but two shoes in one (that’s an Air Max 1’s sole unit). So wrong, but oh lord, so right.
Best Hair Trend
If Timothée Chalamet, Dev Patel and – dare we say it – Justin Bieber are doing it then it’s probably worth paying some attention to. Mid-length hair ruled the roost this year and, to be frank, there have been worse hair trends.
Wavy locks were everywhere in 2018, and it was about time too. The past decade brought us everything from undercuts to military flat-tops – all of which were lacking a tad in the length department.
We’re happy that this hairy problem has been stylishly rectified now, and as long as things don’t get too much longer, we’re all for it.
Watch Trend Of The Year
This year marked what looks like a shift in the way the stuffy old watch industry goes about its collaborations. Until now, watchmakers have stayed away from the shifts in fashion and been reluctant to let outsiders play with their precious dials.
This year, however, saw Bell & Ross create a watch with streetwear label A Bathing Ape and Tag Heuer let Hiroshi Fujiwara, a Japanese street style designer and influencer, design a limited edition Carrera. Meanwhile, Zenith made an official collaboration with Bamford Watch Company, the customisation company that not so long ago was eyed with deep suspicion by watchmakers. What it means for the average watch fan is even more covetable wrist candy to daydream about.