Fashion trends are a lot like wasabi. (Hear us out). Applied sparingly, they lend your outfits a certain edge. Slather them on too liberally and expect tears. And yet, men are increasingly opting for the more-is-more option, diving feet first into looks as though what they see on runways, or on Instagram, has any relation to how anyone should dress in the real world.
“Trends should be something that enhance an outfit,” says Alexander McCalla, from men’s online styling service Thread. “They shouldn’t be the entire outfit.” Instead, he recommends using trends as a way to make core pieces feel current. “You can add something seasonal to the clothes you wear all-year and it will make your wardrobe feel up-to-date, without looking tryhard.”
To that end, here are six of this season’s biggest trends and the one thing you should borrow from each.
Tactical vests. Combat boots. Pockets on pockets on pockets. The warcore trend, spearheaded by don’t-call-them-streetwear brands like Heron Preston, 1017 Alyx 9SM and Off-White, is all about dressing for the barricades. Although considering the price tags, those barricades are more likely to be the ones marshalling the queue at a Dover Street Market sample sale.
The Take: Patch Pockets
You might think warcore is a spin-off from that perennial trend, military. But actually, it’s an extension of the practical clothes ushered in by normcore and then gorpcore (blame Vogue for these names, not us) – think fleeces, cargo trousers and hiking boots. A SWAT team-inspired vest is a tasteless style swerve with which we cannot get on board, but we are all about its clever layering and glut of pockets. So, to nod to this trend, look for clothes that look war-adjacent, rather than like Helmand Province cosplay; think patch-pocketed utility jackets, buckled backpacks and vests in canvas, rather than webbing.
The suit’s death was called prematurely. For the last couple of seasons, every runway has been awash in tailoring, from oversized double-breasted jackets at Louis Vuitton to Dior’s wraparound suits, which had more than a touch of the straitjacket. All share a shift in focus from the weekday to the weekend – they’re always worn with trainers, sometimes with string vests and, increasingly, straight over bare skin.
The Take: Double-Breasted And Coloured Suits
We’re all-in on the return to dressing up – it’s nice for something to challenge streetwear’s ubiquity – but we also recall the dark days of #menswear. When suits get peacocky, they stop feeling fun. This season’s move, then, is to strike the balance between uninspired and ostentatious. Now is not the time to dust off your navy two-button, unless you intend to wear it with a floral, Cuban collar shirt and bucket-sized trainers. Instead, think boxy, ideally double-breasted and in a lesser-spotted (but not blinding) colour. Pistachio, good. Highlighter green, bad. And please, unless you’re Jay Z – to be honest, even if you are – please don’t wear it bare-chested. If only for your dry cleaning bills.
With the nineties revival in full swing, it was only a matter of time before designers decided to re-assess rave culture. Neon, formerly an accent, went head-to-toe this season, with brands like MSGM, Versace and Acne (which did Stabilo-hued suits, to tick off two trends) getting their glow on.
The Take: Neon Colours
Unless you work on a runway – be it at Milan or Heathrow – neon is not a sensible all-over colour. It clashes. It washes you out. It’s the first – and, often, only – thing anyone looks at. But used sparingly, it can lift staid looks. A neon panel on a pair of trainers or a simple accessory, say, is easy to wear and pops against black jeans. A neon T-shirt or knit, if you’re feeling more adventurous, is easy to anchor with a denim jacket. The key is to stick to one piece at a time and choose your hues carefully. Unlike its namesake gas, neon is not a neutral, so avoid wearing it with other bright colours unless you want to become a walking migraine.
The long-held rules of pattern – match big with small, busy with simple, echo colours to bring disparate patterns together – are dead. This season’s runways saw scribbled florals alongside stripes (Charles Jeffrey Loverboy), leopard print with tie-dye (Needles) and even newsprint next to snakeskin (Versace).
The Take: Pattern-Mixing
The everything-at-once approach to pattern, when done well, can land. But get it even slightly off and you looked like you grabbed whatever was clean off your bedroom floor. To dip a toe into this trend, start with those bedrock rules detailed above, then build up. That means layering uniform patterns like stripes (feel free to mix vertical with horizontal) and dots, rather than trying to corral multiple animal prints into something cohesive. It’s also smarter (in every sense) to clash either patterns or colours, lest you slip into magic eye picture territory.
The fashion industry’s regular attempts to make men wear leather trousers is just another sign of the detachment between what works at fashion week, and what works on the commuter train in July. Especially since, this summer, those trousers were joined by leather vests, leather blazers, and even leather all-in-ones.
The Take: Leather Accents
Unless you travel between your air-conditioned hotel room and air-conditioned jet by air-conditioned limo, leather clothes are not much fun in summer. But leather details can be. A varsity jacket, with leather sleeves, taps the trend without leaving you sweating, and leather panels on trousers and sweatshirts are a more accessible way in. Alternatively, think accessories – leather backpacks and totes aren’t just more practical, they’ve also got a shelf-life of more than one season. No bad thing, considering how much decent leather costs.
Think nineties meets sixties, in a trend that’s equal parts Hacienda and Woodstock. What began with DIY brands like Cactus Plant Flea Market has now gone mainstream. When Comme des Garçons Hommes, Louis Vuitton and even Craig Green all show head-to-toe tie-dyed looks, you know it’s going to be unavoidable.
The Take: Playful Prints
Even if you can afford LV, full-look tie-dye can still smack a bit of patchouli candles, so it’s better to think in details. If you’re leaning into the nineties, then an oversized tie-dye tee – or even a bucket hat – is a nice way to punctuate a streetwear-heavy wardrobe. If you’re looking for something more grown-up, try a Cuban collar shirt or even a utility jacket. And know that for every rainbow-dyed, Grateful Dead tee, there a monochrome version that feels less like tour merch.