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The Modern Man: Business Dress

When we think of fashion, we think of eccentric style choices and vivid sartorial self-expression. Well, if you’re a woman that is. Compared to its female counterpart, menswear is often tame in comparison. Aside from sharp tailoring and blue denim, the world of menswear is one which has been stuck in a rut for too long due to social archetypes of masculinity and a relative lack of adventurous clients. However, the recent series of Menswear Fashion Weeks saw a new wave of designers come to the forefront by showing bold, statement pieces and re-designing our outdated views.

The growth of the industry and the new wealth of choice are indicative of a new, modern man that is beginning to replace the stereotypes of old. Unafraid to experiment and prepared to stand out, this new man is driving the future of menswear into a new, more exciting place. In this series of columns, we will see how the concept of androgyny is broadening and evolving past cliché. We will see how the lines between formal and casual are starting to blur, and we will see that men now have more choice than ever when deciding what to buy and what to wear. Essentially, we will see the influence of this modern man, and how he is quietly starting a sartorial revolution.

 

No words strike fear into the heart of man like ‘business dress’. Two simple words, yet together they represent a sartorial minefield. For me, these words conjure up uncomfortable memories of my school prom; being coerced into a scratchy, oversized suit and a bow-tie which almost asphyxiated me after a third vol-au-vent. The night taught me a well-known rule in menswear—namely, that a good suit is one of the best investments a man can make. So what happens to those of us with a tight budget? Because we can’t all afford Dior, most of us come to associate suits with restrictionbad tailoring, half-mast sleeves and the inevitable shirt-button gap are obstacles men have to face daily, purely for the fact that ‘business dress’ offers men little in the way of options.

The fact is frustrating, especially compared to the veritable feast of options that women have when it comes to dressing for the office. Top magazines run countless ‘day-to-night’ editorials depicting women in chic ‘business’ dresses, which can easily be transformed with a pair of heels and a slick of lipstick. Skirts come in a range of hemlines, trouser styles are more varied than ever and almost any outfit can be made office-ready with cleverly-chosen accessories.

Finally, menswear designers seem to be picking up on the idea that a collection needs more than sharp tailoring to survive. Designers such as Agi & Sam, Ada + Nik and Casely-Hayford are amongst the new wave of London-based visionaries blending a monochrome colour palette with relaxed silhouettes to create a new breed of clothing which is too casual to be formal yet too formal to be casual. This hybrid has been done in the past by established designers such as Rick Owens and Riccardo Ticsi; an attempt to blur the line of acceptability in terms of what men should and shouldn’t wear in the office.

Strictly speaking, there aren’t always fixed guidelines as to what constitutes ‘business dress’. A pair of black drop-crotch trousers teamed with cool brogues and a white button-up is the perfect antidote to a traditional suit which breaks no rules. The tweed jackets seen at Margaret Howell can replace a suit jacket in any ensemble, providing that the rest of the outfit sticks with a clean colour palette. Elsewhere on the runway, classic brogues were subtly updated via stacked soles and wood detailing.

Progression in fabric technology also means that sportswear and workwear are now more interchangeable than ever; men now have the opportunity to be comfortable in their work clothes. Jersey trousers are slowly beginning to replace the stiff, uncomfortable trousers that men have been forced to become accustomed to, and this season saw increased shirt lengths create an easy layered aesthetic which works as well in the office as it does in a bar. This new increase of variety means that the options available to men are slowly increasing, resulting in wardrobes which no longer need to be divided by ‘day’ and ‘night.’ Cool accessories such as a good briefcase or a pair of smart shoes can easily smarten up a casual outfit, whereas quirky cufflinks and bold bowties can add interest to a monochrome ensemble.

Essentially, designers are now catering to a new, modern man who is less afraid to take sartorial risks. As society progresses and men in the media continue to diversify, there are no longer fixed rules as to what constitutes a ‘well-dressed man’; even in the office. Double-breasted jackets and sharp tailoring will always have a place in menswear, but they can now be accompanied by drop-crotch trousers and stacked brogues. The chance to wake up in the morning and choose from a variation of workwear is one which is now being afforded to both sexes, and it is one which opens the door to young designers that think outside of the boxhinting at a brighter, more adventurous future for menswear.

-Jake Hall

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