In my first proper post for this site, I will reflect on how I see my style potentially evolving in the coming year. One of my personal mantras is ‘always have a plan’: a plan that is thought-out, but not so much that it is a straitjacket. That is what this post is about: my vague plans for the year ahead, framed by the ways I see myself. I’m also necessarily emphasising these vagaries because – well, if I embarrassingly drop out of these resolutions then I can worm my way out of them…
In this post I firstly talk about my thoughts on fashion in general, how I would sum my own style to the present. I then move to talking about my two ‘icons’ for this year, examples of what I intend to do. I end with a gallery with a few items of clothes I like/own that fulfil what I’m talking about.
Style is about personality, appropriateness, creativity and age. I am (lucky enough to be) young and my style in recent years has been very much in line with the ‘heritage’ trend that has been revelatory in menswear. Brogues, tough and classic jeans in slim/skinny indigo, Oxford shirts, knitwear like Fairisle jumpers and shawl cardigans. There is no way I’m ditching that style completely: just that I want to bring a new twist to it. I know how to dress in both the ‘heritage’ and ‘workwear’ look in (what I think is) a very confident manner. This year’s about going a little beyond that. In the past I’ve been about exploring colour and print. This year I think I’m going to shift from a rainbow palette to a dark or stormier sky: greys, black/monochrome, inky navy, with colour where I wish to inject it like rays of light. Darkened landscapes provide other colours I take to: deep browns, dark greens. Living in the UK, the inspiration is right in my face, after-all. This is all getting very artistic and potentially overboard but – why not? It’s all part of the creative fun.
Men all too often are obsessed with style ‘rules’. These are more the sign of a lack of confidence than anything, and they only really benefit men who are starting to be conscious about fashion. These rules are, for the most part, only really useful or applicable when dressing smartly. ‘Rules’ like co-ordinating your leathers or metallic items are purely aesthetic, they’re guidelines; on the flipside, rules like not buttoning the bottom button on a suit jacket are to do with the way the garment drapes and sits on the body (i.e. they are just good sense, a way of maximising the impact of what you are wearing).
In 2015, I want to start bending aesthetic guidelines in a very conscious way. This approach has never been more popular. A glance at numerous runways shows this – from the juxtapositions of street and high fashion (‘sports luxe’) by Givenchy, to the print and tailoring looks by Burberry Prorsum (the apex of ‘heritage’ fashion). Rather than taking to Guardian comments complaining about the frivolity of this (see examples ad infinitum) like a bore, I think there is definitely something in this, something to learn from, something creative/fun/amusing.
One area I take inspiration from is both the men and women around me. I like to observe and learn from those around me and those who I admire when it comes to fashion, regardless of gender. I am going to make some hasty, general observations: women are often fantastic at accessorising; co-ordinating or clashing colours; juxtaposing smart and casual items; injecting print or colour into their clothing; playing with gender conventions, juxtaposing items and wearing outfits which play with the way that clothing plays a role in the social construction of gender. Those with a keen eye may have noticed that British men, more and more, are doing similar things. If you were to do a rough survey, though, I would speculate that you would find that men like me are still in the minority.
A shift in icons
One way I think of my potential style this year is in terms of a slight shift in my icons, the touchstones who I channel, from whom I take inspiration. Late last year I started learning more about contemporary Japanese fashion, and found in it a hybrid of styles that really resonates with me. Around that time, Mr Porter.com published an issue of The Journal based around Japanese fashion. Japanese culture was ubiquitous during my childhood and young adulthood: Japanese anime, cinema, electronics, and videogames were all a big part of my everyday life. One of the articles in The Journal gave a profile and some quotes from some of Japan’s key menswear designers. In it, Shinsuke Takizawa – the founder of streetwear giants Neighborhood – summed up why I find Japanese/Tokyo fashion intriguing:
Since around the 1980s people have been mixing different categories and genres. This is Tokyo’s original style, and it’s always evolving – but it has recently become cleaner, mixing heritage and sportier styles.
Yosuke Aizawa, founder of White Mountaineering, meanwhile said that:
“A fusion of outdoor style and fashion is what I aim to express,”
‘Fusion’, ‘mixing’, ‘ evolving’, ‘heritage and sportier’ and ‘outdoor style’: all things I find seriously appealing. There’s a reason why British heritage companies Dr Martens and Barbour, or the European and American sportswear giants, are so ‘big in Japan’. Whereas smart wear, as I explained above, is usually about mastering co-ordination and appropriateness, smart-casual and casual wear is free of the arbitrary rules that decide whether you are ‘serious’ enough to do business or be hired. Many of these brands (including Neighborhood) make inventive use of prints (camo, Breton stripes, animal print), sportswear (technical designs and classics like canvas Converse trainers), heritage pieces like jeans, and Ivy League Americana (varsity jackets in particular). These are all fusions that I am on board with and can be seen in numerous street style pictures from Tokyo.
So what about me? My day job is as a (young/Early Career) academic and research student. I cannot lie: I love wearing tweed jackets, brogues and so on, the stereotypical ‘tools of the trade’ uniform of academics. But I don’t like to inhabit that role all the time, and I am still young. 2015 for me is about making that relaxed yet sharp fusion between smart and casual right. To do that I’m starting to feel more interested darker colours – oxbloods, dark greens, black, grey, very dark navy. Those colours bring an immediate ‘smart’ sheen, and also anchor brighter colours – they’re Win-win. With a bit extra print and colour where appropriate, I’ve decided my two ‘icons’ which describe what I’m going for are:
1. Daniel Sturridge
The Liverpool FC forward has become somewhat of a fashion icon in the last year. He has placed highly in several, prominent ‘best dressed’ menswear lists, and been photographed attending fashion shows. He has appeared in fashion shoots for Esquire and The Guardian, and was described by VICE as the first ‘hipster footballer’. FashionBeans sums up his aesthetic:
“A welcome antidote to the considered tailoring and subtle details of many of his list mates, Sturridge swaps timelessly classic for achingly cool and contemporary. Taking his cue from streetwear trends, Sturridge mixes reverse layering with longer lines, oversized silhouettes and statement head wear. And he’s got what must be one of the world’s most comprehensive trainer collections, to boot.” – FashionBeans Best Dressed Men: 2014 by Alex Woodhall
He is a living embodiment of what’s called ‘sports luxe’: the intersection between high fashion and sportswear. As a black footballer in his early 20s, with a relatively tall (6’2), skinny but athletic frame he’s in many ways the perfect candidate for this style (a big juxtaposition to the burliness of Kanye West, another icon of this hybrid). He joins a select group of footballers (David Beckham, Hidetoshi Nakata to name a couple) who are superb athletes and are truly stylish men. In an interview with Complex, Sturridge said something very refreshing:
Sturridge freely admits his interest in fashion, alongside his love of music and football. Along with his very similar age, in some ways I see Sturridge as ‘representing’ my generation. He uses the phrase ‘our generation’ several times in the Complex interview, in relation to hip-hop star Drake, showing he’s conscious of his age.
What do I love about his style? He really makes black and dark coloured clothes look great – in co-ordination with other dark items and contrasting ones. His style is a fusion, the merits of which Aizawa and Takizawa speak of above. When I first started getting into fashion, I tried to move away from wearing black, especially in terms of shoes and (leather) accessories. Apart from essential skinny black trousers (jeans, smart, joggers and chinos), I’ve come to think of black as a funereal or black tie option. However, Sturridge does not approach black from that formal standpoint. He does so from the sports-luxe, uber-postmodern, smart-casual direction. I love colour, but sometimes there really isn’t anything cooler or more appropriate than monochrome. I doubt if I am ever going to really go for the full Rick Owens (-esque) look, but he has an enviable, identifiable swagger and style to him. He artfully puts together many items men already own, like t-shirts, jeans, hats, bombers, boots and trainers. Hemlines are dropped and asymmetrical in line with the sports-luxe penchant for such silhouettes. I realised the power and ease of this style in autumn last year, when I got a black bomber jacket by Selected Homme.
Last year, Steve McQueen (the legendary actor and racer, not the artist/film director) was one of my icons. Sturridge represents what someone like McQueen might wear now, at the cutting edge of men’s fashion design.
2. Edward Cullen in the original Twilight
Isn’t he gorgeous?…
This will probably even raise laughter from some, derision even. Hear me out. Cullen has game, especially in the grungier, indie-ish, first film Twilight (directed by Catherine Hardwicke). I re-watched Twilight over Christmas/New Year with my girlfriend. Besides it reminding me how decent a film it is (pleasantly, surprisingly so – and especially in comparison to the true rubbish we watched for laughs), I was also bowled over by how simple and effective Edward’s costuming was in that film. As Dr. Kermode very amusingly observed in his highly positive review of Twilight on radio (see video below):
It is worth remembering what he is wearing in that scene. He’s not wearing some designer, high fashion look which makes him look absurd and strange: instead, it’s a sleek, dark pair of jeans and a heather grey crew neck t-shirt which gives him a ‘strange enigma’ (Kermode). You cannot get simpler, minimal, ‘timeless’, and perfectly moody than that outfit.
If you pull the character apart from the besotted fanbase of the films (who are, by the way, as Mark Kermode has argued, totally rode roughshod over when compared to other fangroups – probably because they’re teenage women), we just have a very solidly dressed, enigmatic Gothic icon in Edward Cullen, a character and design I find very worthy of taking inspiration from.
“The collective critical moo-ing that greets the arrival of each new screen instalment of the Twilight series says more about how out of touch the film-reviewing fraternity is with a certain section of the movie-going audience than it does about the films themselves. The sight of stuffy, bespectacled greying men berating films aimed primarily at teenage girls is as farcical as it is depressing.” – Kermode, The Guardian
The film channels the emo/goth mood of the early-to-mid 2000s, which was everywhere when I was at high school. I was never part of that scene, but Edward really shows how cool that moody palette of stormy greys and black can be. His hair is also absolutely barnstorming – whoever on the crew did the hair and makeup design on Edward Cullen deserves a lot of credit. It all contributes, with Sturridge, to providing inspiration for my shift towards a stormier, moodier palette. This works to emphasise the Gothic, literary tradition this whole look and mood really comes from – and which Twilight really does come from (despite what detractors may believe). To return to my notion of drawing inspiration from drenched, stormy places, Forks (where the film is set) is also purportedly ‘the wettest place in the continental US’. I’ll trust a century-old vampire’s meteorological as well as fashion knowledge.
I have worn a peacoat for a few years now, and for now I am a little tired of its silhouette and style (they don’t really cover how Edward coped living through a century’s worth of fashion). Edward’s has the epaulette, military detailing of a trench coat with the wool construction of a peacoat. It’s a style which I thought looked so good that it reminded me that I wanted to get a black, belted trench coat (especially given I had to get rid of my last black coat due to it being worn out). It’s the perfect outerwear to fulfil my aims here.
As Kermode says in his review, the Cullens are dressed like fans of The Cure, and I’d add of bands like The Smiths or Radiohead – music I totally love. . You could summarise Edward as, essentially, being dressed like a model for All Saints. His wardrobe and colour scheme is a reification of his personality, of the Gothic literary and filmic tradition, and of the film’s title.
I have been wearing classic items like t-shirts, solid jeans and peacoats for some years now, which are the elements of Edward’s ‘look’. The key (as with Sturridge above) is a shift towards that more casual side of smart-casual, and a shift towards greyer and darker tones. Sturridge and Edward Cullen are also a similar build to me, being lean and fairly tall (unfortunately for me I do not have the muscles of a vampire or a Premier League footballer). Combined with the creativity of Japanese fashion this will, I hope, be my style in 2015. There’s also a small part of me that wonders as well, whether I find Cullen appealing because he appeals to that other side of the Gothic coin: an old fashioned romantic passion. After-all, we do tend to wear darker colours at night, in the man-made lighting of bars and cinemas.
Should I stick to my ideas here, you can join me on my journey this year as I blog about my own style, my experiences and my thoughts on menswear. If I do change course, well I am sure that will be just as fun and creative.
Get involved in the comments: what are your style resolutions? Do you have any tips for me in going for this creative/timeless hybrid?
My key pieces for 2015: gallery
All images attached under fair use and attributed to their original source.