Saturday evening, while waiting to meet the fabulous Plumcake at one of my favorite places here in Austin, I pulled up a miraculously empty barstool and perched carefully upon it (above-the-knee skirts call for careful perching). The nice gentleman to my right, after a few bar-neighbor pleasantries, asked me if I worked in fashion in some way. Well, blushgiggle, yes, I do, as a matter of fact! (I'm pretty sure it was the hat that inspired his question. No one else was wearing one, and people do notice a hat.) This led to a conversation, specifically a conversation about fashion for men, which was a happy coincidence considering that the Spring 2010 men's shows were happening in Paris and Milan the last couple of weeks.
Bar-neighbor Ken & I discussed how fashion can be tricky for men -- there is a uniform, which can be a good thing because men don't have to think all that hard in order to look presentable. On the other hand, because men's fashion is a bit more circumscribed than women's, it's easier to fall into a rut and just wear the same old thing day after day. And, as Ken pointed out, women are the peacocks of our species -- we're the ones who are trained to preen and display. A man who dresses flamboyantly is much more likely to be looked at askance than a woman who does. Men in our culture are not taught to place as much of a premium on their appearance as women are, and so a man who does can be seen as a bit... suspect. That's if, of course, he can even bring himself to step out a bit -- most men, in my experience, are deathly afraid of dressing in a way that sets them at all apart from the crowd.
But yours truly believes that everyone, regardless of gender, deserves to look in the mirror and see something that makes you smile. Our clothes are the face we present to world, and we should like what our closets say about us, male or female.
So let's take a look at the Prada Men's Spring 2010 collection and see what lessons we can learn.
Tim Blanks' excellent review of this collection on Men.Style.Com reveals that my girl Miuccia decided to push the boundaries of the gray suit for men, and so the entire collection is black and shades of gray. Now, we all know how much Style Spy loves color, but I also love the play of multiple textures in a monochrome color scheme, and this collection has that in spades.
Gray, yes. Boring, no.
Prada also played a lot with sheerness and perforation in this show, which further contributed to the depth of textural detail.
And of course the tailoring is impeccable, because one of the things Prada does best is take a recognizable shape and execute it in a new way. So while she may be pushing the boundaries a bit with a perforated shirt, she tucks it under this gorgeous balmacaan and it's a little less scary. Although I think that coat may have some sheerness to it, as well -- I'm pretty cheesed at Style.com for not posting any detail shots from this show. Regardless -- that is one good-looking coat.
More layers and textures and prints. This one is a little riskier, with the giant herringbone of the pant, but the color scheme makes it go down a bit easier, I think. I for one would raise an approving eyebrow if my dinner date showed up wearing this.
Sleeveless for men is so tricky...
As forward-thinking as I like to believe myself, I don't think I'm quite ready for the sleeveless mock-turtleneck for men. (The fact that it's being modeled by Lurch doesn't help, either.)
This is a bit better:
Although, guys? Don the Full Blues Brothers at your peril. It almost never doesn't look ridiculous. I fully & enthusiastically support hats, as we all know, but a black fedora, even a beautiful woven one like this, is risky unless the rest of your outfit in no way makes you look as though you're about to break into a chorus of "Rubber Biscuit." Which means no Ray-Bans under the brim.
Okey-dokey. Here's where we take a runway look and dissect it into parts:
First -- theoretically, I really love that mesh polo. It's interesting and kind of bold without being at all femme-y to my eye, and I think it's really cool. However. Most of the men of my acquaintance are not barely-post-adolescent runway models with alabaster-smooth chests , so the guido potential is off the charts here and probably not worth the risk. (Once again I raise the clarion call for real, live men modeling men's clothes -- these boy-children are not the sort of eye-candy a grown-up wants to nibble!) Also... well, I'm just going to say it: nipples. Call me a prude if you will, but I don't want to see anyone's nipples except in very specific circs, and those circs are guaranteed never to happen in public. But I think I could really dig this polo over a t-shirt -- not just a plain old cop-out of a Hanes undershirt, but something with a color and maybe even a design that says, "I layered these shirts on purpose for visual interest." I think that could look pretty cool.
The cardigan I just full-on love. Love lovety lovelovelove. I want one for me, and I want one for all my man friends, because I think it is beautiful and eye-catching and elegant. It would look gorgeous over a colored dress shirt, or even just a nice t-shirt. It's different and interesting without being even close to over the top, and I just can't say enough how much I love it, and would love to see a man wearing it.
The mesh pants? Well, probably the less said about those the better. Again, pretty cheesed at the lack of detail shots for this show, although maybe these pants are the reason -- perhaps Style.com didn't want to risk an X-rating. Still -- wish there was a shot of him walking away because I'm dying to know what he's got on under there. Whaddya reckon -- boxers? Briefs? Thong? (Personally, I really hope it was a thong -- it's 2009, friends. It's time for Equal Opportunity Whale Tail.)
So. What can we take away from this lovely collection of men's clothes to add spark to our real-life Y-Chromes' wardrobes? First and foremost, good fit and tailoring are the one crucial element that must always be present. Next -- using texture and pattern to create visual interest can be easier to do well if the color scheme is monochromatic. Lastly, a classic clothing item like a cardigan or an overcoat done in an unexpected fabric or color can up the ante of an entire outfit without resorting to gimmickry. Clothes don't have to be costume-y to be special -- as a matter of fact, they never should be.
But the most important rule for men is the same as for women -- feel good about what you wear. If something sparks you, put it on and wear it. Don't rob yourself of the enjoyment of a great garment by saying, "I never wear this sort of thing," or, "It's not me," or, "I'm afraid of looking like a fool." Because A) there's a first time for everything, B) it's you if you choose to make it you and C) trust me, no one's paying as much attention as you think. And those of us who are? I promise we'll appreciate the effort.