As we start to see a glimpse of a post-pandemic world, one has to wonder what the future of menswear will look like! It may not be #menswear, but perhaps something that mixes slouchy tailoring with streetwear, gorp, neo-ivy/prep, and a bunch of Seinfeld-meets-Sopranos.
I still haven’t seen either of those shows.
I’m going to start this off by saying that I really have no thunder on any of this. I don’t work directly in the industry anymore and my peers and followers represent a niche’s niche of the classic menswear world, so please take what we say with a grain of salt. In fact, I think that I’m much more coherent in the podcast episode, so please listen below before reading this essay.
Above is my best approximation of where I think menswear is going. It’s got a sportcoat, but worn without a tie. There’s a button-down collar, but it’s in a bold stripe. A fair isle sweater is here, on a light tonal match to the rest of the pieces, providing a slight ivy-trad nod. Instead of chinos, there’s vintage light wash Levis. And then to cap the ends, we have dark shell shoes (which feel chunky) and a cap from a “merch” brand. It’s a bit prep, a bit Fashion, a bit modern, a bit vintage, a bit NYC/TF and entirely menswear. And I dig it.
The future of menswear is a tricky thing. As I say in the podcast, the world of classic clothing has been “dying” ever since the Golden Era itself. The rise of tailored “sportswear” meant less suiting. Jeans and chinos replaced trousers. Tee shirts lead to less dress shirts being made. Not only have certain garments been less popular, but details too. For example, high rise has become a thing for trendy designers or the hardcore tailoring crowd (I guess vintage milsurp/workwear too). In short, classic menswear has always been losing popularity.
I’m unperturbed because I’m coming at this from a specific consumer side who has never made a lot of money and has a history in buying vintage. Call me maudlin or pessimistic if you like, but I’ve long recognized that my niche taste is not enough to save menswear or have any buying power- it’s why I write about my personal taste and aesthetics rather than trends or straight recommendations. I’m always going to be dressing different, even if menswear dies. Perhaps that’s why custom is so important, as I’ve told many vintage people who are worried that the stock of great, cool-detailed menswear is going to run out.
In the wider world however, I think that we all knew that menswear was dying. The tie itself will probably be the first to fully die, as many (like Kiyoshi) have noted. I believe that the pandemic has exacerbated that, what with people sticking to sweatpants for daily wear and “Zoom Shirts” worn only for waist-up teleconferencing. It seemed that office wear, the last gobbler for classic menswear in the mainstream, was finally knifed in the heart. The pandemic seemed to be the real death blow after offices across the world have reported loosening their dress codes in recent years. I actually find that as a positive, as I hate the idea of a dress code; however, its apparent that not many people choose to dress in classic clothing if left to their own devices. That wasn’t me.
Despite a few days out of the week dedicated to PJs (sometimes I stay up too late playing video games), I actually never fell into the pandemic trap. In fact, my casual attire (typically reserved for events or bars) took a back seat as I kept my tailoring habit on. It wasn’t borne out of spite for the pandemic nor was it an influencer’s desire for content, but simply proof that I genuinely loved tailoring. The Patreon Discord and the SaDHead Saturday feature is proof that others retained their passion. In fact, I think I’ve spent more money on clothes (and shoes) during the pandemic than I did before; you can probably blame a new job and WFH (no gas!) for that.
That last part points to one major thing I’ve seen in the pandemic: the “resurgence” of menswear. It’s a general term that I think is brought around by a couple of things I detailed in the podcast that I think can be traced to the “post-sneaker world”, a TF reference to the over-saturation of sneakers and collaboration/hype culture. This results in two things: guys deciding to opt out of the latest “trends” and fashion becoming a little bit tired of chasing what’s new. What’s the solution? Classic clothing (hence the bit loafer in the High Snobiety article). After all, Fear of God did put out a seemingly prep-inspired collection last year.
There’s even the spike in archival fashion, which is probably the ultimate “fuck you” to constant stream of new collabs and releases. Enthusiasts now look for older season things, which as we know still are affected by hype and scarcity, just in a different way. Brands now are either getting in on this resale business or are re-releasing old designs to keep up with his demand for nostalgia. It’s almost as if the wider fashion world is getting much more “indie” and appreciating buying vintage or pre-owned garments; I’m not sure if its at all prompted by the environment impact of new fashion or being “woke” about consumerism, but I’m sure it helps (though the market is quite expensive). I’m quite curious to see if the classic menswear world will get in on this. I can tell you that I’d pay
good decent money to get my hands on the Drake’s ties I first fell in love with back in 2017. Again, it’s just like collecting vintage- details matter. And hey, it seems that brands like J. Press and Brooks are working with some great vintage dealers in order to get into that archival world (just with menswear).
We also can’t forget influencer collabs as classic menswear, the slow beast that it is, is finally catching on. Rowing Blazers, ALD, and Noah are all heavy on working with with Drake’s and Barbour. Even Matt Hranek has had a few, partnering with Scarosso for loafers, Snoot for a parka, and Fox Brothers for a tweed based on his beloved Negroni. I wonder if classic menswear will have its own collab bubble at some point, spurred on as the industry (and its consumers) struggle to find a relevant place post-pandemic.
In his bonus episode with Derek Guy, Jeremy details a story where his friend who typically collected Jordans was calling upon him for recommendations for a blazer. We don’t exactly know the reasoning behind this, but it seems to be independent of age or job, which is typically why most guys tend to start dressing “classically”. If this, the Fear of God collection, and a few anecdotes about how the tailoring industry is doing are any indication, perhaps this just shows that tailoring is finally being seen as an option for aesthetics rather than one tied to a certain position or strata in life. That’s what I’ve been wanting! But is it an indication of a menswear resurgence? I don’t think so.
I echo Derek in that this is post-pandemic “resurgence” is not going to be #menswear all over again. The culture just isn’t there. As Spencer and I say in the podcast, the environment just isn’t ripe for this type of cultural shift that menswear needs to boom again (I even said this to Greg Lellouche of NMWA in a ClubHouse talk). #Menswear came at a time when social media itself was booming, closely mirroring the usage (and founding) of Tumblr, Instagram, and the maturation of YouTube. It also happened after Thom Browne and Suit Supply were poised to defy the sloppy suits of the late 90s and early 2000s. Suits (and most of fashion) had a monoculture in those days; today, we’re fractured.
It’s a good thing for niche tastes and micro communities, like punk, workwear, or bespoke but bad if you’re looking for the same power in cultural attention. Nothing in culture has any lasting power anyway. The Crown is great and arguably has better looks than Mad Men. However, no one remembers the Crown or dresses in DBs and Barbours in the same way that Mad Men made men adopt skinny ties and slim jackets. Everything is like a Tiktok trend- it lasts for a bit, then onto the next. It overall makes menswear (specifically classic menswear) harder to get into, at least until people understand it as a personal aesthetic. That’s an uphill battle.
Of course the lack of mainstream interest (or coercion from formal offices) will definitely lead to makers changing their offering or at the very least, the attention shifting to other brands who are more relevant stylistically in a post-covid world. Drake’s is a great example, as the brand has shifted from shooting their suited NYC shopkeepers at restaurants or menswear models wearing beautiful foulards in the Scottish Isles to a more relaxed, tie-less take that still has a bit of prep involved through workshirts, sweaters, and denims. Their tailoring is more about casual vibes with Engineered Garments-esque Games suit or their chore suits. In fact, that suit-adjacent look is probably the main way that “tailoring” is going to to stay alive as its much more independent from the typical corporate or formal looks we’ve come to identify with suiting. I hope this brings more attention to the types of pieces made by 18East or Evan Kinori. But that’s still quite niche compared to what’s currently en vogue.
If you look around, there are shades of an Ralph Lauren/early-90s look that is persevering currently through menswear, mainly into form of a streetwear-meets-prep way. It’s almost like everyone is trying to be like Seinfeld or a Night Opening. After all, that early 90s look (that has informed streetwear for a long time) does have roots in classic clothing, especially when this modern 90s iteration also references bits of the 50s-80s well. The aesthetic we’re seeing is something completely relaxed and perhaps a bit of a fuck you to what to expect from fashion, specifically a post-sneaker/hype world. A lot of it is a bit NYC focused as well, full of retro sneakers, loafers, camp shirts, loose high waisted pleated trousers, and overcoats; a bit indie or thrift-core if you will.
You can see this most plainly from ALD, Noah, and Rowing Blazers. It’s a still got shades of hype, but the idea of it done through tailoring/workwear/milsurp has a touch of most-modernism where it still seems quite cool. I think that you could even call it Throwing Fits-core. And even apart from that, these guys are making a strong case for button up shirts and trousers better than Brooks or J. Crew; I’ll admit that I enjoy that fact. To be quite honest however, some of the lookbooks and imagery all of these brands eature can look a bit…similar. Drake’s certainly has had a tonal shift in its styling (they even did a stint at merch to match Rowing Blazers), but when you see Wythe’s shift from “Slow West” to “Camp Friendly Pines”, it’s clear that this move to a streetwear-ish take on classic clothing is where the lexicon is at. I know that the Western/70s Revival was finally getting some attention, but like I said earlier, the attention has already shifted.
I’m curious to see if this RL/90s/streetwear taste will find its way into the visuals of other brands, both in classic menswear and the mall. I think that NMWA is a great example of of that mix, though certainly more Mr. Porter rather than ALD; L’Ettiquette is another instance of this look. And as you’ll see in the photos below, many guys are incorporating this style into their takes on classic menswear. You can see their inspiration sources coming through from all the Seinfeld screencaps and movie premier photos showing up on every discerning account for menswear; there’s even a few instances of the Sopranos, further echoing a bit of that NYC meets 90s-to-early-2000s scumbag slouch. It’s almost seems like these inspo posts are replacing those oft-repeated photos of Clarke Gable and Steve McQueen.
The vibe is vintage and still tailored, but with a different mindset. Instead of advocating for pure timelessness, guys are starting to invoke intentional aesthetics, going against the grain of #menswear and doing what they feel is right. Those brands and magazines already show sportcoats as just an alternative to any other jacket, wearing it with tees, sportshirts, and loose OCBDs. Sneakers are back in as a welcome change from dress shoes; we also can’t forget the return of vintage sweatshirts and hoodies into classic menswear.
It’s like anything goes which overall, feels like an embrace of vintage (both in vibe and actual pieces) as well as an expanded view on clothing that champions an approach that is purely based on aesthetic taste. That’s why we’re seeing two-tone loafers being worn with designer carpenter pants and a vintage OCBD. It’s rejecting “new” fashion and nodding ever slightly at menswear. And oddly enough, the entire style movement seems a bit like monoculture, despite the fragmenting we discussed on the pod. Perhaps what we’re seeing is simply a way for people to get into the ideas and themes of classic/vintage menswear without it being an overt signaler- a lowkey way to do high rise pants and slouchy sportcoats but without the #menswear.
Yes, some places will stay true to what they do, but on a slightly surface/generic level, it seems that skate, streetwear, vintage, and classic menswear is melding together. Indie guys wear thrifted docs and dickies workpants while a tailoring enthusiast will wear Tyrolean shoes and 18East double knees- both dudes will probably have some form of bucket hat and perhaps a big coat when it gets cold. The vibe is all melding together- you can even see that in the social media presence of brands and fashionistas alike. Maybe this is proof that classic sportswear and ivy-trad are now common baselines to build a look from, instead of the simple tee and jean, which is quite “style-agnostic”.
Of course, some brands aren’t going all in on “sportswear”. The Armoury seems staying true to its International Classic with its latest lookbook retaining it’s tailoring focus, though they have expanded their offering into sweatshirts. Sid Mashburn is touting his sportcoat + 5 pocket pant look; I know my friend Ryan is perfectly fine with variations on that, rocking suits, sportcoats, and shorts all sans tie (I personally don’t do this because it feels too biz-caz to me). You must wonder though if all of these brands (like Drake’s) had always wanted to phase into more casual clothing or if the shift simply a jerk-reaction to the Pandemic and the Stay-at-home culture. However, it doesn’t seem to look like tailoring is going to let sweatpants or stretch-suits win! At least not fully.
So where do we go from here? I’m not exactly sure; the podcast ponders this as well. Unfortunately it seems this combined movement away from tailoring (exacerbated by COVID or not) doesn’t seem to bode well for mills and factories. We already saw denim move away from the States since American made denim was losing its appeal. Now we see tailoring factories and silk mills threatened by the closure of these big brands with equally big inventories. We may not have bought much Brooks, but according to colleagues, BB’s bankruptcy may lead to the tie manufacturing industry to be irreparably damaged.
I believe that this will further turn ties to being artisanal pieces instead of a necessary garment you can find at the mall. I’m actually not sure how I feel about this since I love ties and want other guys to understand its slouch, yet I haven’t bought many at retail due to the high price. Maybe that’s why brands are moving to a lot more casual offerings: it’s easier to scale in production and seemingly much more relevant to wear in the post-pandemic world than expensive, high quality tailoring. Even then, a lot of that 90s ivy/streetwear/scumbag looks can be approximated by buying vintage, especially since the look the influencers and brands are going isn’t too far in the past. I’m sure that’s going to have problems for these brands, as they’re going to have to compete not only with each other, but with actual vintage/consignment/resellers.
That’s why in all honesty, I don’t think that enthusiasts can save menswear. We’re a niche’s niche. The only thing we really can do is subvert people’s expectations of it and how we wear it, bringing to light that it’s an appropriate avenue for personal style. After all, none of us look like we’re trying to be some executive (I hope). However, that could just be from a Western perspective, as there are plenty of great tailoring to be found in other countries, especially in Asia. I mean, Vanda is quite a big name in tie making, 2nd only to Drake’s in the lexicon it seems. Ascot Chang is the best shirt maker. Looking back, half of the tailors and RTW brands I talked about in my bespoke essay were located in Asian countries.
Obviously it’s not like the menswear world completely dry, what with Spier & Mackay taking the place of Suit Supply for many an iGent. I just hope that this middle ground isn’t what’s left over for tailoring, as bespoke gets much more rare and places like Drake’s is even pivoting their offering. You may have to hunt hard to satiate your desire for the good stuff, which I find quite similar to what happened to pop culture, at least for many young people. Sure, you have the Hollywood showing you what’s big, but then you gotta look at indie for artists you can truly endear with. People turned to foreign films or the Criterion Collection as a break from Marvel; K-pop groups seems to be bigger than any Western musician when you look on Twitter. Maybe something comparable is going to happen to menswear; I’d argue that this indie-ization or fracturing of culture in fashion already has.
Of course this is just me making conjectures. Like I said earlier, I’m just a guy who likes wearing tailoring, both contemporary and vintage. It is quite sad that we have to ponder the future of menswear in a post-pandemic world right when I’m starting to be in a financial position to afford some of the things I’ve pined for. It will be interesting to see how everything pivots in the next few years to make up for the Pandemic. Maybe after the vaccinations are done we’ll have trunk shows alive and well, with men lining up to get custom garments after a year of sweatpants and PJs. Or maybe suiting will just come to mean a matching pants and jacket.
The future isn’t all bleak. Todd Snyder has stated in Blamo that he’s doing well. Bryceland’s is still creating great clothing. Hall Madden is starting to get business again. Drake’s, despite being focused on casualwear still has a cool tailoring and ties, though obviously it isn’t a focus as before. Menswear start ups are thriving, from relatively new houses like The Anthology to fresh MTO places like Jake’s. The pessimist in me wonders how long all of it will last, but that’s why evangelism has to be stronger than ever. Thankfully the message across the board is more in line with menswear as personal style rather than a hard-liner, required mode of dress. I’m just interested to see what this clear change in style (and surprising cohesion) will lead to for brands and productions moving forward!
Whatever happens, I’ll do my best to stay true to what I like wearing, which despite shifting around these past few years still has a root in classic menswear. I mean, I have definitely fallen for a few of those recent trends, whether it was the Cowboy revival or the current 90s/streetwear/prep combo; I feel like I’ve been doing it even before the pandemic! In my mind, both modes can stem from a vintage collecting background, so it’s not like it’s anything radically different for me but rather an extension of my existing POV. And that POV is still quite strongly in pursuit of tailoring, with my interpretations being either loose or straightforward/trad depending on the mood I’m feeling. It’s like art (or music)!
I guess I’m quite used to having a niche style (at least compared to the mainstream), with specific cues that are usually lost on people. Luckily no pandemic is going to stop my personal style. And if the community has shown me anything, its that there are many more menswear enthusiasts than I initially thought, with the number growing slightly with each day, all approaching menswear in a similar mindset. We’ll do our best to proudly wear and share the message of classic menswear, because it’s all we can do.
After all, it’s just clothing- we should enjoy it while it lasts and ride it out wherever it goes. So far, it seems like its going somewhere generically retro. And hey, if that means more guys are wearing softly tailored jackets, wide lapels, pleats, white socks+ loafers, and floppy collars because they like it, then I’m all here for it. My friends and I have been doing that for a long time!
- 06:18 – Discussion Begins
- 09:10 – Resurgence of Menswear
- 11:59 – Menswear Class Connotations/Casual Suit
- 15:40 -#menswear: Right Place, Right Time
- 19:54 – The Fractured Menswear Scene
- 21:52 – Post Sneaker World
- 23:28 – Post Pandemic Menswear
- 26:43 – Brands
- 30:46 – Streetwear Resurgence
- 32:42 – Menswear reissues/menswear peak
- 35:46 – Sameness/The Merch Look
- 39:50 – Classic Menswear Collabs
- 42:05 -Death of American Industry
- 52:33 – Menswear is Already Dead
- 58:57 – Weddings Are the Future
- 1:01:05 – Camp Friendly Pines
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The Podcast is produced by MJ.
Always a pleasure,