As the pandemic wanes stateside thanks to continued vaccine rollouts, those who relish getting dressed are left wondering: What comes after working from home in sweatpants?
After all, the Spanish flu outbreak of 1918 is credited with bringing forth the Roaring Twenties. Therefore, what’s the menswear equivalent of champagne and sequins? Or will athleisure and sneaker hegemony continue to reign supreme?
Industry leaders from across the men’s market weigh in on four themes of today’s evolving fashion scene.
Glamour Is Back — In a Comfy Way
“I am seeing the world coming back to life,” said celebrity menswear stylist Ilaria Urbinati, whose A-list clients include Ryan Reynolds, Rami Malek and Dwayne Johnson. “I do think people are looking to get dressed, and they’re looking for glamour. I don’t think people will go back to uncomfortable clothes, especially men, but there’s a way of dressing that’s stylish and cool.” Urbinati used her quarantine down-time to launch Leoedit.com, a men’s lifestyle digital destination, that helps readers accomplish just that.
Additionally, a relaxed look is not the same as lazy and baggy — it’s a new silhouette, and that affects shoe selection.
This point is echoed by L.A. designer Mike Amiri, who recently focused his edgy, rock ’n’ roll eye on creating cultish sneakers. “There will always be a place for elevation,” he insists, citing his latest Stadium low top sneaker, a casual sport shoe executed with luxury materials and proportion. “This mindset of juxtaposition is the future of shoe trends.”
Ditch the Rules, Keep the Quality
The past year has brought heightened interest in gender-neutral fashion that is more thoughtful and considered than ever before.
Experts say the breaking of gender codes and norms when it comes to dressing creates a freedom of expression that inspires depth. Pushing beyond shallow trends and prescribed ideas of masculinity, today’s shopper is looking for shoes with soul.
“Consumers these days are interested in understanding the provenance, make and quality of their purchases,” explained David Morris, Mr Porter buying manager. “They also value pieces that have longevity in their wear, and a certain timelessness in their aesthetic and appeal.”
Iconic brands such as Birkenstock, Dr. Martens and JM Weston offer styles that span sizes small to large and defy traditional gender ownership.
Slide Into Something Different
After a year of slippers and indoor shoes, Morris said some menswear classics are making a comeback this summer. “We’re seeing our customers gravitate toward what we’d call a laceless shoe: loafers, boat shoes and driving shoes. This is an indication that men are interested in a mixture of comfort and casual footwear, but also stepping up their style.”
Italian brands such as Loro Piana, Tod’s and Brunello Cucinelli have reliably high standards when it comes to marrying craft with style. Boutique brands to consider include Yuketen, Duke & Dexter and Mark Chris, which all emphasize traditional quality handicraft, along with Armando Cabral, whose eponymous designer combines African artisan details with made-in-Italy craftsmanship.
On the American front, there’s also the motivation to go straight to the source with made-in-Maine boat shoes from Quoddy. Nisolo is a certified B Corp based in Nashville that manufactures its elegant designs in Peru. Polo Ralph Lauren continues to dominate the more preppy slip-on variety, as Tom Ford does the more soigné.
For consumers, a laceless lifestyle feels undoubtedly continental and may help relieve some of the pressure of travel restrictions. Linen pants and espadrilles conjure up images of Cary Grant and Pablo Picasso on the French Riviera, Jude Law in “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” and Aristotle Onassis in Capri.
“A slightly cooler, slouchier linen or cotton pant is going to look better with a more relaxed shoe — that’s why we’re into laceless, slip-on shoes. It’s very much an artist vibe,” said Urbinati.
Nope, Sneakers Aren’t Going Anywhere
While men may be exploring more structured footwear, the sneaker has no intention of abdicating its throne. Brands like Nike, Adidas and Common Projects still lead the pack, though the confluence of streetwear and high fashion continues to reshape the field. New Balance recently injected extra cool into its Made in USA division by naming New York fashion’s crown prince Teddy Santis, of Aimé Leon Dore, as creative director.
When it comes to sneaker buying, retro reigns: “There’s incredible consumer interest and popularity around some of our iconic sneaker silhouettes, like the Dunk, Blazer and the Air Force 1,” said Charles Williams, Nike’s VP of global men’s footwear.
Indeed, nostalgia is at an all-time high. “We’re leaning more into an ’80s Reebok shape,” Urbanati said. “A back-to-the-future shoe.”
Speaking of the future, eco-consciousness is fueling innovation, as seen with Nike’s Space Hippie collection produced from scrap material. At Mr Porter, the Mr P. Larry sneakers are made from a grape waste composite generated by the wine industry. Meanwhile, vegan offerings from brands like Saye and Axel Arigato satisfy the ethical consumer.