The return of manhood

 Tracking the trend- the return of manhood
In dark and gloomy times, we cling to comfort. And despite all the recent talk of green shoots of recovery, the economy looks set to muddle along for at least a couple more fashion seasons.

The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) said in a statement earlier this month that the country’s fashion industry has faced huge losses in 2009 following the decline in demand for luxury readymade apparel and jewellery – and will continue to do so.

And the trend looks set to continue. “Even though the Indian economy is growing at a robust pace, the per-capita income of the consumers is still too low to significantly boost the purchasing power for the high-end fashion industry during the economic downturn,” Sajjan Jindal, president, ASSOCHAM, told reporters.
In times like this, it is classic ideals of manhood that come to the fore, expressed in bomber jackets (Etro, Ralph Lauren), double-breasted jackets and sharp suits (Prada), blazers (Thierry Mugler), tuxedoes (Ralph Lauren), banker’s shirts and beefy models (John Galliano). Designers want you to look less like a fashion victim and more like a man who knows what he wants, so for the next year or so, clothing is a bit more subdued and comes in monochrome and dark tones (black, grey, military green) with the occasional pop of colour, such as orange (Paul Smith), blue or red (Armani).
Remember, this is the time for understatement, not attention-grabbing behaviour. The overall trends to look for, then, are as follows:

Retrosexual
The word was actually coined as far back as 2003, but it took a recession to bring it to prominence. Fittingly, the man who gave us the term is writer Mark Simpson, also responsible for the ubiquitious metrosexual.
Quite simply, the retrosexual is the man who can, who is unafraid of buckling down and getting the job done. A recent British survey carried out by domestic appliances store Homebase found that over two-thirds of women admitted they think plumbers, builders and electricians are better life partners over doctors, lawyers and bankers. In status-conscious India, this doesn’t mean we’re all going slumming, rather merely that women now want their men to do talk less and do more.
Think Indiana Jones or even glamorous cowboys, raw male appeal is where it’s at.
That idea has surfaced on catwalks everywhere: manorexia is a thing of the past as the body comes back into vogue. At the June menswear shows in Paris and Milan, the traditional look-ahead to what we will all be wearing six months from now, bulky models complete with eight packs and admirable pectorals were sent out both by Galliano and Slimane’s successor at Dior, Kris Van Assche. Belgian designer Walter Van Beirendonck went one better, sending out fat, hairy men in bright colours and plastic glasses.

And in January, the look ahead to the fall-winter season, Alexander McQueen even decided his man would feature – shock, horror! – facial hair.

Individualism
It follows, then, that this newly re-empowered man will pick and choose what he wants to wear.
At January’s menswear shows in Paris and Milan, there were two contrasting trouser trends, for instance: Neil Barrett and Les Hommes in Milan pushed baggy trousers for the upcoming fall/winter season, while Emanuel Ungaro created pants that are cut closely to the body.

In what is perhaps a nod to the countries with money, ethnic looks are also very much in vogue, with Versace sending out kurtas and Galliano showing his Arabic inspiration.
So pair a classic piece with a trendy accent, or brighten a monochrome ensemble with a mild dash of colour. Team a blazer with shorts (Icerberg, Prada), or put a T-shirt over harem pants – the global village is where it’s at.

Military
It’s a trend that’s never very far the catwalks, particularly in light of hot button issues such as Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years. That it’s back is good news for those digging deep into their wardrobes to try and resurrect past items in a cost-cutting frenzy, but as you might expect, the look has been updated by the likes of Gareth Pugh, Alexander MCQueen and John Galliano.

That combat look of the past has been reinterpreted with naval-inspired tailored coats (Burberry), inspired by German Second World War uniforms or given a Gothic twist with ripped trousers and black boots (both Pugh).

Dress up
A nostalgic yearning for the solid man of yore calls forth the glamorous tuxedo; mere years ago, the Indian man might have got by without one in his closet, the country’s new place among the world’s superpowers means that’s unthinkable now. In 2008, we were able to get away with pairing dinner jackets and jeans, this year that’s nigh impossible.

A great tux is a classic investment, so look to Ralph Lauren’s Black Label or Belgian designer Dries Van Noten for that slim appeal – or best of all, get your two-button tailored. The caveat here, though, is making sure your tailor knows what he’s doing; ask to see previous work and take lots of tear sheets. If all else fails, ring the best: Shahab Durazi, or if he’s unavailable, Rajesh Pratap Singh or Narendra Kumar Ahmed.

Even when it comes to everyday suits, classic cuts and old-school details are where it’s at, and that old eighties double-breasted jacket seems almost refreshing now, especially when done over by Miuccia Prada. Moschino has some sexy pinstripes, Gucci’s tailoring is razor-sharp and Tom Ford’s witty designs will have you turning the ladies’ heads. But remember, although manorexia is out, you still want to look slim; think one step short of skinny chic.

And to go clubbing, pick a velvet suit (Galliano) or try the white suit that has been seen on catwalks from Paris to Bangalore. It’s perfect. Its suave don’t-care appeal offers just the right message in these hard times, especially if you’re dressing to impress. 

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