Saturday, April 28, 2012

Mens Fashion Trend: Relaxed Men's Tailoring

Time and time again while covering the men’s components of Milan and Paris fashion weeks we touched on it: that dominant, relaxed aesthetic that men who are tired of the crotch hugging, thigh squishing feel of the overt skinny cut have to look forwards to amongst autumn / fall 2011 fashions. And beyond. Men’s fashion simply doesn’t move so fast that one can peg these forthcoming emergence of relaxed tailoring to a sole season, nor even a year, and while we already know we’ll see it amongst spring 2012's fashions  it’s highly likely that we’ll also see this interpretation of men’s fashion feature amongst throughout all of 2012.

A relaxed fit for men is, of course, nothing new. Loose layering, drop crotches and (avert your gaze) baggy jeans have been with us for some time now. But a line has to be drawn in the sand. The relaxed cuts of past years are distinctly different from the relaxed tailoring we’re about the encounter. One could rightly argue that this new men’s trends evolves from the old, but they are certainly not one in the same.

So what are elements of this men’s trend? And is it the style for 2011 and 2012, or simply a style? Read on to find all the details after the break.

You’ll note that in the introduction I referred constantly to relaxed tailoring, and it’s the latter word that really distinguishes this re-emerging men’s style from the relaxed / loose styles that have preceded it. They were, in effect, street wear. The forthcoming relaxed and loose tailoring trend certainly isn’t street wear in the baggy denim sense, but it also isn’t formal wear. In fact, it contrasts sharply with what is currently accepted as the fashionable men's suit.  And yet it remains tailoring. Tailoring with a soft touch. Tailoring with a flare. Tailoring with an injection of fashion. Tailoring that, if not casual, is at least pared down.

But if casual tailoring is the style, then what is that style applied to? In short, both full pieces and individual elements. Pieces and elements such as the following:

Seamless shoulders

No element of the relaxed tailoring style is more dominant then the seamless shoulder in 2011 / 2012. Nor should one be. As far as tailoring goes, the seamless shoulder can make a statement or blend in. More to its favour however, it’s the easiest element of the relaxed tailoring look to wear and get right.

A seamless shoulder coat from Raf Simons. Note that the elbow seam is an extreme version of the deep shoulder seam discussed below.

If the name isn’t obvious enough; the seamless shoulder lacks a stitch line at the point where the shoulder rolls to become the arm. As such, it’s not too dissimilar in its crafting from a kimono sleeve, where the sleeve and the body of the clothing are one in the same, though this men’s interpretation is far more tapered.

In part it’s a look heralded in by the return of the sack suit and we spied it in collections from the likes of Raf Simons and Duckie Brown. Some, most notably Duckie Brown, gave the look a heavily casual slant and you can safely wear the seamless shoulder with relaxed fit sports coats and crisp cut sweaters. Where the tailored, seamless shoulder really comes into its own, however, is when it’s fused with outerwear.

As outerwear

Given that the best part of a men’s winter wardrobe is often its outerwear, it should come as no surprise to find that the tailored, seamless shoulder extends to more than just men’s sports coats. In fact, if the weighting of catwalk collections is anything to go by it’s going to be easier to invest in a statement piece where the seamless shoulder has been interpreted into the likes of duffle coats and trench coats.

Burberry Prorsum have been one fashion house to make use of the seamless shoulder in their men’s autumn / winter 2011 collection, featuring relaxed tailoring several times over. Most dominantly they did so in the form of an exaggerated blanket-check caban (pictured at the top of this article). With its single breasted and oversized cut paired with its winter tonality, this coat from Burberry Prorsum nails all the loose and easy appeal of this men’s fashion trend and easily lends itself to the style of 1960s fashion we expect to see return in coming fashion seasons.

Another example of a seamless shoulder, relaxed fit coat: Burberry Prorsum men’s caban. A relaxed fit coat from Burberry Prorsum’s autumn 2011 collection also opens this article.

Deep shoulder seam

While the seamless shoulder is one of the hallmarks of the relaxed men’s tailoring trend, the deep shoulder seam / dropped shoulder works equally as well. Sitting somewhere between the sack shoulder and a seamless shoulder, the deep shoulder seam features a stitch line that sits off of the shoulder, with the overall appearance given that the jacket or coat’s shoulder is oversized. Sometimes the effect is subtle, as is the case with the double breasted Ermanno Scervino overcoat below left, at other times the seam sits much closer to the bicep, as is the case with the half sleeved sweater / jumper from Raf Simons below right. The Raf Simons coat pictured above uses the deep shoulder seam to best effect, however.

Ermanno Scervino double breasted coat with dropped shoulder.
Raf Simons half-sleeve sweater with deep shoulder seam.

Loose pants

If relaxed and oversized shoulders are the hallmark of the emerging relaxed tailoring trend, then loose cut trousers / pants follow a close second. At the outset they may feel like an easy way to interpret the trend, but don’t be deceived: they’re the element that is easiest to get wrong.

For this part of the look what you’re looking for are those relaxed, oversized and generally loose interpretations of men’s trousers which are tailored. After all, this trend may lack formality but it certainly isn’t so casual that it is streetwear. Tailoring is key to the whole look.

In short, the elements you’re looking for in loose cut pants throughout 2011 and 2012 are:

loosely tailored through the thighs
loosely tailored through the crotch

With those elements in mind, here are some on-trend interpretations of relaxed cut trousers from the autumn / winter 2011 men’s catwalks:

Dolce & Gabbana velvet suit with relaxed tailored pants and a trim jacket.

Dolce & Gabbana tailored, drop crotch pants    

Ermanno Scervino loose cut trousers paired with a box cut double breasted coat.

Ermanno Scervino loose cut trousers paired with a box cut double breasted coat.

The return of pleated pants

Given that the tail end 2011 and the start of 2012 will see an experimentation with the fit of men’s pants, it naturally follows that other elements will also be experimented with. As we’ve seen with womenswear, we’re also watching for the return of pleated pants for men.

So far we haven’t seen one specific pleat return and across the recent men’s catwalks we’ve seen both forward pleats (when the pleat opens towards the centre of the pants) and reverse pleats (when the pleats open towards the pockets). Vivienne Westwood experimented with both fits in her autumn 2011 collection, pairing pleats with a casually tailored waist line as a counterbalance.

Men’s pleated pants from Vivienne Westwood.

Loose  cut  jackets

The seamless shoulders are but one element affecting outerwear that can be worn inline with the overall relaxed tailoring trend. Loose cut, voluminous men’s jackets are the other. And this is another of the elements that can be hit and miss and hard to pull off with finesse. Not in the sense that it’s hard to put on a jacket that seems a few sizes too big, but rather that it can be harder to don one with any confidence. As you can see below, these cuts are certainly don’t lend themselves to what we typically regard as a modern, men’s cut. They’re a statement. So if you’ve got the confidence to wear such a statement, here are three ways men can wear volume through their torso in autumn / winter 2011.

At the more conservative end of the spectrum and certainly inspired by men’s 1960s fashion, a single breasted jacket appears to fit a few sizes too big. While volume through the torso and seamless shoulders feature, the shoulders are tailored in such a way that the jacket still appears to fit thus making the statement clearer (though it’ll never be clear to everyone, such is fashion).

Highlighting the overall aesthetic, the suit’s trousers and worn slim.

Peaked lapel jacket from Raf Simons

Another look from Raf Simons, this particular jacket is tailored to have volume through the sleeves only. The torso is slim cut and the waist cinched in just as a modern mens suit should be (the lower of the two buttons shouldn’t be done up, however).

Of the three dominant interpretations of the loose cut, voluminous men’s jacket, this is the sharpest.

Jacket by Raf Simons

With a block cut through the torso and paired with lose cut trousers, this jacket from Ermanno Scervino is admittedly outerwear. But it serves as the perfect example of how the double breasted suit can be tailored to sit with this overall trend. In short, avoid the modern double breasted suit’s cut that slims in at the waist, instead opt for a straight down cut and pair it with loose cut, but not baggy, trousers.

Jacket by Raf Simons

Is it the trend?

As we did when bell bottoms and flares made a return to the mainstream, it’s only natural to ask if the relaxed fit of tailoring that’s coming to menswear is a trend or the trend. Or put another way: does this mean that a skinny or slim cut is out?

The answer is simply no.

Relaxed tailoring is going to become another option for men, one that fits in nicely with other trends such as the revival of 1920's fashion and one that gives men a broader selection of ‘fashionable’ choices. But at no stage of the near future is it going to become the dominant style nor replace the slim cut altogether.

Related trends

As with so much of the year’s trends, the emerging relaxed tailoring trend is part of a wider vibe: loose is in. But while we see the return of flares for men in 2011 it’s worth noting that the two trends aren’t one in the same, and it’s best to avoid fusing the two. Flares are distinctly a casual trend likely to end up a one or two season wonder. The year’s looser tailoring trend simply isn’t in the same category.

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