Tuesday, July 21, 2009

menswear and the blogger: Male Mode...and a few thoughts on fashion revolutions

by frédérik sisa

Past featured bloggers have focused on women’s fashion; Male Mode, as written by Cillian O’Connor, lives up to its name by keeping an eye on what’s going in menswear.
In a nutshell, tell us about Male Mode and your blogging ambitions.

Male-Mode is the online destination for musings on menswear so, essentially, it's a place for me to opine/rant/laud on topics pertinent to men's fashion and style. I started the blog in 2007 since I found that menswear was underrepresented online. So, my ambition is to fill that void.

What are you seeing out there in men’s fashion – the good, the bad, the ugly?

Well, it's certainly good that menswear is undergoing a revolution in the current climate. No, it's not happening at breakneck speed but it's changing all the same. Many young and innovative creatives have turned to menswear to break down the boundaries which existed up to a few years ago. The bad is the prevalence of skinny jeans - yes, they're sartorially spot-on every now and again but not every day of the year.

How would you characterize the difference, if there is any beyond the obvious, between men and women’s fashions? How do you think this difference plays out in people defining their own styles?

Womenswear is much more subject to change and is often entirely overhauled from season to season. Menswear exists upon the structure of the classic silhouettes and fabrics but undergoes subtle changes from SS to FW e.g. the manipulation of a collar, a switch from crewneck to v-neck etc. Regarding the defining of styles, it can be difficult for men to mark themselves apart from others due to the limitations of much of men's fashion. However, that could understandably be perceived as an excuse. Men may not have the same range of garments as women for use in defining their style but it still shouldn't hamper an effort.

What inspires and influences your personal style?

Everything and nothing. Sometimes I'll watch a film and try to incorporate details of costume I've noticed. Characters from novels and their idiosyncrasies also make an impression. Often, however, there's no particular reason I'm wearing something, other than "This was the first thing I found when I fell out of bed." And that, too, is fine by me.

Cillian’s point about menswear vs womenswear sums up very neatly the “problem,” as it were, of men’s style. But every so often designers try to shake things up and overhaul men’s fashion – by (re)introducing skirts, for example.

There was a time when skirts were worn by both men and women – here's the kilt-like shendyt from Ancient Egypt:

Yet – and I suspect the reason has to do with the cultural reinforcement of gender roles through the control of fashion – men’s skirts disappeared. Women’s fashion, however, significantly expanded with World War II when the realities of working in factories brought about a need to wear trousers – an expansion that built on previous instances of women wearing pants I won’t get into here. Instead of going back, women gradually adopted trousers until they became as much a wardrobe staple as the skirt or dress.

But back to men: whenever designers attempt to introduce skirts on the runways, the trend doesn’t catch. Browsing images from the Victoria & Albert Museum’s Men in Skirts exhibit, featuring pieces from Jean-Paul Gaultier, Burberry, and Dolce & Gabana, it’s not hard to see why. A cream-coloured cotton sarong and jumper? A grey/pink/lime tweed overcoat with a sweatpants-grey dress? As a flight of fancy, maybe – but in the context of the real world and culture, none of these hold any appeal. Seriously: ick. So much for re-appropriating the skirt for men. The best efforts to shake things up rest with American-made Utilikilts – I’ve actually seen a few blokes strutting around in these rugged kilts – and, on the other side of the ocean, AndersLandinger (formerly Men in Time) with designer skirts of various lengths and materials.

I'm meandering; these are best discussed in a future post, For now, menswear is what it is and we’ll have to make do with seasonal refinements and tweaks with the occasional splash. Check out Male Mode to stay on track.


Steven said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



Frederik Sisa said...

Thank you! Much appreciated!

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