From formalwear to casual blazers, on the catwalks and on the high street, menswear is smartening up its act. So what is driving the trend?
As the casualisation of fashion has taken over in recent years, classic tailoring – blazers, waistcoats, smart trousers – fell from favour outside of the office. However, the tide has been turning over the last few seasons as male shoppers rekindle their affection for smart dressing, in both formal and casual iterations.
It is a trend that is stretching across the menswear market, as casual brands add in smarter elements, luxury labels expand, and the high street ups its tailoring offer.
This June much-hyped Off-White designer Virgil Abloh debuted his first collection at the helm of luxury brand Louis Vuitton. The opening look of the collection, which balanced his streetwear aesthetic with classic menswear pieces, was a white double-breasted peak lapel blazer and matching wide-legged trousers – a modern yet classic suit.
“Tailoring has always maintained its relevance in menswear thanks to the timeless designs of brands such as Tom Ford and Ermenegildo Zegna,” says Sam Kershaw, buying manager at Mr Porter. “However, we’ve recently seen an increase in brands reinterpreting classic suit silhouettes. Brands such as P Johnson and Camoshita have injected modernity into tailoring using unstructured jackets, light-weight luxury fabrications and bolder colours.
“In addition 1970s-style fabrics are proving popular for [autumn 18]: cotton-corduroy was used in several tailored pieces from Mr P and Canali.”
At the bespoke end, London’s Savile Row remains the true home of luxury tailoring but even this traditional institution is going through a phase of modernisation, as tailors launch new stores and fresh product lines to meet growing customer demand.
Similarly, at last month’s Drapers Independents Awards, tailoring come out on top – Marc Darcy, a suit-focused brand from Manchester, scooped the Menswear Brand of the Year award.
“We have seen a big uplift in tailoring,” says Steve Cochrane, managing director of north-east independent Psyche, which won Menswear Independent Retailer of the Year at the awards. “We’re selling a lot of three-piece suits, a lot of tweed, a lot of pinstripes, some double breasted, a lot of single-breasted suits with double-breasted waistcoats.”
Cochrane points to shoppers’ changing lifestyles as a driver behind the return of tailoring, as customers “go out less but make more effort when they do”.
The increase in special occasions, particularly those beamed across social media, and events such as school proms, are also contributing to the trend.
World Cup scores
Elsewhere, the image of England football manager Gareth Southgate standing on the side of the pitch throughout this summer’s World Cup in his blue Marks & Spencer waistcoat and smart trousers has helped turn customers back on to smarter styles on the high street.
“We’ve definitely seen a rise in the popularity of more tailored looks,” says Nick Tahir, head of menswear buying at River Island. “Of course, there is the Southgate effect. Sales of waistcoats across menswear in general have seen a rise in popularity. Also, with the influence of period dramas such as Peaky Blinders, we’ve seen an upsurge in a lot of heritage styles: three-piece suits, warm-handle fabrics and bold checks in particular.”
Both Cochrane and Tahir confirm that “sartorial accessories”, such as pocket watches, flat caps and baker boy hats, are also selling well as part of this heritage, Peaky Blinders-inspired look.
However, a more casual approach has also helped give tailoring its new lease of life. Tahir draws attention to tailoring’s versatility, as male shoppers are drawn to the appeal of being able to wear a three-piece suit in several different ways, breaking the separates out into individual looks.
“Smart separates allow the wearer freedom to mix and match their tailored pieces with more casual items, styling smarter trousers with fine-gauge knits and white trainers, for example,” he says.
“After seeing casual streetwear dominate menswear trends for seasons, it’s great to see guys dressing smart again and adding tailored pieces to their wardrobe,” adds head of menswear design at Asos James Lawrence. “There are many tailoring trends out there, from crisp opulent patterned fabrics to unstructured oversized checks, but seeing it teamed with trainers and styled casually is what’s making if feel new and easy to wear. Tailoring is no longer just for special occasions.”
As the menswear market is set to continue to grow, and growing numbers of male shoppers take more of an interest in fashion and clothing, the return tailoring provides an opportunity for brands and retailers alike. It’s time to smarten up.