Monday 23 October 2017

Aisling O'Connor: Why chic, well-cut outerwear is the key to the inner man

A GREAT lady named Bette Milder once said, "Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world". The same can be said for the transformative quality of a jacket on a man. The shoe transforms a woman in her height and posture, adding an air of mystique the more elaborate the heel. In the same vein, a guy can embody an alter-ego in the change of his outerwear.

This June saw the menswear collections for Spring/Summer 2013 walk the runways in London, Milan and Paris with the ‘hunks in trunks’ revealing the forecast for guy fashion six months from now. The clear leader in trends from Menswear Fashion Week - ahead of tailored shorts, bold print and huge ‘murses’ - was outerwear.

Now, everyone needs a jacket, especially in a country with such a changeable climate as Ireland. Next year will see an explosion in blazers, trenches, bombers, parkas, anoraks and moto jackets.

Men are generally ‘basics’ dressers. The male wardrobe generally consists of neutral staples, mixed-and-matched this way and that with the odd risk item such as a wild tie, a band tee, a print shirt or a bold knit.

Add a classic jacket to this mix and you could have yourself a cultural icon. Many stars and characters of the silver screen from the past century are defined by their outerwear - and designers are not afraid to harness the power of the superhero to sell beyond the basics.

Like Clark Kent donning the Superman cape, a guy can switch various jackets with a t-shirt and jeans to tap an air of iconic charisma. Most men wore their underpants over their pyjamas as boys – just because they are adults now, doesn’t mean they can’t still have fun.

Biker and moto jackets were seen at many shows including Balmain, Givenchy, Paul Smith and Emporio Armani. The style made famous by James Dean and Tom Cruise was presented in black, white, camel, and blue leather and canvas.

Military will no doubt be a big seller with a focus on naval and aviator styles. The bomber jacket made a huge impact in suede, leather, vinyl and cotton, so expect plenty of leather bomber clad Indiana Joneses rolling under automatic garage doors in your neighbourhood.

Dior Homme was one of many featuring Captain E.J. Smith inspired gold-buttoned double-breasted blazers in navy and pale grey for that alternative ‘Titanic’ fantasy.

Safari-moto at Burberry and Belstaff called back to a young Che Guevara (who actually wore the latter label on his motorcycle adventures in South America).

The trench coat in its many forms - short, long, belted, parka, canvas, leather; cotton – was prevalent at Dior, Burberry Prorsum, Balenciaga, Comme des Garçons, Fendi and Louis Vuitton for that retro detective look, be it Columbo or Humphrey Bogart.

Slim tailored single breasted suits at Prada, Alexander McQueen and shantung silk at Ermenegildo Zegna were every bit ‘50s suave anti-heroes Don Draper and Frank Sinatra.

There was a wide emphasis on the return of the lightweight tailored topcoat - where a trench coat meets a blazer - at Zegna, Comme des Garçons and Marc Jacobs. Jacobs threw the topcoat over the shoulders of a pinstripe suit with a fedora for a bootlegging gangster look, à la Nucky Thompson.

For the less formal among us, Bruce Springsteen’s denim jacket made appearances at Acne, Calvin Klein and, notably, Versace in a collection Donatella referred to as, ‘part Rocky, part Elvis, part Mr. T’. If you really want to go to rugged man territory, the poncho is not only also making a comeback in anorak form, you’ll find it in its woven Clint Eastwood glory at Band of Outsiders.

For men willing to try something new and launch a new self as opposed to channelling their heroes, Spring/Summer 2013 is the season to experiment: sleeveless blazers and topcoats; leather zip-up hoodies; priest collars; knee-length blazers; lightweight bellowing mid-calf trenches; quilted bombers; ‘80s electric hued trench coats and parkas; floral and geometric print blazers.

The outer shell defines what a person is doing - be it errand-running, sports, business or saving the world. A man has as much of a right to transformation through fashion as a woman with her extensive shoe closet. The jacket is a hardy and sensible investment, and a more accessible form of expression.

You may not be able to change a man but canny designers have copped on to inspiring them to channel their inner superheroes.

Aisling tweets @ashinyoconnor

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