…And What Is The State Of Menswear?

This is a subject that will be a tired refrain of mine until things change: menswear is fucking boring. I said it yesterday, I said it last year, and now I am saying it again: menswear is boring.

It was obviously a surprise when Racked posted a very thorough, very positive story yesterday by Noah Davis titled “The State Of The Menswear Union.” And what is said state, in Davis’ opinion?

We’re witnessing a fascinating, exciting, very specific moment, a “choose-your-own-adventure time of menswear, where guys are letting their freak flags fly,” in the words of Jian DeLeon, senior menswear editor for trend forecasting company WGSN. Information has never been more readily available, and online shopping has lowered the barrier to entry significantly.

Sure, yes, OK: I give you that. Men are caring more about how they look. That is a fact.

Davis maps this out—from Four Pins to Instagrammers, Mens Fashion Week to Crosby Street—there’s a sense that, yes, something exciting is happening for men. But what exactly is there to be excited about? People with penises are giving a shit about clothing—and that is it. That is the State Of The Menswear Union: men care about fashion now. A round of applause…?

While this is fabulous, myself and other guys and women, etc. have been reading fashion magazines and hunting style websites our whole lives and are underwhelmed by said claims, to live in a culture where everyone cares as much as we do. That should be great—but not if you’re a man. Why? Because a rise in retail culture for men and a fashion week for men does not necessarily make for good fashion: it just makes for more accessibility and a degree more representation in the conversation.

Davis points this out too, which he attempts to frame as a positive.

No one style dominates the current moment. It’s a bit of a Kumbaya period, where people are branching out in new and interesting ways, encouraged by a relatively welcoming space. The tailored-suit guy respects the effort of the man who’s into streetwear, and neither is offended by the athleisure dude.

That’s exactly it: “no one style” is actually three styles, which the piece over and over again tries to spin as a good thing.

Suits, streetwear, and athleisure are not all of mens style but, still, that’s what we’re given. Instead of getting the colorful, creative styles that are literally illustrated to accompany the post, we’re getting monotones and Yeezy™ stuffs that, while great, is not pushing menswear toward anything but populist Ralph Lauren™ or Ross™ Rick Ownes™. Where is the color? Where is the fun? You see it in womenswear and clothing for literal little boys. Every J.Crew catalogue sums it up best: everything has such a joy and whimsy…until you hit the menswear, where everything turns so dour.

There is a lot of talk about how men are different shoppers, how they want more and how they are lazy, but there is no talk about how they or those who cater to them are too fucking serious. It’s a problem because, like cargo shorts, it reinforces staid notions of masculinity. The “State” does mention pushing gender boundaries but it’s from a very patriarchal way, where men aren’t transgressing gender but are just dressing up for ~*~FuN~*~, wearing women’s clothing “in a masculine way.” That’s not progress nor is it fashion: that’s just dress up.

And that’s the issue: men’s fashion is so buttoned up because masculinity is still so buttoned up. I will continue to be unsatisfied and bored with menswear until more and more people give the middle finger to societal notions of how men should behave, that menswear is more than the dreaded trinity of Hypebeast™ approved styles. There’s a lot to celebrate in menswear—but there’s mostly a lot to be desired.

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