males, but trying to avoid looking like either a Vegas performer or a Republican president can leave little to play with.
However, this latest round of men’s shows in Milan and Paris has been filled with exciting and playful menswear.
How to negotiate a look in the real world is another matter though, and the challenge of dressing fashionably while still
being yourself can be a daunting feat. However, gentlemen, I have a proposal: the urban dandy (we’ve been tracking the theme
for more than a year). Stylish but not overstyled; able to dress yourself without looking either ridiculous or clueless. Taking
advantage of the slew of new menswear designers without attempting to create carbon copies, we’re finally about to start having
fun with clothes.
The time is right for a move. So, what’s changing now? Well, layers are getting confusing for a start, and this is a great
way for men to start playing with clothing. Burberry‘s a/w ’07-’08 collection showed sharp, skinny tailored pants paired with oversized knitwear. (Note that there is a difference
between "oversized" and "just too big.") Burberry played with size and shape so that, while knits fit smoothly across the
shoulders and back, the cuffs are evident beyond the ends of jacket sleeves, and their open cardigans flare, like a circus
ringmaster’s coat, to well below the belt line. Note: this effect cannot be achieved by buying a size too large.
Alexander McQueen showed us how to think about double breasting, keeping his narrow and buttoned, while Burberry kept its macs open but snugly
fitted to reveal the oversized knitwear and skinny pants. Ann Demeulemeester also worked with double breasting in her a/w
’07-’08 shows, with macs buttoned over the breast and open at the waist. Jean-Paul Gaultier took to belting his coats and oversized cardigans loosely around the waist, adding a delightfully undone touch to his classic,
There are a number of dos and don’ts with all the above, though. When attempting any play with layers — and especially with
belting around the waist — beware the Eurotrash curse; trousers should be skinny or fitted, yes, but not so tight they leave
nothing to the imagination. Loose jumpers and cardigans can be belted, but fitted jumpers and shirts – especially linen ones
— never need to be belted. Ever. Colors are important as well. Stick to any shade of gray — from dove to anthracite — as well
as navy, russet, and maroon, and you can’t go far wrong. Throw in some bright orange or mustard yellow if you’re feeling brave
and your girlfriend’s left her scarf behind.
Mix with a little sparkle or kitsch (essential going forward, as noted
above). Bruno Pieters used metallic fabrics and magnificently ruched sleeves for his ’07/’08 Paris show. The result was somewhere between French
military chic and early ’80s porn mogul; it looked fantastic. Burberry also has a magnificent sequined cardigan in its s/s
’07 collection, but make sure you’re prepared to balance the glitz with some beat-up Converse or an un-ironed shirt.
That’s the thing about being an urban dandy: it isn’t spelled d-r-a-g.
Always aim for something like a morning-after look. In the real world (as opposed to, say, on Jean-Paul Gaultier’s catwalk),
hair shouldn’t be too coiffed or preened, nor should anything else. You want to affect the look of someone who was immaculately
dressed last night, but has spent the past
12 hours in a gin den, playing poker with ageing showgirls and disaffected gangsters.
Drinks are (and this is crucial) spirit-based, unless they’re champagne.
We’re not talking cosmopolitans (you’re not Sarah Jessica Parker); try a dry Manhattan or a Brandy Alexander. Imagine
yourself as a notorious Lothario in prewar Berlin, and you’ll be on the right track.
In terms of a dandy’s accessories, a good man bag is vital. Fendi sent its models down the runway with bags in pairs — a weekender
and a shopper — which can prove quite useful; you could carry your work in one and toiletries in the other for those all-night
poker sessions. Alternatively, go vintage with a doctor’s bag or mini-suitcase. Although it’s wildly impractical you should
always have something that can be carried in your hand, not over your shoulder. It’s the male equivalent of women with really
high heels; it says that work and pretty much anything pragmatic are not on your radar — an attitude essential for any dandy.
Speaking of vintage, I have a pair of spats and a top hat that I will only wear 1) separately, 2) if I am several gin and
tonics down by the time I leave the house, and 3) if I am otherwise wearing a plain white or gray t-shirt. However, they do
look fabulous on the right occasion (or at least I think so).
As men, we are forever thwarted in our attempts to branch out sartorially by the lack of affordable and fashionable clothing,
as well as the scorn of others. We’re largely stuck between two visions — a dead showman and a drab politico; all or nothing.
But there’s a dandyish space you can navigate between the two, man bag in one hand and gin in the other. Enjoy.
1-2 Burberry a/w ’07-’08
Alexander McQueen a/w ’07-’08
Ann Demeulemeester a/w ’07-’08
Jean-Paul Gaultier a/w ’07-’08
Bruno Pieters a/w ’07-’08
Fendi a/w ’07-’08