This has been one long, cold winter, but spring is finally starting to poke through the clouds. Here in Washington, DC, that change comes in the form of our famous cherry blossoms – a gift from the people of Japan to the people of the United States – as they explode in full bloom. Given the devastating events still unfolding in their homeland, this year’s celebration is tempered by poignancy.
Sartorial change is also afoot. Men young and old are ready to shed their cold weather layers too, and it really does seem that a style renaissance is in the works.
Where I typically see baggy jeans and flip-flops or sloppy “I’m-still-in-high-school” looks, I instead observe genuinely clever and classic combinations; great looking suits and the expression of real personal style. In fact, this recent story in the Wall Street Journal captures this apparent backlash against the insidious casual-Friday-every-day philosophy. The younger generation, apparently, now has more taste than their parents.
For the first time in a long time, it appears that many of the young gentlemen around me have decided to own their own sense of style and that it’s good to look good. Bow ties worn with deliberate flair, top-drawer footwear, tailored clothing and a clear bent toward formal dress.
Not everyone subscribes to this approach of course, but the shift is measurable. A wonderful resource for tracking down this new take on dandyism can be found at Unabashedly Prep, run by our good friend Fred Castleberry.
With that sunnier sartorial prospect in mind, let’s turn to another sign of Spring: trends and samples.
Trend-wise, it would appear that last year’s ongoing and heavy foray into East Coast Ivy League establishment continues to gain strength while at the same taking on a more refined air. A friend refers to this as the “finally, it’s cool to be intellectual” look, and I think she’s pretty spot-on.
When the Wall Street Journal becomes a go-to resource for men’s fashion and style guidance, you know times have changed and probably for the better. The launch of Mr. Porter heralded not only a new approach for male online shopping, but a new approach for online shopping itself: content-focused relevance and smart curating.
We all know that men do not shop like women, but we also perceive value and relevance differently. Look at OTC; content-heavy and focused on why certain tings matter, what value they can bring to your life and how you can incorporate them int your wardrobe and life. That is the Mr. Porter approach, and it’s the right one to take for this market.
My own nephew, a mere 23 years-old and on the hunt for a Capitol Hill job, is a great example of how the perception of dress or “grown up” clothing has shifted. Heretofore, said nephew lived in North Face fleece and old sneakers. As a recently minted college graduate, he just grilled me about the nuances of dressing well: fit and fabric, American v. European details, cufflinks, where to get a quality suit on a budget, the value of capital investments, footwear colors and construction, etc.
I almost fell off my chair. But I also appreciated the cultural shift; he cares about the details, the history and the relevance of what he wears. The attention he only just gave to which J. Crew boxers pair well with his jeans is now focused on double v. single vents and how much cuff should show when wearing a blue blazer. Something tells me he’s just one example of a new breed of menswear consumers who appreciate substance behind the sell.
Moving on the Spring samples, OTC has been able to road test a few new items from some of our favorite brands over the past few months – here are some highlights.
Ben Silver, the storied purveyor of ironclad old school Southern style sent along a unique tie. As part of the kickoff for Southwest Airline’s new non-stop flights from DC to Charleston, SC, Ben Silver crafted a beautiful and limited edition repp tie in the airline’s colors. Now, when we hard that a shudder ran down our collective spines; Southwest’s colors are not the most soothing combination. But, not only did they pull it off, it’s actually pretty nice and perfectly Springy! To the left, you can see the finished product being sported by Charleston’s own Andy Rankin.
Tucker Blair‘s founder, Tyler Llewellyn, was nice enough to shoot over a brand new sample from their Italian Woven collection – a departure from the company’s traditional line of fantastic hand-stitched preppy belts. It’s a nice in-between look that can go a tad more formal without looking like you are wearing a suit belt. Also, the stretch factor is a nice touch – wouldn’t even know it’s there to look at it.
A permanent fixture on the OTC favorite list, Vineyard Vines dropped a few items on our doorstep too. Much of this past weekend was spent in my comfy new Island Pants, in a worn-in Nantucket red. They have a nice generous cut without being too roomy.
I’ll have to wait until things go more summery before pulling on the breezy Islander Plaid Island Shirt, if only because of its decidedly beachy color scheme and puckered, casual weave.