I own a gorgeous pair of Ralph Lauren jodhpurs. Khaki knit with windowpane burgundy framing, they may be the most dynamic pair of pants ever created for the male form.
If you’re not familiar with jodhpurs, and why would you be, they’re billowy from the waist to the knee, then, thanks to leather straps and a slim cut, snug from the knee to the ankle. They also feature large suede insets along the inner thigh. Absolutely magnificent. They’re for horseback riding, but as with most things, the modern world has gone casual and jodhpurs’ last gasp came aboard Cecil B. DeMille during filming of The Ten Commandments. (There are few more iconic images of Hollywood than of a jodhpur-ed DeMille giving direction to Charlton Heston as he crawls, as Moses, toward a burning bush.) I bought mine in 1998 for $450 and haven’t worn them once. If they ever come back in style, I will be unbelievably happy. But I’m not holding my breath.
In the world of men’s fashion, trends tend to move at a glacial pace. And I’m talking pre-global warming. (I’m kidding. There’s no such thing as global warming.) That’s the real difference from women’s fashion: pacing. Between the time this column was written and the ink dried on this magazine, women’s hemlines changed three times, their blouses went from low-cut and high-waisted to high-cut and low-waisted, and their shoes became a modernized version of a retro style that just went out of fashion two weeks ago. You see, women’s trends happen at whiplash speed.
But, for the guys: Still flat-front pants? Yep. Dressy jeans? Yeah. Button-down shirts? Uh-huh. Well, there you have it. All caught up.
“It’s kind of funny. Trends in menswear move very, very slowly,” says Rob Carvell, co-owner of Brodeur Carvell (brodeurcarvell.com) at Bell Tower Shops in Fort Myers. “And then, maybe every few years something will pop up. But I think we’re still in that segment where men’s trends are still what they were the last buying season. And yet, something I’m seeing bigger than ever for spring is color.”
Carvell says that even when buying for fall, there was more color than he had ever seen before. Bright purples, bright pinks, bright blues, teals and aquas—it’s like a damned double rainbow in everything from dress shirts to sport jackets. You’ll see it in varying degrees whether you’re in Manny’s (mannysfinemenswear.com) or John Craig’s (johncraigclothier.com). You can be as bold or bashful as you want to be. And, he assures us, colored jeans (reds, greens, yellows) are still a thing.
“And you’re still seeing jean-driven sports jackets,” says Carvell. “But … what used to be a $500-600 range for jackets worn with jeans, now you’re seeing jackets that are in the $1,000-1,500 range being geared toward wearing with jeans.”
And designers are now making sports jackets out of nontraditional material. “We saw some things carry over into spring, and one of those was a cut like a sports jacket, but made out of sweater fabric,” Carvell says. “It’s a knit. Linen is also big this spring for sports jackets.”
If you step into Rocco’s Tailor Shop in Naples (roccotailor.com), you’ll meet a man who thinks that unstructured look is on its way out. Dominic Lacquaniti is pushing his male clients into more classic, structured shapes for suits and sports jackets. “Not a lot of guys in their 40s, 50s or 60s have great shoulders, so go for something with a structured shoulder,” says Lacquaniti, who’s known for appreciating the classics. After all, this is a man who created his own truffle-hunting jacket.
And perhaps that is the perfect example of a trend we’re beginning to see in Southwest Florida—a move toward quality. Most men are guilty of buying off the rack, but choosing to have items custom-made is a throwback to another time and, frankly, a smart move. Spend the money on a custom-made classic piece and you get something that not only looks amazing but also will last you for years. “Buy less, but buy better,” Lacquaniti says.
He also sees some other trends taking place. He sees dress shirt collars adding tabs and stickpins, and even getting a bit taller. It’s elegant and old-school. (And probably looks awesome with jodhpurs.) And he is seeing guys make some effort with contrasting stitching on custom pieces. It’s subtle, but looks terrific. “I think guys are starting to pay attention to the smaller details,” Lacquaniti says.
Speaking of which, when it comes to accessories, Carvell says boutonnieres are “bigger than ever.” (He means that figuratively, I think.) Of course, because men are choosing jeans with their jackets they’re dumping the ties. But in order to work some color magic sans tie, men are going all in and wearing pocket squares and boutonnieres at the same time. Isn’t that dandy? (See what I did there?) Like most men, I probably won’t come around to accepting this style for another eight years, just in time for it to be heading out of fashion.
Another thing I’m not quite ready for—even though it’s been around for 15 years—is the Robert Graham shirt. You’ve certainly seen them, mostly on middle-aged men attempting to recapture their rebel youth through small flourishes of colorful paisley print on a dress collar or cuff. But as our world continues to fill with more and more middle-aged men, Graham has become emboldened and moved many of those prints to the actual outside of shirts. They say to the world, “I dare you not to look at me.” “He is a trendsetter and started it all for everyone else,” Carvell says. “(Now the label) has everything from shoes to socks to sports jackets to ties. I think it is a name that everybody understands.”
But while it can be argued that Graham has gone off the rails when it comes to colors and patterns, you can’t argue that the little flourishes he started with still make an impact. I wandered into Joseph Wendt Custom Clothiers (josephscustomclothiers.com) and spotted a beautiful pair of black Fratelli Rossetti dress shoes with royal blue laces. That’s a hint of something special.
Too bad my jodhpurs require riding boots.
Illustration by Pushart.