Bone Up On Alexander McQueen

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Bone Up On Alexander McQueen

Words by Mr Stuart Husband | Photography by Mr Paolo Zerbini | Styling by Mr Scott Stephenson

17 March 2016

Tailoring, punk and prints: to understand this British style institution, you need to start with these basics.

“Menswear is about subtlety,” Mr Alexander McQueen once opined. “It’s about good style and good taste.” It’s been nearly a quarter of a century since the launch of this British national treasure’s eponymous label, and six since his untimely death. But in the more-than-capable hands of creative director Ms Sarah Burton, the Alexander McQueen brand continues to refine its founder’s menswear vision – a potent mixture of classicism and iconoclasm, where immaculate tailoring and construction are infused with historical reference and theatrical flair.

Perhaps no other menswear brand is as adept at marrying tradition, from formal suiting to military shaping, with a decidedly renegade dash – a happy collision of styles that makes it a pleasure to wear. So how to do it? In the following guide, which focuses on the brand’s nautical-tinged SS16 collection, MR PORTER provides recommendations on taking some key elements of modern McQueen and making them your own.

Alexander McQueen is a brand with its own particular take on the athleisure look. The clean lines of this stretch-twill bomber jacket and wool trousers draw from the functionality of contemporary sportswear, but the added twists – the ribbed leather trim of the jacket, the raw-edged cream piping on the trousers – suggest a somewhat gruelling sprint to the finish line. This mixture of refinement and savagery is at the heart of McQueen. You can play with it, too, by picking a piece with a sly, distressed element and pairing it with something clean, graphic and simple, such as a white T-shirt, shirt or black tailored jacket.

You may say that Mr McQueen was a dreamer, but he’s not the only one. His successor, Ms Burton, has kept the questing, romantic spirit of the brand’s creator alive with each new collection. For this season, her whimsical inspiration – Victorian sailors on uncharted seas – is exemplified by a sweatshirt print that’s awash with nautical references (think serpents, ropes and breakers) in a blue, orange and black palette. Offset this sweatshirt’s impact and loose cut with subdued, slim-fit trousers – nautical but nice.

The skull is a key leitmotif at McQueen. One of the first things you see at the Vogue 100 exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London is a huge photo of the late Mr McQueen posing with a skull. Both have burned-down Marlboros poking out of their mouths. This season’s iteration of the skull is more graphic than gothic. Inspired by traditional nautical tattoo designs, compasses, anchors and mermaids adorn cotton-jersey sweatshirts and slim-fit trousers. These pieces are the perfect expressions of McQueen’s rebel yell, but paired with plain separates, you’ll find that less is more, more, more.

The rigorous utility of the uniform continues to be an inspiration for McQueen, with classic styles adapted and reimagined in accordance with the label’s dramatic spirit. A key piece for spring is a new take on the peacoat, which has been worn by naval personnel since the 1700s. A perfect fit with the season’s maritime theme, the midnight-blue shade, exaggerated collar and lapels, serried ranks of buttons and elongated elegance give this coat extra presence and wardrobe-staple clout. Soften the solid geometry with pyjama-like printed trousers, and elevate your look beyond officer class.

“What did I take from punk? Just about everything,” Mr McQueen once said, and that movement’s rip-it-up-and-start-again ethos has been evident throughout the brand’s history in everything from the legendary bumster trousers to the continuing delight in creative disruption. The anarchic spirit lives on in this wool and mohair tuxedo jacket, which marries exemplary cut and red-carpet elan with lapels covered in metal studs. Statement eveningwear has become a McQueen speciality. Keep it cool and monochrome by adding a plain white shirt.