Why Oversized Clothing Is The Next Big Thing
Forget the skinny jeans and slim-fit shirts: baggy style is back, and in a big way. Here’s how to let loose this season.
If you were to try and formulate a snappy tagline for the current mood in menswear, you might come up with something along the lines of “The Bigger The Better”. Or perhaps “Large And In Charge”. Brands across the board seem to be opting for roomier fits, hulking silhouettes and exaggerated proportions in spring 2018. It’s like skinny jeans never happened. Or if they did, it was all a rather uncomfortable, talcum powdery dream.
This largesse is particularly visible at the provocateur-ish end of the style spectrum. Mr Demna Gvasalia at Balenciaga, Mr Raf Simons and Mr Alessandro Michele at Gucci are among the designers who, with their knee-skimming T-shirts, dangling sleeves and giant 1990s-inspired sneakers, seem to be asking themselves not just “Can we make it bigger?” but “How big can we go?”
But the oversized trend is also being played out across a wider spectrum of brands, from the ultra-refined Berluti, which is offering a rather nice baggy yellow short-sleeved sweater this season, to Dries Van Noten, which has greatly relaxed its tailoring in the past two seasons, to casualwear labels such as New York’s Fanmail and a raft of stylish street-inspired brands, including Off-White, Alyx and Rhude.
Broad-shouldered suits reinforced the superhero-esque body shape that was the public ideal. The clothes were designed to look powerful, strong, imposing
How did we get here? Or rather, back here? The first time this particular trend came around, in the 1980s, it coincided with the rise of the gym and a new, super-muscular vision of the male body captured by photographers such as Mr Bruce Weber and Mr Helmut Newton on the pages of GQ and on billboards for Calvin Klein Underwear. Broad-shouldered suits reinforced the superhero-esque body shape that was the public ideal. The clothes were designed to look powerful, strong, imposing.
You might think, then, given how much the fitness industry has grown in the past decade, that the new oversized clothes merely signal the repetition of this body-conscious cycle. But that would be missing the point. The oversized styles on offer from brands such as Vetements and Balenciaga have more of an anti-fit feel to them. They don’t so much exaggerate the physique as obliterate it. It’s not a celebration of the Ken Doll, creatine-fuelled Love Island look. It’s a repudiation of it.
That’s one theory, anyway. This trend isn’t just for the brain, however much Balenciaga is exorting us, via this season’s slogan-print hoodies and shirts, to “Think Big”. There are many more tangible benefits to wearing oversized clothes. For one thing, they allow for more movement and air circulation, which means that, in many situations, they’re a lot more comfortable than their closely fitted cousins. Aesthetically, they’re wonderfully unfussy and transmit an air of sartorial confidence. And, yes, there’s also a luxurious feel to them. The more fabric is used in a garment, the more substantial it feels and, to put it bluntly, the more expensive it is to make. Which is why the royal subjects of most Renaissance portraits look like they’re being eaten alive by their own duvet covers. Sometimes, more just means more.
The last tiny detail is solving the question of how exactly this should all be worn. Which is why we’ve put together the following pointers, bringing together the very best oversized pieces from the trend’s leading designers, as interpreted by Mr Jamie Morgan, the photographer who, as part of game-changing 1980s creative collective Buffalo, was instrumental in bringing this look to the world last time around.
01. Make the most of your shoulders
Raf Simons Red/Black Tartan Oversized Long-Sleeved Overshirt With Read Brown Leather Patch Coming soon
If there’s one part of the body that seems particularly to have fallen under the magnifying glass as part of the oversized trend, it’s the shoulders. Whether you’re brave enough to opt for Balenciaga’s coathanger-esque tailoring (originally inspired by a coat Mr Gvasalia found in the couture house’s archives), or you prefer the softer shape of a baggy, drop-shouldered shirt by Raf Simons, the wisdom remains the same: top heavy is the way to go.
02. Scale up your accessories
Giant suit jackets and floor-skimming coats aren’t the only way to buy into this trend. You can take a step in the oversized direction with as simple an accessory as a beanie hat. This one, from Acne Studios, comes with an oversized cuff that helps it to sit solidly atop the head, as illustrated here. Wear it with an oversized white T-shirt from Vetements for a look worthy of the Beastie Boys circa 1995.
03. Go long and loose
Elongated hemlines on shirts and T-shirts mean you can afford to wear a longer coat to waft your way through spring. Dries Van Noten is catering for this exact need with a range of outerwear that marries the dimensions of winter with the lightweight materials required for spring. For the traditionalists, we recommend the double-breasted variety in checked tweed. It may look heavy, but the fabric has been woven from cotton rather the wool, which makes it far more suitable for a spring afternoon. On the even lighter and techier side, the Belgian designer is offering the chocolate-coloured trench coat above, which comes in an iridescent shell. We’ve styled it here with a mesh T-shirt from Gucci, which will make the whole thing exceptionally well air conditioned. A regular jersey variety will also do.
04. Pile it on
The good thing about any oversized piece is that it can be worn on top of a normal-sized one. Here we’ve nodded to the skate park by throwing a capacious Balenciaga short-sleeved shirt over a striped variety in a more traditional cut. This sort of approach, we assume, is particularly good when you can’t really decide what to wear. Just throw it all on and you’ll be very much on trend.
05. Let it all hang out
Many of the new oversized pieces are deliberately designed to not fit perfectly. But that doesn’t mean you have to fuss about tucking in trailing hems or rolling up sleeves. These volumes look better if they’re displayed to their full extent. You might even want to up the looseness (as we’ve done in the image above left) by leaving a couple of buttons undone on a shirt. It all helps to give these pieces that elusive sense of effortlessness that style folk are always on about.
06. Don’t be shy
Yes, we realise that not every one of these oversized looks is suitable for the office. Or, indeed, anything less stuffy than stepping out of a car on your way to a fashion show. But for those who are averse to half measures, there are several oversized pieces on offer this season that will definitely get you noticed, this Balenciaga shirt being chief (or rather, grand high dragon) among them. Our advice for wearing this wry, 1990s-inspired design? Well, erm, if you’re not sure whether you can carry it off, you probably shouldn’t try. The key ingredient we’re looking for here is chutzpah. That and a pair of baggy shorts (these from Maison Margiela seem like a good option) might just help you do it.