The New Thing In Menswear? Total, Unabashed Commitment
If you want to make an impression in 2019’s cultural climate, you’re going to have to try a little bit harder
From left: Mr Ben Cobb in Milan, 2019. Photograph by Mr Szymon Brzóska/The Style Stalker. Mr Brooklyn Beckham at the Wimbledon Championship men’s final 2019. Photograph by Mr Darren Gerrish/Getty Images. Mr Donald Glover in Los Angeles, July 2019. Photograph by Bauer-Griffin/Getty Images. Anderson .Paak in Los Angeles, July 2019. Photograph by Bauer-Griffin/Getty Images
In the history of MR PORTER, we have devoted a lot of virtual column inches to sprezzatura – that is, the Italian art of looking effortlessly stylish. This kind of thrown-together look, in which sleeve buttons are left undone, and shirts left un-ironed, and various elegantly mismatched garments are made, somehow, to work together, is – so goes the implication – the pinnacle of male fashion. We marvel at how certain men, in possession, surely, of some kind of higher sartorial intelligence, are able to throw together outfits without thinking about it, are able to give off the impression of cool without doing the un-coolest thing of all: trying.
But perhaps we’ve been kidding ourselves. Does an outfit ever put itself together? No, it doesn’t. What a man wears is the result of targeted spending, deliberate choices, and at least a vague sense of what he, sartorially speaking, is all about. And in the current era, it seems, effortlessness is very much a thing of the past.
What we are talking about here is sartorial commitment – the practice of taking a particular style idiom, or era, or colour and really running away with it, as fast as you possibly can. It’s about studied references, a consistency across the entire outfit, a total look, if you will. In the summer of 2019, we’ve had plenty examples of it. Of course, there was a silly story on BBC news, and then various British tabloids, about Mr Zack Pinsent, a 25-year-old from Brighton who refuses to wear anything but Regency dress. And there was another silly story in The Guardian that followed that. But it’s not all so extreme. Real people have been doing it, too! Well, not real people, but, you know… celebrities.
Mr Brooklyn Beckham at the Wimbledon Championship men’s final 2019. Photograph by Mr Darren Gerrish/Getty Images
First off, we had Mr Brooklyn Beckham turning up to Wimbledon in a beige three-piece suit and brown boots, dressed not like he was about to watch tennis, but like he was about to bring the glory of the steam train, for the first time, to the American West. Turns out this is just the latest episode in Mr Beckham’s fascination with a look that we’re going to call “Gold Rush” – for some time now he’s been channelling menswear styles of the late 19th and early 20th century through studied combinations of braces, flat caps, striped camp-collar shirts and stiff canvas fabrics.
The same month, Mr Donald Glover turned up to Jimmy Kimmel Live in a pyjama-like floral shirt and trousers combo. Then he wandered around Melbourne airport in a knit dressing gown and orthopaedic sandals. The implied, consistent narrative here: he’s on day release from some very stylish care home. Could this be a real-life offshoot of the “Granny Look” we saw on Heron Preston’s SS20 runway in Paris? An odd look to root for, perhaps, but who are we to judge – he wears it well, after all. It’s definitely what you might call “a thing”, in any case.
Mr Ben Cobb, the impeccably dressed editor-in-chief of Another Man magazine, known for his, to quote The New York Times “wonderfully sleazy 1970s fashion”, well and truly knocked it out the bell-bottomed park by starring in a video on YouTube with Love magazine, in which he not only wears various excellent 1970s-inspired ensembles, as per usual, but does it on the set of an imaginary 1970s talk show, on which he interviews various famous people, including Mr Rami Malek and Ms Maggie Gyllenhaal, the former playing a 1970s auteur, who talks about his imaginary 1970s arthouse films. Now that’s commitment.
Mr Ben Cobb in Milan, 2019. Photograph by Mr Szymon Brzóska/The Style Stalker
These are just a few examples of the idea, of course, but it’s not too difficult to find more. There’s Mr Nicholas Hoult on his current publicity round, also doing the 1970s (should we have just written about the 1970s?), in a bright blue suit with pointy shoes, or a pale pink variety, with matching sneakers. In fact, the single-colour look is particularly hot right now: Post Malone in hot pink; Mr Justin Bieber in lavender; Mr Jaden Smith in magenta. There’s Mr Jared Leto in his head-to-toe Gucci ensembles. There’s musician Anderson .Paak stepping out in Los Angeles in a head-to-toe lime green tribute to 1990s rave style, furry bucket hat and all. And there is, of course, the Met Gala, where, it’s arguable “the total look” – or at least, the 2019 version – was invented. This year’s theme, camp, gave attendees more license, perhaps, than ever before to really, really, go for it, whether that meant eyeballs on the face (Mr Ezra Miller) or dressing like a security guard (Mr Frank Ocean), or Mr Harry Styles turning up with Gucci designer Mr Alessandro Michele in matching ruffled outfits.
Why is it that, now, such draw-a-line-in-the-sand dressing makes sense, even brings a little joy into the world? Perhaps, thanks to the democratisation of fashion – the Pinterest boards, and the Instagram posts, and all the information that is served up every day by such humble outlets as MR PORTER – it’s just become a little bit too easy to achieve a certain level of personal style. For most of us, of course, this is wonderful news. It’s a realisation that the ability to look your best isn’t some mystical force held only by the rich and famous, or rather, their stylists. But for those looking to stand out, and make an impression? Clearly, the blandness of contemporaneity will simply not do. The total look implies confidence, the specificity of the reference implies intelligence and cultural clout. What more could a person need for communicating the power of their personal brand?
Can you try it at home? Do you even want to? Of course, it’s not easy – this, after all, is the kind of style we call “studied” for a reason. But, should you be interested, we’re more than happy to rifle through our offerings and proffer the following five “total looks” for your predilection.
THE GOLD RUSH LOOK
In short: vintage workwear, with a little bit of the Wild West.
How to do it: follow the lead of Mr Brooklyn Beckham, with cropped, cuffed trousers, sturdy boots with welted soles and, if possible, a big tattoo on your bicep
What to wear
THE 1970S LOOK
In short: ritzy, louche and decadent. Lots of chest, lots of hair
What to wear
THE SWAT TEAM LOOK
In short: dress for the shops like you’re taking down a drug baron
How to do it: the first rule is everything must be black nylon. The second rule is it must be covered in accessories. The more the better. A belt bag and a chest rig is the bare minimum. Anything with 3D pockets is a yes. Anything without some sort of belt or strap is a no.
What to wear
THE GRANNY LOOK
In short: a new, weird development for winter, in which men affect the stylings of sweet old ladies. Really
Key brands: Heron Preston, Gucci, Prada
How to do it: in the Heron Preston runway show for SS20, the models all wore silk headscarves. But you don’t need to go that far – think about Mr Donald Glover’s Suicoke sandals, and think about Prada’s twinset-like mohair sweaters for this winter. Just think about mohair, the fluffy kind. Think about it a lot. Probably swap your umbrella for a transparent rain bonnet
What to wear
THE RAVE LOOK
In short: so, you went to a party at the Haçienda in 1991 and… you’re still up. The high is all natural, of course – maybe it’s the power of the bucket hat?
What to wear
The men featured in this story are not associated with and do not endorse
MR PORTER or the products shown