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Time To Choose: The Top Men’s Brands Of The Season

How retro can you go? And how loud? Eight crucial questions for your spring wardrobe

Style is a tribal thing. However precious, unique and special we think we are as individuals, there’s something inherently comforting about aligning oneself to a certain look, pop cultural moment or cluster of brands.

We would never suggest that this is a compulsory procedure. In MR PORTER’s experience, the best clothes to wear are the ones that you feel most comfortable in and, to borrow a phrase from Japanese tidying expert Ms Marie Kondo, “spark joy”. Yet such alignments do, in practice, tend to happen, particularly when it comes to aligning oneself with some labels and not others.

This is no bad thing. With a little experience and engagement with particular designers, you quickly get used to a certain brand’s wares, manufacturing techniques, cuts and overall ethos, which ultimately makes it easier when it comes to shopping, both for oneself and for others. If you like one thing from a particular label, chances are you will like another.

The only issue comes when identifying which particular brands are going to work for you. So, in an effort to be, like Ms Kondo, as unblinkingly helpful as possible, we at MR PORTER decided to take a variety of our favourite brands for a comparative spin, enlisting identical twins Messrs Piers and Trent Lafond to highlight how many of these designers have the same-but-different thing going on, as, indeed, do they. We hope this will highlight the delights and characteristic facets of each and every one. Plus, it made for some nice pictures. All you have to do is scroll down, enjoy and pick a side.


01. TRIM OR RAKISH?

One way to deal with the early part of the year is to head somewhere hot, by the sea. But what to wear? Loose, light tailoring is certainly one option, particularly if you’re heading in the direction of a yacht club or similar. Thankfully, tailoring comes in different levels of loucheness. For pristine Left Bank elegance, we recommend the wares of Officine Generale, whose double-breasted navy suit comes in a breathable cotton seersucker that will keep you feeling cool as well as looking it. If there’s a slightly more rakish bent to your personality, you could go that step further and consider some mismatched separates – in Portofino-worthy ice-cream colours – from Haider Ackermann, whose cream double-breasted jacket is designed for a nonchalant slouch to offset the razor-sharp cut you tend to find in its tailored trousers.

02. BAROQUE OR BLING?

Looking to make more of a statement? Perhaps we might direct you to Versace and AMBUSH. The former is an iconic Italian brand renowned for its glorious excesses. The other is a Tokyo-based concern, which specialises in bleeding-edge streetwear and a new kind of statement jewellery. Both have one thing in common: they know how to do ostentatious right. And, as we discovered in these pictures, they make an excellent pairing. Versace stands for a certain (if ironic) level of old-world opulence, with its intricate baroque-inspired printed shirts and spattering of statuesque Medusa heads. AMBUSH, meanwhile, has a decidedly urban sensibility. This is the brand, after all, that once made a gold-plated baseball cap.

03. RIBBED CUFFS OR POPPERS?

Fendi and Fila? Who predicted that? Yet it has happened and is indicative of the general oh-go-on-then mood of fashion these days and, also, its obsession with streetwear. This particular collaboration, which features co-branded sweats, sneakers, outerwear and accessories, has a pleasing bootleg aesthetic that feels very on point in the endlessly arch, air-quote-driven climate we’re living in. If you prefer your anarchy a little more abstracted, there’s Maison Margiela, which is doing a lovely line in wryly street yet ultimately refined items such as these side-striped trousers with Kappa-esque poppers running up their length, paired here with a shell jacket that has the word “Stereotype” on the front. Parse that how you will. The irony is so deep by this point that most meanings are up for grabs.

04. CLASSIC OR ABSTRACT?

We are consistently clear at MR PORTER that a denim jacket belongs in every man’s wardrobe. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t options. You could go the investment route and pick up a classic. Tom Ford’s archetypal example (pictured here in a subtle off-white colour, but comes in many others, all rather nice) is perhaps the ultimate iteration in this regard. Then again, maybe you’ve got 17 already and want something a little more cutting edge. Why not, then, turn to brand of the moment, Off-White, whose multicoloured denim-jacket-and-jeans combo is verging on masterpiece – hand-painted, no less.

05. LOOK OR FEEL?

Again, here we have a face-off between two types of pure joy, the first being that of owning something singularly quirky and vibrantly patterned from an expert in the field, Gucci, the second being wrapping yourself up in a typically sumptuous and stylishly understated crew neck from Brunello Cucinelli. The former has iridescent yarns and is sparkly. The latter is knitted with a blend of cotton, silk and cashmere, so it envelops you like an embrace from a loved one. It’s up to personal discretion to decide which is more you.

06. LOUD OR LOUDER?

Tall, slim, rather keen on loud music? There is a well-defined sartorial path that we suggest you follow, but, as with everything these days, it forks two ways. First, Saint Laurent, the brand that has spent the best part of the past decade reinventing and redefining a trim, sharp and minimal rock’n’roll-inspired silhouette, with the kind of aloofness that you only really find in Paris. The brand’s skinny jeans and biker jackets are considered icons of this particular era, and rightly so. However, if you want to take your gigging gear in a slightly more raucous direction, you’d be well advised to check out the wares of Amiri, a label launched in Los Angeles by Mr Mike Amiri in 2014. Taking rock’n’roll as a starting point, it embellishes the archetype with a slightly more street sensibility.

07. LEATHER OR SUEDE?

A leather jacket, the sort that will last you many years to come, is always a nice thing to have. Particularly when it’s made by Alexander McQueen, a British brand that, thanks to its legendary founder’s early training on Savile Row, has always had as sharp an eye for fit and quality as it has for daring design details, such as this particular variation’s detachable sleeves and interior skeleton print. But perhaps you would rather have a suede jacket. Especially when you could have this appealingly bright-blue one from Parisian luxury supremo Berluti, also of the highest quality, also full of thoughtful tweaks, such as the corduroy collar and quilted satin lining, which allows you to slip it on and off with the utmost of ease. Decisions, decisions.

08. MINIMALIST OR MERCURIAL?

We’ll finish with two brands at the edgier end of the style spectrum: Acne Studios and Balenciaga. Those who consider themselves trend sensitive, if not trendsetting, would be well advised to verse themselves in both, although they cater to slightly different style personalities. Our friends in Sweden combine the will to deconstruct with a sense of typically Scandinavian minimalism, something that’s clear to see in the block colours of the SS19 collection as well as its visibly seamed outerwear with large, statement buttons. Balenciaga is both more anarchic and more ironic. Come here for dramatically oversized silhouettes, wry acid-washed “dad” jeans and a heap of self-consciously branded merchandise that lampoons our ultra-commercialised era of fashion while joyously participating in it. The question here is: how meta do you want to go?