Though it feels as if rampant social media gives birth to a new trend every five seconds, everyone still wants to know what the mood of fashion is. How trends can be interpreted as actual outfits. One of the easiest ways to distil that information is through references – a decade, or an icon whose wardrobe looks suddenly relevant. For men in particular, pinning a look to someone they’ve heard of really helps.
This season, some seriously interesting wardrobes have inspired male fashions left, right and possibly even centre. In a break from the usual suspects – Steve McQueen and David Bowie – come travel writer and novelist Bruce Chatwin, ballet enfant terrible Rudolf Nureyev and Rolling Stone Keith Richards.
In London, Christopher Bailey, the oracle of Burberry, continued his celebration of British culture with a collection dubbed Book Covers Bruce Chatwin. Cue bucket hats, the kind Chatwin wore on his travels in South America and Asia during the 70s and 80s, pimped post-Pharrell style with extra fashion flounce for 2015. Bailey put bellow pockets on jackets and coats – ideal for holding the Moleskine notebooks Chatwin not only loved but actually named. For those of us on more prosaic journeys, they’re good for smartphones, too. The collection rippled, as much as something deliberately styled can, with relaxed attitude.
Designer Haider Ackermann is not known for dropping celebrity chatter into conversation, yet he revealed that a Rolling Stones gig, particularly Richards’ performance, influenced his latest offering. Ackermann’s models walked through a gloriously ramshackle building, in Paris, emerging into a garden of uneven paving stones and long grass to a soundtrack of Bob Dylan. The clothes married rock’n’roll image (vinyl skinny trousers) with a loose bohemian spirit (dressing-gown coats hanging artfully off one shoulder). I left this show believing that everything I had on was just far too organised and done up.
That idea of letting things rumple up was also executed with wonderful sexiness at Bottega Veneta. The show had, according to creative director Tomas Maier, been inspired by the wardrobe of dancers: Nureyev, Mikhail Baryshnikov and breakdancers. Cue scoop-neck vests with slouchy cardigans, sweat trousers and a ballet-like pump, referred to in the show notes as a “rhythmic shoe”. Dries Van Noten also had Nureyev so much in mind that he created a vest emblazoned with a red R, a nod to the dancer’s Russian heritage.
What ties this set of heroes together for me is their bohemian spirit. Their lives are fascinating and they are unusual heroes for men to emulate. Chatwin was director of Sotheby’s when he turned his back on the art world to become a traveller and writer. Nureyev revolutionised the role of men and introduced modern dance moves to the ultra conservative world of classic ballet. As a rock star, Richards may be a more expected name as fashion inspiration, but he’s a sophisticated example of the breed. It’s not many guitarists who break their ribs reaching for a book on Leonardo da Vinci’s study of anatomy in their home library, as Richards did in 1998. His wardrobe reflects his eclectic personality, with his Saint Laurent jackets, open shirts and selection of scarves, a mishmash of textures and patterns.
If unbuttoning shirts and swooshing about in off-the-shoulder ensembles is not your bag, then perhaps a wider trouser shape is your route to bohemian slouch? This relaxed look was present in other collections, too. Valentino’s billowing pyjama trousers are the opposite of that neat, cropped look that has dominated men’s fashion for so long. Craig Green, the buzz name of London menswear, is similarly building his south-of-the-waist look upon a wider shaped trouser that is one part yoga instructor, one part Goan trance pant.
Is this all a shift away from the horribly overexposed sports luxe? Perhaps. Though dancers are nothing if not athletes, there is a softness in their scoop necklines and slouchy workout trousers that feels a long way from the techy track and field mood that has dominated with the rise of sportswear fashion.
Personally, I feel ready to let softness replace strictness with rippling trousers, slouchy sweaters – heck, I’m raring to go with an off-the-shoulder cardigan. I’ll likely draw the line at scoop vests or tees – partly because they are the preserve of more youthful torsos – but I’m ready to loosen that top collar button, even if it is just for this season.