Once viewed as a feminine cliche – or as the woefully-uncool territory of middle-aged men – florals are now being embraced by twentysomething males, sales figures suggest.
This trend has threatened for a while – but spring 2014 looks like the season it will take root. Floral prints were on the catwalk, from lotus flowers at Prada to dark chrysanthemums at Dries Van Noten and graphic calla lilies at Christopher Kane. Tinie Tempah, Nick Grimshaw and Kanye West have all adopted the theme.
Florals are big news in retail too. And fFashion data analysts Editd published a recent report that estimated the amount of floral pieces has increased in menswear by 130% since last year while Asos has already sold out of a floral suit for men. “We started with floral panels, pockets and yokes on T-shirts,” says John Mooney, Asos menswear design director, “but it has now quite dramatically transitioned into full floral suits and formal shirts. Sales are up around 90% since last year.”
Topman are mining the retro cool of the Hawaiian shirt; there are ten different styles available on their website. The Toucan style – a multi-coloured shirt with pink, green and orange flowers – is a bestseller. “The Hawaiian print shirt is now centre stage in the modern male’s wardrobe,” argues Topman’s design director, Gordon Richardson. Luke Day, GQ Style’s fashion firector, agrees that more extreme pieces will become a British summer staple. “The sun brings out something a bit more adventurous in us Brits,” he says. “I’d argue [florals] work for most men because they are an instant fix.”
At the premium end of the market, florals are selling well at matchesfashion.com. “Sometimes florals can be seen as a bit fusty but these pieces are geared to a younger client,” says menswear buyer Stacey Smith. “Gucci’s floral paisley espadrilles have nearly sold out in-store and online.” This new floral customer tend to do their shopping online where “the visual impact of the print often resonates far better.”
The seeds of 2014’s floral trend were planted a couple of years ago, chiefly by Givenchy designer Riccardo Tisci. He first mooted the idea for spring/summer 2012, with a collection that used orchids with a surf spin. Like anything that might be perceived as even slightly “girly”, it’s taken a while for florals to be worn by anyone but the most high fashion male consumer. But the idea of contrasting flowers with a sportswear element has trickled down. Florals on “tough” shapes like bombers, or even simple T-shirts and shirts, are proving winners. The subtext is clear: the wearer is so manly, he can wear an all-over floral print and get away with it.
Florals going mainstream are further evidence of an increasingly open-minded attitude to fashion among male buyers. The UK menswear market was valued at around £10.4bn this year and is expected to grow until 2017, with a rise of 11% predicted. There is even an identified demographic for more experimental trends. The Yummie, a term coined by HSBC analysts, describes young urban professional men with an unabashed interest in grooming and fashion, that includes keeping up with the latest catwalk diktats. According to fashion insiders, though, the trend is just men cottoning on to what women have known for ages – florals are the perfect print for summer. “Colourful florals tap into our spring time plans for summer travel in foreign climes,” says Esquire’s fashion director Catherine Hayward. “It’s escapism in one easy purchase – and what’s not to like about that?”