By Alan Flusser
Men own more clothes than at any time in history – the collective interest in designer wardrobes, classic dressing, luxury clothes, and nowadays, fashion-informing and shopping websites continues to pick up steam. Unlike my youth, when a businessman demonstrating interest in how he dressed invariably elicited questioning glances, today such an appearance is regarded as an extension of his larger professional persona.
Given the fertile soil for male habiliment to flower in over these past decades, why has the emergence of iconic male fashion come to a virtual standstill? Each decade it becomes harder and harder to unearth those style-savvy men whose dressing styles could be used as platforms for others to borrow or learn from. Where is the modern day offspring of those legendary male style arbiters the likes of a Rhinelander, Buchanan, Astaire, or Agnelli, or any of the numerous civilian role models whose raffish dressing skills could be accessed with no more effort than opening a morning newspaper or going to see a movie?
Were you to try and assemble potential candidates from today’s corners of business, society, politics, art, or entertainment under the age of fifty and not in the employ of the fashion industry, you’d find yourself smack behind the proverbial sartorial eight ball. Or, are we witnessing a permanently transformed menswear industry that is no longer capable of, or for that matter, interested in, turning out serious aficionados of this rare masculine art?
And on a related front, where does the production of such a dressing-centric intelligentsia rank on a hypothetical industry Priority list….along with the corollary question – what, if any responsibility does the menswear community bear for such a sorry state of affairs? Should its health be judged by how many new, upcoming designers it annually spawns or the number of newly-minted civilian fashion role models?
On the positive side, some progress has been made in harnessing a more informed cadre of aspiring swanks relative to how to raising the collective male fashion intelligence. Courtesy of the parallel universe formed by the emerging male fashion blogosphere and its growing ranks of self-appointed students of the pre-fashion designer sartorial order, the door has been opened into the inner workings of those older world dressing verities that helped deposit so many post WWII civilians into the pantheon of style-enlightened role models. Who would have thought that the new age technology would turn out to be the principal facilitator for a global investigation into menswear’s former halcyon days.
However, for the great unwashed, such an enterprise remains pretty much that of an intimidating picture puzzle. Unfortunately, it’s much the same puzzle-solving gestalt that the industry promotes to persuade customers to find more room in their closet. Solving a puzzle begins by assembling an outer perimeter before moving inwards, as opposed to forging a sustainable, personal dressing style which begins inward, with each individual’s unique proportions and complexion, before then moving outward.