STYLE

A Guy's Perspective On London Fashion Week

22/09/2011 14:29 | Updated 22 May 2015

I've always thought men who put a lot of care into their appearance must be a bit, well, shallow.

james-long-catwalkJames Long Spring/Summer 2012 catwalk. Photo: PA

For women a sartorial preoccupation makes sense - if only because there are so many options. Dresses, skirts, tops, shoes, accessories (I'm stretching my fashion vocabulary to its limit here) all come in such an array of styles, tones and combinations that the possibilities seem endless. Like a Rubik Cube, you might not always get it right but at least it's fun trying. Well, either that or so frustrating you end up crying and refusing to leave the house.

But for guys? Well - you wear something on the top, and something on the bottom. On the top it's either a shirt with buttons or a t-shirt with no buttons and a hole at the top for your head. On the bottom it's trousers. A leg goes in each hole. They might be baggy or tight, made of denim or of something else. And that's it.

Except it isn't. Several shows at London Fashion Week are dedicated to men's fashion, and magazines (including some I used to work for) devote great swathes of glossy print to images, not of ladies but fellas, po-faced and resplendent in designer clobber.

Clearly there is more to it than what I used to believe, which was that it's simply a case of money. The theory went that if you were a man of modest means with better things to worry about, you bought some inoffensive combinations from the high street for £100 - and if you were a poser with more money than sense you paid some designer £1000 for more or less the same thing.

Since moving to London and working in the media I've slowly realised that I'm not some lofty post-fashion thinker but a man who has managed to reach 26 years of age while still thinking about clothes like a sneering 15-year-old rotting away in his Nirvana hoodie.

topman-catwalkTopman Design Spring/Summer 2012. Photo: Getty Images

Attending the Ozwald Boateng party in Shoreditch on Sunday night I realised that men's fashion isn't simply about throwing some cash at your wardrobe, but dressing with imagination, personality and confidence – just like the girls.

Like a true fashion Neanderthal, I showed up in one of my four main outfits, the one I call 'smart party' (the others, since you ask, are 'pub', 'exercise' and 'job interview'). This basically consists of a pair of school trousers, a clean white shirt and a grey suit jacket I bought from Zara For Men for a (painful) £60.

All around me were men of my age dressed in shorts/jacket combos, waistcoats and suits that had evidently been given some sort of 'twist', accessorised with hats, backpacks under jackets and, well, beards.

I reflected somewhat sadly that to these men who had embraced fashion, I wasn't some no-nonsense bloke but a timid throwback to a time when men felt embarrassed by the very notion of creative apparel.

But what to do? It is one thing identifying an area of stunted personal growth, quite another to address it - particularly with something as obvious as fashion. Even if I had the money and know how to reinvent myself as sharp, urban dresser, how could I waltz into the office tomorrow wearing a three piece suit and a cravat without feeling like an insecure imposter? The last time I underwent a style revolution that dramatic was when I swapped ADIDAS poppers for Levis in 1998.

In some ways, events like London Fashion Week make me think that I'd simply be too late to the party. Like guys who hate sport all their life then take an interest in football in their twenties, trying to follow fashion now would look and feel false to those who understood the codes.

No, much better to trundle on in shirts and jeans, not upsetting anyone with my fashion tastes but not making them purr with approval either. The lesson of LFW for me has been not to dismiss sharply dressed men as shallow, but accept they have a talent I don't share. It's not always going to be easy, mind you. I mean really: who wears a hat indoors?

By: Sam Parker, Editor of Asylum.co.uk

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