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Anyone remember subtlety?

How’s your menswear journey going?

I look around London right now and I see a lot of gilets. And ‘quirky’ Salomon sneakers. I see artisanal anoraks and loads of guys all expressing their personal style by wearing technical vests. I see bibs, aprons, neckerchiefs, embroidered cargo pants… It seems as though no one wears a cap without a hood over the top of it these days?

It appears that amongst men, sartorial affectation is now at epidemic proportions. Like a kind of nuclear sprezzatura (although of course, true sprezzatura is supposed to look effortless, and not like you’ve spent hours in front of the mirror fiddling with your two-way zip.)

Blame Instagram, blame TikTok, blame Brexit for all I care, but I see more and more men layering up like an onion, then going full Christmas tree with beads, chains, holsters, phone carriers, sachoche bags, rings, backpacks, frontpacks and the biggest fisherman’s hat their neck can support. And the results? Well, it’s a matter of personal choice, but I’ll just give you one word that’s missing from all of this  — subtlety.

Just to be clear: I’m all for a playful approach to dressing and however a bro chooses to turn themselves out is their business. But for me, too many layers, too much detail, too many affectations, well, I think starts to look a little performative. A bit costumey. And worst of all (the death knell of any ambitions towards ‘coolness’) try-hard. Frequently, I’ll spot a couple walking hand-in-hand —  she looks like she’s going for dinner with her parents, he looks like he’s about to abseil off the Forth Bridge.

For what it’s worth, I’m embracing a slightly more paired-back aesthetic. I’m still detail, cut and fabric obsessed, I’m just choosing to swerve anything that’s too gorpy. The OTT pockety thing feels real old. And maybe subconsciously (but probably actually not) I’m drawn to brands that let the clothes speak for themselves, eschewing overt marketing narratives around the specifics of their philosophy and construction.

Regular readers will doubtless recognise my passion for Comme des Garçons in the above. And yes, Comme Homme, Homme Plus, Homme Deux and SHIRT are fundamental to my outlook  — my collection (I think I can legitimately call it a collection at this point) and the brand’s seasonal output has been, and probably always will be, my stylistic north star.

But there are other brands that, for me, regularly deliver interesting, progressive clothing that aren’t merely seasonal reworks of vintage American utilitarianism. These are my current go-tos  — brands that manage to further the conversation around menswear, while always remaining wearable.

Sage Nation: No patterns. Straight forward palettes. But the shapes are sublime. Their Box Pleat Trousers are the best new trousers since trousers were invented. The Fossil Jacket is my jacket of the season.

Sillage: Elepantine one-size-fits-all madness from Nicolas Yuthanan Chalmeau. Shrug on a blazer from the Essential Collection and experience the apex of casual formality. My shoes in the images are Sillage’s Chaussure de Marche in Alligator Brown.

Softhypen: These Tokyo-based guys are getting some play in the UK over at Garbstore, but I think the Notting Hill outpost is missing a trick. Their current buy is too conservative (all baseball hats and plain sweats). Check out their Back-to-Front MA-1 Denim Jacket, and their shirting x knit polos , then dust off your proxy and get get involved.

Sacai: Inconveniently expensive, but their MA-1 hybrid denim and sweatshirts are modern classics.  The quality is off the charts. I’ve got Sacai shirts I’ve been wearing for years. One to stalk at sale time.

Studio Nicholson: I often think that Studio Nicholson is now the uniform of the male London creative, where once it was Folk and Albam. Beautifully cut, quality fabrics, huge, but non-ridiculous trousers  — what’s not to love. Keep your eye on their Insta for sample sale news.

Tres Bien: This indie’s in-house lines Ateljé and Everywhere are always worth a watch for forward-pushing inspiration. I especially like their double sleeve shirts, and this blazer is channeling some serious late 90s Comme. 

Toga: Garbstore is certainly getting things right by buying into Toga. While Goodhood appears to have downsized this season’s buy to just the shoes, Garbstore have bravely opted for some killer pieces of menswear. Hardly minimal I admit, but I tried this track jacket on in store and it’s a monster. At the right moment and the right price I’d also be tempted to drop on these hardware heavy loafers. You can also try for Toga over at London based digi-store Future Present, they have a few choice pieces, as well as a selection of really interesting, hyper-niche Eastern brands  — I had no idea My Beautiful Landlet was even available in the UK.

Files London:  Not a brand as such, but a superb shoppable archive of vintage pieces. If you’re looking for something unique, something that isn’t another riff on a fisherman’s cagoule, try these guys. There’s loads of Comme and Yohji as you might expect, but also some real back-in-the-day merch from the likes of Marithe Francois Girbaud, Thierry Mugler, Final Home and Griffin Laundry. You can grab something genuinely different and assuage your consumerist guilt at the same time.

Anyway, that’s were I am right now. Trying to steer clear of the EG rip-offs and pieces that are overtly utilitarian. I’m keeping things simpler. Giving details room to breathe, and happy that it sometimes takes a moment to even spot them.

I’m playing with a mix of dark navy and black. Which I know to some is basically chromatic incest. But I think, done carefully, it can provide just enough beautiful ugliness, just enough awkwardness to make an outfit fly. It might look simple, but there’s complexity beneath the surface.

And at least no one can accuse me of cosplaying as a Korean mountaineer.



Hat: Needles
Blazer and trousers: Comme des Garçons Homme
Shirt: Comme des Garçons Homme Plus
Shoes: Sillage

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