NEW YORK — “There have been different eras, from casual Friday to grunge, in men’s wear — they all kind of sucked,” said Todd Snyder at the Fashion Group International’s Frontliner talk, “The Casualization of Men’s Suitable Attire,” at Kenneth Cole’s offices here last week.
“But there’s been a renaissance in men’s wear, and there’s this new interest and excitement for fashion.”
Snyder said that American men are more daring today and are making up for lost time, finally catching up to Europe and Asia, which have been at the forefront of fashion.
“With men it’s an evolution, not revolution,” he said. “Guys are realizing that the better dressed they are, the more they are set up to succeed, and want to present themselves well in a way other than grunge, but sartorially sound.”
Snyder was joined by Cole; Eric Jennings, Saks Fifth Avenue’s vice president of men’s fashion, and Will Welch, GQ magazine’s senior editor of style, at the roundtable on the current state of men’s wear industry. It was moderated by Chris Mitchell, GQ magazine’s vice president and publisher.
Welch attributed the excitement for men’s fashion to cultural influencers such as musicians and even more so to athletes, such as those in the NBA.
“Music is such a huge influence to style today, and NBA style gives and takes influences from the hip-hop world.”
Welch said this started in earnest in the early Aughts when the NBA instituted a strict dress code in response to Allen Iverson’s hip-hop style — chains and baggy clothing — that it deemed inappropriate for the league.
“NBA players are the best-dressed men now — look at Lebron James and Amar’e [Stoudemire],” he said. “And it trickles down in so many ways.”
Jennings echoed Welch, providing a story from a year ago when spoke to 150 new NBA recruits.
“What was interesting is that they were so engaged in fashion,” Jennings said. “There was a sea of hands with questions about style, but a lot of them had a lot of information, they already knew who their own fashion icons were.”
And they’re not necessarily actors or movie stars such as the perennially cool sartorial icons James Dean or Steve McQueen. “They’re less influential today in men’s wear,” Jennings said.
Instead, Millennials are looking at The Sartorialist and other street-style photographers for inspiration. “It shows how real guys dress,” said Jennings.
And thanks to social media, that information is more accessible than ever, said Snyder.
“These men are just as informed or more informed in fashion, and they discover information immediately,” he said. “It’s great to see that they’re not afraid of fashion.”
Because Millennials are the most enthused about fashion, panelists agreed that merchandise needed to be priced a little more fairly, and pointed to young brands such as Warby Parker and Bonobos as paving the way for the future.
“It’s about great design at a good price,” said Snyder, who is launching his own younger and lower-priced line, White Label, exclusively at Nordstrom. “We decided to launch it at $795, and it’s made in America and at a great price. Why do we need to pay $400 for a great pair of glasses? Warby Parker is answering that you don’t and can get the same quality for $99.”