Fall is coming, and with it, men will be leaving their shorts and flip-flops in the back of the closet — and this year reaching for a blazer.
Although streetwear and ath-leisurewear have been all the rage in the men’s market for the past few years, the pendulum has begun to swing back in the other direction. The first hint came during the fall runway shows in Europe last January when there was an undeniable shift toward a more dressed-up aesthetic. Those looks are just now hitting the retail floors, raising the spirits of merchants who have historically built their businesses on the back of men’s suits and sport coats.
Although their expectations are high, stores also realize they can’t just hang a sea of navy, black and gray suits interspersed with the occasional patterned sport coat on their floors any more and expect them to sell. Streetwear and activewear have had an indelible impact on the industry and men are not looking for their father’s — or even their grandfather’s — suits. Guys have gotten used to be being comfortable and they’re searching for features that will let them move while keeping them cool and dry.
Eric Jennings, the former men’s fashion director of Saks Fifth Avenue who is now the vice president and creative director of Peerless Clothing, the country’s largest tailored clothing manufacturer, has said: “When a guy transitions to tailored clothing, he wants that.”
Nor is the modern man giving up his sneakers. According to a recent report from TechSci Research, the global sneaker market accounted for $58 billion in sales in 2018 and is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of more than 7 percent between 2019 and 2024, reaching $88 billion. The drivers will be branded and high-fashion footwear, the firm said, with models from Louis Vuitton, Balenciaga, Gucci and Alexander McQueen among the most sought-after brands.
In fact, Bergdorf Goodman has said it will open an installation at its Goodman’s Men’s Store in partnership with Goat to showcase — and sell — some highly sought after sneakers, including Chanel’s collaboration with Pharrell on the Adidas NMD Human Race Trail and the auto-lacing Nike Air Mag Back to the Future. The installation will be on display through New York Fashion Week next month.
Meanwhile, Saks Fifth Avenue has unveiled a new men’s footwear floor that, while carrying a large selection of traditional shoe brands, also has a vast range of sneaker styles from the same — and other — labels.
But even this ubiquitous footwear choice is shifting a bit, with a dressier silhouette making strides: think sneakers in suede or with less dense bottoms that can be worn with suits. Men also are stepping into boots for the fall season, while retailers expect derbys and dress shoes that look formal but offer the comfort of sneakers to find fans.
With the dressed-up aesthetic becoming more pervasive, retailers are filling their floors with a more elegant take on sportswear, one that blends tailored and casual elements, or as Bruce Pask, men’s fashion director for Bergdorf’s, described it: “It’s a more polished, more elevated look. There’s still a ‘suit’ element, but it’s more ‘fashion.’”
Saks is also tweaking its fall assortment to embrace this trend. According to Louis DiGiacomo, general merchandise manager of men’s wear, a “more polished aesthetic” will be evident, complete with “more elevated sportswear. It’s time to dress up appropriately at work and going out after,” he said earlier this year.
Paige Thomas, executive vice president and general merchandise manager of men’s for Nordstrom, summed up the trend this way: “There are real-life changes for men and how they dress today. It’s OK not to wear a tie and still accessorize. And it’s OK to wear sneakers with a suit.”
Specialty stores such as Men’s Wearhouse are eager to showcase their take on the shift for fall. Men’s Wearhouse is embracing a “polished casual” assortment and is remerchandising its stores to highlight the shift. Ditto for its sister division Jos. A. Bank, which recently revamped its Madison Avenue flagship in Manhattan to offer a more-modern aesthetic. As its president, Mary Beth Blake, said at the time, it’s about offering men more options.
Even the bastion of traditionalism, Brooks Brothers, is changing. As Lou Amendola, executive vice president of merchandising, put it: “The rules are fading away at an accelerated rate. And the uniform to go to work is no longer a suit, tie and dress shirt. It’s now sport coats, casual pants and sneakers. It’s more of a blending of the businesses coming together.”