It’s almost June, so alongside the rest of the garm cognoscenti, I should be girding my loins for the imminent onslaught of fashion shows. It would be London first, for three days of youthful, iconoclastic fashions, before we all wafted over to the baking-hot sartoria of Florence and Pitti Uomo. Then, after three taxing days of Campari and T-bone steak (and some clothes, I’m sure) it would be a train north to Milan where we’d be treated to the flashy exuberance of Versace, Dolce & Gabbana and Giorgio Armani, among others. Then a week in Paris, for shows that seem bigger and more bombastic every season, crowned with the local derby of Dior vs Louis Vuitton. Then, finally, home; a plane jammed with journalists four stone heavier and sick of the very concept of clothing.
But not this time: fashion is cancelled. Well not cancelled, per se, just stripped back, de-gendered and digitised. I’ll miss Paris the most – no other city holds butter in such high esteem – especially because I was planning on doing some extracurricular investigation.
My plan was to catch up with Pierre Maheo of Officine Générale (for espresso and cigarettes at Café de Flore, ideally), and perhaps Gauthier Borsarello, the stylist, editor and founder of vintage store Gauthier Borsarello Inventory. I was going to make a pilgrimage to Husbands on the Rue de Richelieu in the Second Arrondissement, and then mooch over to the Third to stop in at Brut, the vintage military store I recently found on Instagram.
Paris, you see, is at the epicentre of a new menswear vibe. It’s tailoring, but fun. And less rigid. And more sexy. And generally weirder, and maybe a bit pastiche, but in a good way. Take Husbands: ostensibly, it is a suit maker, but the aesthetic is highly conceptual. The quality and craftsmanship is assumed, but the website and Instagram feed are super stylised, so both feel more like the blog of a real guy documenting his style, rather than a model in a nice blazer.
It’s heavily Seventies, which is interesting, too. Though the house styles vary, most Savile Row tailors make for men that need a suit to make them look ‘smarter’, whereas I can see men buying a Husbands suit because they want to look like hey-day Mick Jagger or William Burroughs. Clients of husbands, I imagine, like to sit al fresco, drink small, formidable drinks and consider the world. They like to make an entrance and they leave before you know they’ve gone.
Elsewhere, Pierre Maheo of Officine Générale – one of those charmingly unassuming, accomplished men that skis, sails and generally seizes the day – designs clothes for his own lifestyle, which oscillates between the cobbles of Saint-Germain-Des-Pres, the slopes of the Alps, the French Riviera and all major cities of industry. Everything is soft where it can be, and neat where it should be. Trousers are pre-belted and best worn with Converse Chuck 70s. Blazers are narrow and short in the body so they don’t restrict as you weave your Vespa through traffic. The idea is that you pay homage to the pillars of tailoring, but use them more as a jumping off point than strict dogma.
(Now, I seem to discuss Drake’s in every article I write for this website, so I won’t go to heavy into it now, but they are the dons of this whole milieu, I think. They make everything with care and attention and reverence to that which came before, but I always feel like they see dressing as a game to be played.) I will talk about LEJ, though, a new brand Drake’s collaborates with. In the main, it makes shirts that are smart and elegant and good with a suit, but not for ‘business’. Cut slim with point collars and the occasional pocket, they are exactly what I want to wear for lunch on my boat, having spent the morning exploring some Tyrrhenian coastline. (Until I have a boat, I’ll take wearing one to explore Regents Park.)
These clothes makers seem to be appealing to a new breed of style dude. One that knows his onions, but doesn’t necessarily accept that they are a vegetable. Look at Gauthier Borsarello; the perfect example of what I’m trying (and probably failing?) to describe.
From one day to the next he’ll wear vintage American sportswear, fine tailoring, weather-beaten utility garb, military surplus, Birkenstock clogs, roman sandals, New Balance and cowboy boots. And everything looks good. In a recent interview with Matches Fashion, he expressed his mantra, and concisely paraphrased this whole bloody article. “I like the idea that you buy the best then don’t think about it,” he said. “When I see someone in a coat he’s just bought from Balenciaga and his new Gucci shoes and he’s trying to not make them get old or dirty, I think that’s when the non-elegance happens! You have to live with your clothes and the most important thing is your life, not your clothes. It’s great to be passionate about clothing, but the most interesting thing is what you do when you’re wearing them.”
This new vanguard is broad, and it would be selfish of me to ask you to stay here while I prattle on about a vibe I’m not sure I even understand myself. But these new dandies – if I were to give them a name – are reinforcing my love of style. Not fashion, or trends, but ‘style’ – the act of taking something pre-existing interpreting it for yourself. Tres cool, no?
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