Men’s fashion weeks: relying on American TV-inspired themes of days gone by

Men's luxury brands showing in Paris took a wholly unanticipated approach with their spring/summer 2018 runway shows, relying on televised American themes of eras gone by.

If the garments shown last week at men’s fashion week in Paris are any indication of how men will be dressing come spring/summer next year, we are in for a bit of a shock.

Luxury designers seem to be in on some sort of market secret to which the public is not yet privy – one that demands an influx of Hawaiian-style shirts and colourful Harrington jackets.

Menswear has been heavily influenced by sport – graphic T-shirts, bomber jackets and athletic- inspired trousers have been popular of late. But brands showing at Paris took a wholly unanticipated approach with their spring/summer 2018 runway shows, relying on American TV-inspired themes of days gone by. They took to dressing their models at times as characters from old American Western flicks, and at others as stereotypical tourists vacationing in Europe.

Let’s start with the Hawaiian shirt – a cringeworthy item of clothing an example of which, typically, most American dads have hanging in the back of their wardrobes, reserved solely for tropical excursions with the family. Dsquared2 re-introduced the trend at men’s fashion week in Milan only days earlier, and it certainly continued in Paris.

At Balenciaga, creative director Demna Gvasalia took the image of the American father to heart, inviting his male models to bring their children to the catwalk. While some walked with toddlers saddled on their hips, others showed off bright Hawaiian shirts – garish yellow and orange shades, palm trees and all. Another version showed a triad of blues, pinks and purples in an abstract foliage-inspired pattern. A Hawaiian shirt on the Paul Smith runway depicted a tropical evening, with palm trees billowing beneath a large moon and vast sky full of stars. Another one illustrated underwater life, with fiery coral reefs and fish.

At Louis Vuitton, it seemed almost every second model wore one of these dated shirt styles in bright blue and red floral designs, stamped with Louis Vuitton lettering across the chests, or in light green or navy styles that could double as safari shirts. At Cerrruti 1881, the style made an appearance in a slightly more tailored, off-white version with brown- and mustard-hued leaf motifs.

Mustards and yellows stood out on the runways – a suggestion, perhaps, that the fashion-conscious man will step out of his comfort zone in terms of colours next summer.

At Hermes, a burnt-red, almost burgundy, tone was the highlight pigment, seen on knits, trenches and a crocodile-leather jacket. Muted, military tones were also abundant among the brands, as were the opposite: electric, cobalt blues incorporated into collections from Billionaire, Louis Vuitton and Issey Miyake, to name but a few.

Many vivid, neon tones were seen on vinyl materials – another throwback to past eras. Vinyl or shiny PVC and faux leathers were the fabrics of choice for raincoats, trenches, trousers and zip-up Harrington jackets. In some instances – like Berluti’s yellow vinyl jacket with a subtle sheen, paired with off-white trousers and a jacket, or Lanvin’s bright-green version, threaded through the belt loops of trousers and tied at the waist – the concept worked well, giving the typically cheap material a sophisticated, street-cool update. The gold rain mac paraded by Julien David might even have some selling power among men who favour flamboyance.

But, when plastic-y textiles were paired with bold text spelling out “Europa!” over checked and denim button-down shirts at Balenciaga, the cool factor was not all that evident.

A similar theme opened the Louis Vuitton show, as models wore uber-tight spandex bicycle shorts and sporty, contoured athletic leggings along with socks and sandals (just as the boys at Prada had worn a few days earlier in Milan).

Suits, for the most part, were of relaxed silhouettes – unfitted and at times boxy, again playing off the stereotype of the middle-class American man, rather than the tailored Parisian gent – though suits by Dior Homme, Alexander McQueen and Balmain were expectedly slim-fitting.

Hues of lavender and mint green were spotted on suits at the Haider Ackermann show, with exceedingly sagging trousers, displaying the elasticated waistlines of boxers underneath, and blazers unbuttoned, revealing bare chests. Styling was somewhat bizarre, with simple, black flip-flops completing the men’s looks.

At Thom Browne, suit jackets were either abnormally high, at waist length, or uncannily long, reaching mid-thigh. Gender norms were questioned, as some of the male models were dressed in button-down and pleated skirts and dresses, too.

Worthy of mention are the shirts that were introduced at Valentino. Conventional collars were replaced with long strips of fabrics – such as those used on women’s blouses to tie loose pussy bows at the neckline. Instead, one strip would artfully drape over the centre of the shirt, buttoned underneath the opposite side’s collar and then left loose, creating the appearance of an asymmetrical, haphazard tie.

To wrap up without mentioning denims would be irresponsible, to say the least, as jeans have become more and more acceptable in high fashion.

At Balenciaga, cuts were straight and slim, and at Junya Watanabe, the denims were patchworked. Not the most fashion-forward approaches, but it quickly became clear that these Paris collections heralded a more regressive style revolution.​