Mirror, Mirror: Menswear's cleaning up its hipster/hip-hop act

Matthew Izzo is now focusing on menswear. Even casual lounge clothes, he says, are embracing a cleaner, much more fitted, but not baggy look.
Matthew Izzo is now focusing on menswear. Even casual lounge clothes, he says, are embracing a cleaner, much more fitted, but not baggy look. (AKIRA SUWA / Staff Photographer)
Posted: June 08, 2011

Tiny suits, skinny jeans, and shrunken shirts - hallmarks of the latest ultra-fitted era in men's fashion - are relaxing a bit.

And that's not the only news in menswear.

When it comes to shopping, guys are slowly breaking their blind loyalties to such traditional menswear outlets as Boyds and Brooks Brothers and branching out, finding style solace in what used to be haunts for just women.

Think H&M, Urban Outfitters, Zara, even Ross.

"My whole outfit is from Ross," said Jack Soos, 23, clad in a lavender dress shirt and pleated pants, and sipping a hoppy beverage in this week's With Love Beer Garden at the Four Seasons Hotel. He blended in among the backdrop of similar looks that included clothes not too big, not too small, but just right.

And thank the fashion gods. I'm glad that oversize thing is over, but I don't like the idea of a grown man walking around with his pants too tight, either. This new relaxed, more adult look, an easy blend of elements of hip-hop with the pocket square and lining details of hipsters, is an incremental change, but feels just right.

Now if we could just get more folks to catch on.

It's been a slow process: A dip in the economy led to the demise of a few local stores, from Center City's Wayne Edwards boutique to Bryn Mawr's Pants.

But in the last two years, new stores have opened, too, including His Exclusively, former attorney Vincent Sawyer's Northern Liberties custom specialty shop, and Metro, ex-marketing executive Tom Longo's edgier South Philly spot.

"Guys want to get more mileage out of their clothing. They need things they can wear to work and be casual," said Longo, who carries Ben Sherman, Fred Perry, and Penguin.

Earlier this year, Matthew Izzo closed his brick-and-mortar women's store and furniture store - both retain an online presence - so he could focus on men's clothing.

Izzo says menswear, even casual lounge clothes, is embracing a cleaner, much more fitted, but not baggy look. He points to a rack of soft V-neck T-shirts, labeled Farah, in muted grays and greens. This look, he says, is catapulting him out of the hipster era. We like this.

"This is definitely a time to be more enthusiastic as things are picking up," Izzo said. "I'm selling more pieces at full price these days."

Philadelphia's menswear market seems to be mirroring the rest of the country. According to the NPD Group, a market research firm in New York, menswear sales for May 2010 to April 2011 were $53,371,339, up 4 percent from $51,297,895 in the previous 12-month period.

Compared with the women's market, which has been flat, menswear is doing pretty well, said the company's chief analyst, Marshal Cohen. (Cohen added that menswear sales had outpaced women's for three years now.)

The steady growth of menswear is two-pronged, Cohen explained. Two years ago, the hipster trend brought teens and twentysomethings into the marketplace with whisker-washed skinny jeans and muscle T-shirts. Sales went up.

As the trend continued to intensify, a larger segment of the population - the over-28-year-olds - rejected the look. They pretty much refused to shop, shunning everything tiny, tight, and Thom Browne-esque. These men are having to buy now, and buy a lot.

"If I go two to three years without buying new apparel, my clothes are now outdated, shabby, and just don't fit," Cohen said. Those who were all into the ultra-baggy hip-hop look have grown up now, too. "They want, need to look more managerial," Cohen said.

Hence the shift. Designers such as New Orleans-based Billy Reid, London's AllSaints Spitalfields, and J.Crew are leading the pack, said Tom Julian, author of Nordstrom Guide to Men's Everyday Dressing (Chronicle Books, 2010).

However, local designers, many of whom got their start with screen-printed T-shirts during hip-hop's fashion era, are taking advantage of the needs of everyday men, mixing elements of the ultra-oversized look with last year's nerdy grunge. Pocket squares, contrasting lining, even seersucker are meeting looser fits.

Himii Myatt will introduce a collection of "fitted" casual, ready-to-wear cargo pants and polo shirts in blues, grays, and reds.

"We are trying to help men redefine themselves," the 31-year-old designer said of his collection that he hopes will be in stores by fall.

Nigel Richards agrees. His 611 brand (yes, named after Broad Street) features gingham plaid button-up shirts in greens and blues, wool varsity jackets, and blazers. And much like Myatt's, his collection grew from a T-shirt line and is now inspired by powerhouse brands such as Etro and Roberto Cavalli. Richards' pieces are sold at Matthew Izzo and Senor in Manayunk.

"We want to make pieces that will appeal to men, especially men in Philadelphia," said Richards, 41.

"We are trying to offer a middle ground, at the same time acknowledging men don't want to wear their sister's fifth-grade jeans and a T-shirt. That whole fit was insane."

Well put.


Contact fashion writer Elizabeth Wellington at 215-854-2704 or ewellington@phillynews.com or ewellingtonphl on Twitter.

 

|
|
|
|
|