Patterned silk shirt open to the waist, long gold necklace drawing the gaze to the chest and hair slicked back like a wannabe Lothario, this retro idea of male sexuality is having a beautiful renaissance.
Think more Harry Styles than Simon Cowell. It’s part of our fascination with masculine images: a Joy of Sex era cliché of what a man should look like. It also complements the return of moustaches, necklaces - see TheChicGeek’s Medallion Man - and hirsute bodies.
Two young and stylish brands have appeared to facilitate this new trend. Specialising in silk shirts, they are pioneering a new idea of male sensuality, and promoting this sensuous, form-hugging material, not to mention the way it takes prints, and giving you many seductive reasons why it should be the fulcrum of your Summer wardrobe.
Left - MrSloane - Tom Cat Jade - £250
A mysterious ‘MrSloane’ has appeared. Helen, the designer behind the brand, who would rather remain anonymous, says, “the enigma of ‘MrSloane’ was largely created as a fictional character, either male or female, hence the way the MrSloane label is spelt ‘together’ ...ie Mr or Mrs..depending on how you read it.”
Right MrSloane - Kimono - £250
Loosely referencing the 70s screen play ‘Entertaining Mr Sloane’, which features an ambiguous relationship between the film’s 3 main characters, it also echoes the ‘his or her’ element of the shirts. Newly launched in December, 2017, her aim was “to create a brand which was reflective of my own personal tastes. Fusing the grit of rock ’n’ roll legends doused in overt glamour and danger, influenced by the NY Disco scene; the collection reflects a melting pot of inspiration combined with rare vintage finds, including antique kimonos, Oriental objet and 70s silk scarves” she says.
What made her want to start her own brand of silk shirts? “A lack of choice in the current market - I either scour ‘Designer Vintage’, in order to find good enough fabrics, which are not 70s polyester, and that led me to create my own label.” says Helen.
Maximillian Robinson launched his eponymous label last year. Only 21, his aunt is handbag queen, Anya Hindmarch, he says, “growing up I have always admired fashion and, more specifically, those that challenge the norms and create striking collections. I wanted to do something unique and identifiable, I’ve always loved what many would describe as ‘loud’ prints and it’s these prints that I have designed which is what gives Maximilian Robinson its name.
“From the beginning I wanted the debut collection to stand out, be full of colour and offer something different. I saw silk as the answer. The way the shirts hang offers something completely different to the norm, along with the versatility of the material. It never looks out of place, whether you’re on a beach or out for dinner,” says Max.
Left - Maximillian Robinson - The Snow Leopard - £280
Many guys see the silk shirt as distinctively feminine or hard to wear and are therefore quite reluctant. “Sometimes people are sceptical about some of the loud prints, but as soon as they put one on they fall in love!” he says.
“I think there is a preconception that silk is always very shiny and too feminine,” say Helen. “The printed silk shirt is very flattering, ours come with a slightly deeper cuff and carefully considered collar, not too retro, nor too mean!” she says.
So, how to wear it? “I’d definitely encourage guys to take the silk shirt plunge and embrace the look. Not only do silk shirts look super cool, but they drape so well on the body, (especially the sleeves) and feel incredible against the skin..unlike a lot of vintage pieces which can be synthetic,” says Helen.
Right - Maximillian Robinson - The Midnight Black - £250
“My advice to any guy would be, wear unbuttoned, as low as you dare, just ensure manscaping and grooming is in check. I would advise keeping the fourth button safely fastened unless of course you’re on ‘Holiday’ and then proceed with caution. Three buttons left undone should be enough for most men, no matter how body confident they are.”
Max says, “I’ve seen them worn in so many different ways, as I said, that’s why I love working with silk, the shirts look great casual with a pair of jeans, or for dinner or can be dressed up with a jacket, but also look at home on top of swimwear on the beach.”
The silk shirt is a luxurious and confident treat of an item. It’s about playing around with male sexuality, with a knowing wink, and offers a fun return of the shirt. The way it drapes, hugs and falls on the upper torso is asking for it to be opened.
Try one and, then ask yourself, "how low will I go?!"
You can thank me after, but I just may have found the prom outfit to beat all other prom outfits!!!!! Be the king of the prom by taking inspiration from the king, Elvis himself, and Harry Styles with a combination of black and pink. A pink suit with a black shirt, no tie, says 'dressy cool' and is as timeless as rock itself.
The classic 50s colour combo of pink and black brings to mind Teddy Boys and rock 'n' roll. You want a black shirt with black buttons, plain. No contrasting. You can do black trousers if you don't want to buy the whole suit, but add white socks classic penny loafers and you'll be the beau of the ball!
Left - Harry Styles giving good Elvis in an bespoke Edward Sexton suit
Left - River Island - Pink Slim Fit Suit Jacket - £85
Left Below - River Island - Pink Slim Fit Suit Trousers - £40
Below - Hugo - Ebros Stretch Cotton Shirt - £100 from HarveyNichols.com
Left - ASOS - Super Skinny Suit In Mid Pink - £85
Left - Topman - Rose Pink Ultra Skinny Fit Suit - £130
Below - Ted Baker - Rosest Tailored Fit Shirt - £65 from John Lewis
Left - Opposuits - Mr Pink - £64.95
Below - The original, Elvis Presley
Left - Zara - Sartorial Suit Blazer - £99.99, Trousers - £49.99
Left - Zara - Basic Blazer - £39.99
Left - Actor Aidan Alexander at the Billboard Awards
Left - Marks & Spencer - Autograph - Pure Cotton Tailored Fit Shirt - £35
Left - Moss Bros - Moss Esq. - Regular Fit Black Single Cuff Non Iron Shirt - £25
Left - 1950s Cliff Richard
Below - New Look - Deep Pink Suit Jacket - £64.99, Deep Pink Suit Trousers - £29.99
Below - Be the king, this prom season
‘Potential’ is an overly optimistic word in fashion and there are many more disappointments than successes. When you work in this business you always have your eyes and ears open, listening and watching on social media, traditional media and on the street to see who people like and what they are doing.
Left - The pink suit is by Edward Sexton, one of the most stylish tailors in London
Somebody who I think has a lot of potential, in the realms of being a male clotheshorse, is Harry Styles. Apart from the social media hysteria, I didn’t take much notice of him when he was in One Direction, but he feels like he has huge potential to trail-blaze in menswear. Even as a five he always stood out, albeit slightly.
Many of the things he wears are difficult or require believability and on most guys would look too try hard. Okay, so I may be reading too much into this, but, I remember Justin Timberlake leaving N-Sync, and he was on the cover of Arena Home Plus, the cover they had to reprint as it was too violent as Sept 11th had just happened, and I remember thinking "he was just another silly boyband member, he’s not cool enough for that magazine", but he quickly, thanks to that first album, graduated into an adult artist and so did his style. (Though his Tom Ford Suit & Tie section is still the best).
Back to Harry. Scream! He looks like a young Jagger, which is a plus. He’s sexy without it being about his body. It’s an intellectual form of sexy and the clothes correspond with this.
Below - Harry on Graham Norton. He's partial to dragons on a flared trouser
And this isn’t just because there is no competition. Ed Sheeran, anybody?! Harry Styles was recently interviewed by The Sun and he was asked a few things about his appearance.
He said “I always love being comfortable. You should wear what makes you feel comfortable.
"It’s a really good opportunity to have fun - it’s clothes, it’s not a big deal.”
“It’s a good time to express yourself and have fun with it.”
“It’s one of those things that you shouldn’t take seriously. If you want to wear a pair of yellow trousers you can wear a pair of yellow trousers.”
Exactly. It feels a very relaxed approach and something that isn’t laboured over. Obviously he has a stylist, somebody has to do the leg work, but it feels like he’s choosing from the rail. It’s quite a British thing to not look at others and just do your own thing, instinctively in-sync with what’s going on.
At the moment it’s a mix of Gucci, which definitely isn't for the wallflower, and Edward Sexton, one of the greatest British tailors, who has dressed the majority of the Beatles and Mick Jagger over the years, but we’re hoping for an evolution as fashion moves on. It’ll show his eye and style/taste level if he can change without losing any of the cool factor.
Harry, TheChicGeek is watching you.
Left - Harry in those acid yellow trousers
The results are in and the great British high-street has polarised. On the one side is the tired and cumbersome old guard with its offering still stuck in the past, trying to shift their stock through promotions and discounts and then the younger, faster, cheaper and ultimately, more fun retailers who are reporting record sales and profits, both on and offline.
From Left - ASOS, Boohoo
Boohoo just reported a doubling in annual profit, driven by growth in new customers, and said revenue should rise by about 50 percent in 2017-18 as it benefits from recent acquisitions. Revenue rose 51 percent to £294.6 million as Boohoo increased its active customer base to 5.2 million, up 29 percent, while international growth, particularly in the United States, exceeded management expectations.
ASOS The online fashion retailer said pre-tax profits rose 14 percent to £27.3m in the six months to 28 February, while revenue increased 37 percent to £911.5 million. ASOS has again upgraded its sales guidance for the full year, pencilling in growth in the 30-35 per cent range, up from 25-30 per cent.
This is growth, most brands, at this particularly point in time, can only dream about.
The pioneer of ridiculously cheap clothes, Primark, said total sales jumped 11 percent in the six months to 4 March. Sales at Primark, which has 329 stores globally, jumped by 21pc to £3.2bn on the back of new shops.
The UK also delivered an improved performance with a 2 percent lift in like-for-like sales, which meant the discount chain stole market share from suffering high street rivals.
Even sales of clothing at Sainsbury’s and Argos outperformed the market with growth of more than 4 percent in the year to 11 March, the supermarket reported.
What’s going on? This isn’t purely price driven. While it’s a factor, they’re making product that people want and the bigger they get and more product they make, the more people they can please. Lots and often seems to be the mantra to keep the novelty of fashion ticking over.
Too many old brands do these big annual ‘collections’, but people just want lots of individual items and fast. These fast brands do look to designers and trends, but they seem to play and experiment themselves. They acknowledge what is going on, but come up with their own things too. It's a buy it or it's gone attitude.
While Next and Marks & Spencer’s languish, I think a lot of men are trading down, happy with the product and choice. I’ve never seen so many fun things for guys. ASOS and Boohoo are producing the kind of menswear once reserved for girls and the boys seem to be loving it. Ombre fringed sweaters, lace shirts and sequinned leggings are just a few of the crazy things that are coming out of these retailers, and while they wont sell in the thousands, it keeps the cool guys coming back for more.
The young guy, today, has the confidence to have fun with how he looks and he doesn’t want to invest big money in fun or one-off items that are part of a look, or something he feels he’s taking a risk on. The fact is it’s the cheapness that makes it more fun and less pressure to look like anything in particular. It also is a way of showing off, this only cost me…
I’m going to call it the ‘Harry Styles Effect’ - trying something different yet being cool enough to carry it off. Okay, he’s wearing Gucci dragons, but you get the idea.
Only a few guys can get away with it, but it receives admiration from the rest of their peer group. It’s basically about looking like a ‘cool dick’ and when you turn up in a white, see-through lace shirt and your friends ask you what you’re wearing, you secretly know they think you’re cool and it’s the buzz you get from trying something different or new. They then look to see where you've bought your items and, while maybe not getting the same things, it creates a halo for the brand.
It’s about having a sense of humour and this is why the British are so good at style: we can laugh at ourselves, while still looking cool. We can be experimental while not worrying too much about convention or others. It’s what makes us leaders and, also, why some of our retailers are so good at this too and internationally.
Another reason is young men aren’t so hung up on logos and branding anymore. They also don't have the money to spend and want something fresh and often, if only for their Instagram account. They want to go out and wear new clothes and with limited disposable incomes they have to buy cheaper. It’s FUN with a capital F and in a world that seems to be harder and harder to get by in, it’s an outlet of escapism for the young guy.
My only message is enough ‘super skinny’.
Another year, another crop of prestigious ChicGeek Awards. Fashion years are longer than dog years, crammed full of so much celebrity, business and unpredictability, it feels like a never-ending rollercoaster of stylish ups and downs.
And, what a stylish year 2015 was. This was the year the Apple Watch arrived, Gucci became cool again and the British high-street took over the world. Here’s what TheChicGeek rated for 2015:
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Best Label of 2015 - GUCCI
Creative directors of fashion brands get replaced all the time. They come and go quicker than many football managers, but without as much drama! Historical Italian house, Gucci, was crying out for a fresh injection of ideas for a very long time, but it’s the speed and quality of the turnaround that has made it TheChicGeek’s Label of the Year.
Thanks to Alessandro Michele, the new Creative Director, it completed an 180 degree turnaround into the ultimate geek-chic look of fantasy dressing within one and a half seasons. Gone was the obviously sexual to something that is sophisticated, clever and interesting.
When you’re the world’s second largest luxury goods company and you decide to change this drastically, it has a huge global influence. I was just pleasantly surprised how radical and comprehensive it has been.
His first collection (AW15) of androgyny had many of us thinking "we’ve seen this before", but it’s the subsequent Cruise collections, campaigns and store refurbishments that has cemented this new look of vintage maximalism.
Gucci has become the buzziest label of late and looks set to continue its dominance. Unfortunately, high-street menswear isn’t copying it straight away, but expect to see details and influences in the coming few months. You can always add a simple grosgrain ribbon to your silk shirt!
A double GG belt buckle hasn’t been this cool since the 90s, but this one is in a more delicate font finished in vintage brass.
Gucci has added much needed excitement back into fashion, but there are so many ideas in each collection I’m scared there aren’t enough ideas to go around. Let’s just hope it doesn’t run out of steam anytime soon. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.
Best New Label of 2015 - DANIEL W. FLETCHER
Selling designer menswear is a difficult business. Men with deep enough pockets are traditionally conservative and those with the will often don’t have the way. So, any new designer menswear label that appears has to be admired.
A new menswear label that caught my eye was Daniel W. Fletcher. Originally from Chester, the brand was founded shortly after Daniel finished at Central Saint Martins, this year, after studying Fashion Design: Menswear, and his graduate collection was picked up by Opening Ceremony who will be the exclusive stockist of a capsule of 8 pieces from this first SS16 collection.
The collection - Peckham Pony Club - is a reaction to the gentrification and re-development of urban space in London. The writings of Ruth Glass and witnessing first hand the gentrification of London neighbourhoods inspired a collection which aims to capture the essence of the urban gentry which Glass defined.
Peckham, in South-East London, provided a backdrop for a collection which reflects the mix of cultures and styles as a result of socio-economic change, whilst highlighting the effects of regeneration schemes and the displacement of long term residents.
Featuring shaved mink collars, silk pyjama shirts and stretch leggings in a palette of baby blue, white and black, it has a retro-futurism quality with humorous touches with the ‘Peckham Pony Club’ branding. I’m wearing a look in a forthcoming OOTD and it sure beats all those Peckham hipsters in their Barbour jackets.
Best High Street of 2015 - NEW LOOK
After a few false starts, this was the year New Look’s menswear finally made it into the pantheon of men’s British high-street retailers. Menswear became a new focus of their business with 4 standalone men’s stores opening across the UK and another 20 are planned for the new year.
The collections became more trend lead and sophisticated with some of the best suede pieces I’d seen this season regardless of price point.
New Look menswear grew up without losing its youthful side and became a bonafide menswear player in what must be the most competitive affordable menswear market in the world.
As if we weren’t spoilt enough with affordable menswear retailers, in 2015 New Look became another great place to find well-fitted, affordable and fashionable menswear.
Best Grooming Product 2015 - GILLETTE FUSION PROGLIDE FLEXBALL RAZOR
Razor brands often herald something ‘new’ with great fanfare when in fact it’s the same old tired concept in a new colour way or they’ve added more blades. Revolutionary.
Gillette, this year, really did come up with something new and it works.
It’s a simple concept really - a sprung ball that can move up, down and sideways following the different contours of the face.
The FlexBall is a little bit like the Dyson of the shaving world allowing for ease of movement and a close, safer shave.
When the hipsters rediscover shaving again they’ll be pleased to know it’s got a lot easier and more comfortable since they last did it thanks to this.
Best Grooming Brand 2015 - KIEHL’S
American grooming brand, Kiehl’s, seemed to have the most innovation this year. Admittedly, a lot of it was unisex, but it still introduced me to facial oils and leave on overnight masks.
Kiehl’s has cornered the market in that pharmacy stroke skincare brand with attractive stores and simple yet recognisable packaging. They’ve expanded yet still managed to keep it cult.
I also particularly liked the Peter Max psychedelic makeover they gave their packaging for Christmas 2015.
Most Stylish Man 2015 - HARRY STYLES
Harry gets an A for effort. A stylist can take a star to water, but they certainly can’t make them drink. Harry took a tall glass of water, this year, with his floral suits from Gucci and silk pyjama shirts from Daniel W. Fletcher (above).
He’s owning that Saint Laurent/Gucci rocker look that is one part timeless and one part contemporary. It’s a tough ask being the new Mick Jagger, but it needs to come easy especially when it comes to the clothes.
He’s been cleverly distancing himself from the rest of One Direction and using his wardrobe and hair to do this. While not every outfit hits the mark, it’s the experimentation and interest that he gets TheChicGeek recognition for.
Best Fragrance 2015 - DUNHILL ICON
This was an early release in the year. dunhill ICON opens with top notes of Italian bergamot and neroli absolute intertwine with a black pepper, fusing the mid notes of cardamom lavender de Provence.
The dunhill brand was given a refresh by new designer John Ray and this was the first fragrance to complement that. The advertising for this matched the advertising for the main brand. The bottle perfectly reflected dunhill’s art-deco heritage while the fragrance was mainstream yet sophisticated and wearable.
It sits up there with Mont Blanc Legend. A modern classic.
Most Stylish Film 2015 - CRIMSON PEAK
Director Guillermo Del Toro’s spooky, gothic thriller Crimson Peak gets TheChicGeek award because of its attention to detail. While the beginning American section is a little bit Titanic, the rest is a visual feast in high-Victorian gothic.
Costume designer, Kate Hawley, fills the film with late Victorian menswear and while it does take a back-seat to the women’s costumes, it adds to the many layers of this visual feast of incest and gory mass murders.
Best Menswear Collaboration 2015 - MONCLER A
Menswear is suffering from something that I can only describe as ‘Collaboration Fatigue’, right now, so this year wasn’t as perky as it once was in the world of collaborations.
One that caught my eye was Moncler A. A Wes Anderson like exaggeration of logos and colours, Moncler A is tie-up with AMI, founded in 2011 by Parisian menswear designer Alexandre Mattiussi.
Playing with the tricolour palette - red, white and blue - of Moncler, Moncler A was a tasteful and handsome take on Moncler’s outerwear classics.
Special ChicGeek Award 2015 - CILLA BLACK
What’s Cilla Black doing on TheChicGeek Awards, you may ask, but she was instrumental in one of the most exciting periods of British menswear.
Savile Row tailor Tommy Nutter and master cutter Edward Sexton teamed up and opened ‘Nutters’ on Savile Row in 1969, and was financially backed by British pop singer Cilla Black and Beatles’ executive Peter Brown.
She introduced the label to her long-standing friends, the Beatles, three of them are wearing Tommy Nutter on the cover of Abbey Road and others within her pop-star circle.
This was and still is the most influential of 1960s tailors and gave rise to the Peacock Revolution and the huge lapelled and flared suits of the 1970s.
Her friendship and financial support of Tommy Nutter left us with one of the most exciting episodes of 20th century menswear. I bet she has left one of the best vintage collections of Tommy Nutter.