There’s still an odd, lingering Anglo Saxon puritanism, in Britain, where menswear is concerned. I couldn’t help but also notice the gangly unease with which the models in Topman Unique – the opening show of the four day London Collections Men calendar – gamboled down the catwalk, sinewy legs drowned in wide baggy trousers or sticking out of painfully abbreviated running shorts. They seemed a bit reticent, embarrassed even – which is sometimes the case with the menswear shows as a whole, lacking the confident swagger of the Milanese collections, for instance, which are set to begin on Saturday.
Fashioning freedom and ignoring the hyperbole: Craig Green, Sibling, Burberry Prorsum and Nasir Mazhar menswear, in London
A lot of patriotic conjecture gets thrown around about British fashion. That’s probably because middle England, as a whole, doesn’t really like it, and hence fashion folk seem desperately keen to emphasise just how incredibly important it all is. It is important, of course. Fashion is the second largest employer in the United Kingdom. It’s an industry similar in size to the food and beverages or telecommunications industries, and is bigger than automotives and advertising. Burberry is one of the UK’s most valuable brands, according to the FTSE 100. It rubs shoulders with Barclays and BP.
The question of clothing versus fashion fascinates me. Particularly in menswear, where even at the highest level the lines seem blurred. Clothing does what the name suggests. It clothes a body. But what does fashion do? It’s a noun and a verb. Perhaps fashion is about re-fashioning our bodies, or at least our perceptions of them. You could argue that’s what the pourpoint did – the fourteenth-century foundation garment worn beneath plate armour, heavily-padded on the chest to fill out the convex breastplate, which is acknowledged by many as the starting point of true fashion. Namely, when humans began to use the cut of the cloth to radically alter the shape of the human form. It still clothed the body, of course. But it also did something more. And it was worn by men.
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