My father is a doctor, not one of the professions you might immediately think of as ‘sexy’. While you wouldn’t necessarily notice if your GP was wearing Tod’s, or a Thom Browne shirt, this is indicative of how the boom in the luxury menswear scene seems to have affected all sectors of the modern man. It is now ‘cool’ to be into clothes.
My father recently shocked me. I’ve always thought that he has a great eye for style, but have chuckled at his recent interest in my favourite store, Mr Porter, LN-CC or Dover Street Market. I never thought he would invade my life in such a manner.
Recently browsing the Acne store in New York’s Broome Street, I was showing my sister a pair of sweatpants I’ve been coveting for a while. As a very slim guy, any trouser I wear has to match this. Her response: ‘Dad has those.’ Excuse me? What would a 52-year-old cardiologist want with a pair of tapered sweatpants? This seems to be a reflection of how the luxury menswear market has exponentially grown lately; it is no longer considered narcissistic or ‘effeminate’ to have a strong interest in fashion and one’s appearance.
Accounting for 40% of global sales, men’s luxury spending grew almost twice as fast as women’s in 2011, 14% to 8% respectively. While the vast majority of this growth can be credited to the luxury boom in the Far East, driven by vast prosperity increase, the Western man has not been left behind. Happily, it is not just the household name advertisers – Gucci, Prada, Louis Vuitton – that are in demand.
My two favourite fashion houses of the moment are helmed by the coolest men on the scene: Hedi Slimane with his rockabilly Saint Laurent and Riccardo Tisci’s Givenchy, for cool street wear. I may occasionally play fast and loose when juggling my finances (and my thirst for high-end clobber) but £405 for a Tisci t-shirt… really? But what is fascinating about these two designers is the aesthetic: it’s young – no ‘Dad clobber’. There are no Jeremy Clarkson jeans, or zipped up jeans. My father is not alone in his adoption of these labels – I’ve seen university professors with an exposed ‘mankle’. It’s the dandy plague, the renaissance of the debonair.
I see no real explanation for this boom. Sure, the rise of ‘well-dressed’ male celebrities – Kanye and Becks – share the credit. But these are no spring chickens, how could they influence my father’s dress code? Factor in our clawing out of the double-dip recession, and the scene seems more puzzling; there are hardly pots of change lying around. But yet the modern man – or coteries of – can still blow £3,500 on a Slimane biker.
There are many questions to be answered. Are men on track to becoming the fairer sex; is this sign of gender-neutrality, the ultimate demonstration of the modern, groomed man? Or perhaps it is a reflection on how the morals of society are dissipating so ferociously as the future looked at a bunch of wannabe celebrity, asexual blobs glued to our iPhones, looking for the next ‘night’ on Blendr.
One question remains, more pressing than all the rest. Why the hell have my father and I gone for the same pair of sweatpants?