It’s one thing to be a woman wearing menswear and quite another to be a man.
To our credit, women can do justice to tailoring that’s originally intended for bodies with no breasts or hips, and rarely does a man look better in his own sport coat than the girl who decided to claim it as her own. “Borrowing from the boys” inevitably turns into “this is mine now,” not for the sake of sentimentality or novelty but simply because it looks great — even better than a womenswear designer’s boyfriend fit. But where a woman in a three-piece suit looks thoughtfully styled and elegant, a man wearing the same thing just looks effortless.
The men of Pitti Uomo and Paris Fashion Week project the very definition of Oh, this old thing? Seemingly never ahead of nor behind the trend, neither a victim of fashion or inappropriately underdressed. Somehow one’s t-shirts and jeans with open-laced tennis shoes look as equally remarkable when held against another’s monochrome houndstooth.
Nothing appears superfluous, though you’ve got to admit some of it is: ascots, pocket squares, patterned socks purposefully visible under cuffed pants — these items aren’t necessary or practical at all and yet they complete a multitude of the men’s outfits with decided confidence.
It is this cavalier approach to style that appeals to me so much more than recent street-shots of women. A lot of it has to do with the lack of identifiable labels (which can probably be attributed to my less than encyclopedic knowledge of men’s designers). Show me a photo of a woman at fashion week and I can often immediately point out who makes her coat and what season her top is from. Show me a photo of one of these men and sure, I can make an educated guess — maybe that’s a Raf Simons sweatshirt? Prada shoes — but only because they resemble a women’s pair? But the majority of it is far less conspicuous, and that ambiguity is exciting.
There’s also less pressure. As someone who consumes these paparazzied photos for both story ideas and personal dressing inspiration, it’s hard not to look at women wearing the things I long to own and feel envy or non-buyers-remorse. I recently spent a whole week kicking myself for not taking the plunge on a real treasure of a blazer, discounted at a sample sale, only to see it photographed on another woman a month later. I don’t want her sartorial fame, but ugh, did I want that blazer.
When you look at the men, there’s none of that. A bearded editor is not walking around in clothing that I have intrinsically claimed as mine, and I am not self-consciously comparing the way his pants fit him versus the way a similar pair fit me. I can look at these men as fashionable humans that exist in a separate category. I can admire and draw influence from them, but when push comes to dress, I don’t expect — or want — to look just like them.
I’ve seen hundreds of street style photos over the course of the recently departed men’s fashion week. Inspiration has burst from the innumerable clicks of dapper gentleman dressed beyond the nines and into their tens. They appear at ease in their clothes, and while we, the women, may have learned to adopt the fundamental lot of their cues, there’s little denying that they win. So, let’s hear it for the boys.