The Beret: YMC
Liberté, egalité... beret? London label YMC referenced the Frenchiest of French hats in its excellent autumn/winter 2013 collection. But rather than draw on the beret’s string-of-onion Gallic roots, they point out its qualities of ‘revolution and rebellion’.
YMC designer Fraser Moss used the hat to top off a collection of parkas, silk bombers and Chelsea boots he cheerily titled ‘Dead Inside’, his frustrated response to modern culture and a sartorial look back to mid- ’90s London. But Moss isn’t the only designer to flirt with the hat – Agi & Sam and Margaret Howell (see below) also slipped the beret into their AW13 collections – knocking an arresting idea firmly into a trend. Getting French up top might be a little too daring for some, but look how YMC styled theirs.
You just need a pair of dark glasses to hide your identity, and the stony-faced expression of a man on his way to the guillotine. Bonne chance!
The googly eye top: Christopher Shannon
London-based menswear designer Christopher Shannon’s clever schtick is to use sportswear as a starting point, elevating it to luxury levels with unexpected colours and materials, but never losing its hard-as-nails, masculine quality.
Shannon walks the fine line between the kind of ballsy, leftfield menswear fashion writers love to write about, and the more sedate, commercial pieces store buyers know they can actually sell. He also is the designer of Kidda, a range of younger (and cheaper) designs with splashy prints. This time around, Shannon’s subtle, refined knits are spliced with their opposite – kooky designs with googly and garish cartoon eyes.
The printed trouser: Agi & Sam
We shouldn’t really blame Agi Mdumulla and Sam Cotton for the feverish, print-obsessed current state of British menswear, but they’ve done nothing to remedy it. The design duo, known as Agi & Sam, (who infamously created their debut collection on an east London living room floor, funded by their housing benefit), churn out all manner of bespoke prints. They have collaborated with sock brand Tabio, and recently worked with Topman to create a loopy capsule range.
For their lauded autumn/winter 2013 presentation, Agi & Sam migrated print from up top (where a loud shirt can be safely hidden under a crew neck) to a far braver area down below – with posh, pheasant-print trousers.
Their inspiration was the eccentric Marquess of Bath – Sam describes their design focus ‘a confident ladies man, who talks a little bit too closely in your ear’. Prepare your downstairs area for a bit of posh print later this year.
The army boot: Martine Rose AW13 x Bates
Designer Martine Rose is a proper Londoner, and her excellent designs draw very much from the fabric of the city: streetwear, punk, Rasta, bovver boots and pub bar towels fashioned into trousers – it’s all there.
The one- time MAN winner (the influential group show for new men’s brands) collaborated with makers of clumpy workwear boots Bates, putting all of the models at her autumn/winter 2013 show in Bates army boots for the perfect match of style and usefulness.
‘All menswear is essentially rooted in function,’ says Martine, with Bates – who make footwear for armed forces around the world – seemingly the most functional brand of them all.
The spiritual rucksack
Topman Design is the Brit brand’s big moment on the fashion week schedule, an upscale, dare-we-say directional range that never fails to set out a trend or two for the coming season. For AW13, Topman’s design and development director Gordon Richardson and his team created a uniform for New Age explorers featuring proper outerwear – parkas, trench coats and fur-lined hoods – and New Age symbolism, from om to traditional Tibetan patterns.
In amongst it all were a range of rather ambitious spiritual backpacks laden with antique-looking brass knick-knacks, hip flasks, compasses – and iPads in case you need to check your horoscope during in a snow-in. A challenging collection for some men, but buy into it via canny accessories like this. The overall message seemed to be ‘get lost. And then find your inner self.’ Namaste.
More manly fashion in London
Pure Vinyl Records
Situated in Brixton's Reliance Arcade (one of the trio of covered markets) Pure Vinyl Records does exactly what it says on the tin. The small, narrow shop is lined with wooden crates stacked with new and second-hand LPs, EPs and seven-inches. Owing to the tiny space, the walls are also lined with records. If you're after some soul, funk or reggae in particular, then Pure Vinyl will serve you well. But a good dig will unearth a few other genres, including hip hop and rock, plus some local artists.