Sure, they're becoming more stylish, but is it at the expense of individuality?
The Wall Street Journal published an article last week claiming that men's growing interest in how they dress is somehow killing individual style. The opinion piece by Alexander Aciman points to #menswear, a popular tool for aggregating photos of men's style on the web, as the culprit. Aciman argues that the availability of photographs and style advice for men has turned us into sheep, following the latest fad or affectation.
As evidence, he points to the many men who have started paying attention to what they wear since the word “metrosexual” became popular.
The most recent egregious examples, according to Aciman, including rolling jeans at the ankles and wearing wingtips without socks. These trends have “prevented men from knowing or learning what they actually want,” he writes.
But what the article fails to do is tie the trends popularised by #menswear to the underlying shift that's happening in men's fashion, towards better cut and quality. Guys aren't just wearing selvedge jeans with rolled cuffs to look cool — it's also a high quality fabric and well-made product. And unbuttoned jacket cuffs aren't just stylish — they signify a well-made product, with working cuff buttons.
The most basic rule of clothing, especially for men, who have fewer options than women, is that it must fit properly. And fortunately, fit has become a bigger concern for companies that make and sell menswear, as well as for the people who buy it.
Most of the men participating in the #menswear discussion online are guys who work in clothing design, merchandising, etc. It makes perfect sense that they would be the ones experimenting with “the purposeful unbuckling of monkstrap shoes, mismatched cufflinks, button-down shirts with only one collar point fastened,” as Aciman puts it. If no one experimented with fashion, how would we know what looks good?
Some men will inevitably copy the stylemakers' looks verbatim, but they are the minority. Most look at street style photos and see how good clothing can look when they have the right fit, and be inspired to improve their own looks.
I'll admit that I was personally part of the #menswear obsession several years ago, but it required a lot of energy to keep up with the trends. At a certain point, I realised I could dress in a way that I liked, without bowing to every new development. I settled on a style that I know works for me, using my knowledge from my #menswear days to establish a baseline for my personal style. And I don't see a big issue with guys who are just figuring out their own style to occasionally poach from those whose style they admire, until they've reached a place where they feel comfortable with themselves.
Women's fashion has always been a larger industry, and it finally feels like the men's sphere is playing catch-up. Women have copied styles from runway photos and fashionistas for decades, but no one accuses them of acting like sheep. If men feel like they need to fake it until they've made it when it comes to style, then good for them — it only means they're taking an active interest in how they look, which is better for everyone.