The Evolution of Menswear and Womenswear
The once clear delineation between Menswear and Womenswear seems to be dissolving. From Hedi Slimane making skinny suits cool again to a surge of women wearing strappy six inch heels (fashion originally intended for men) there are signs that gender aesthetics are blurring.
Yet, if we look at the statistics, men read fashion coverage less than women do. This is why menswear designers either make conservative clothes or, as rebellion, crazy ones.
The 1930s ushered in a period of global economic turmoil that left a lasting impact on men’s style. The flamboyant aesthetics of the 1920s gave way to a more refined and structured look, with a focus on practicality and durability.
This era saw the rise of new fashion staples such as polo shirts and sports coats, which were made from lightweight fabrics that provided a more relaxed aesthetic. The favored color was cream, and striped patterns were common in both casual and formal clothing.
Men’s suits were a hallmark of this time, with the double-breasted suit being particularly popular, evoking a sense of confidence and refinement with its overlapping front panels. Wide shoulders and nipped waists were also characteristic of this era, and women’s dresses became form fitting with puffed sleeves and backless evening gowns. The hemline of skirts was gradually shortened to reach mid-calf length, which was both functional and fashionable. The era also witnessed the decline of the bowler hat, replaced by a more stylish fedora. In the 1930s, illustrations were still very popular in fashion magazines, allowing readers to see colors and materials in their clothing.
The 1950s saw men’s fashion take a more casual turn. After the war, rationing had been lifted and it was time to focus on the nicer things in life. Designers like Brioni, Nazareno Fonticoli and Gaetano Savini embraced the new era of leisurewear with tailored suits, pyjamas, and knitted sweaters that were ideal for relaxing at home or for social occasions outside of work.
Jackets also took on a more casual look. Nudie Cohn launched his business in 1947, just as textile availability swung from being scarce to giving designers plenty of options. His western-inspired designs were a big hit with men and even celebrities such as Tex Williams were adorned in them.
The 1950s also saw the birth of denim jeans. These practical garments made their debut in the decade, but it wasn’t until the early ’60s that they started to appear on the back of celebrities and entered the mainstream. With their relaxed fit and slim silhouette, the jeans of the 1950s gave men a stylish alternative to blazers when they went out in public.
The noughties were a confusing but fun decade that left a lasting mark on fashion trends that we continue to see today. A new era of digital connectivity allowed styles to evolve at an Menswear unprecedented rate, making the internet a powerful tool for style innovation.
Hip-Hop and RnB dominated this era, and the fashion landscape was often intertwined with music culture. As fans watched their idols on TRL, they wanted to emulate the clothing and lifestyle choices of their favorite musicians. This led to a style of dressing known as “scene,” which featured skinny ripped jeans, brightly colored band t-shirts, mad shades, and spiky hair.
The 2000s saw the rebirth of Converse sneakers, which paired well with denim and other casual looks. Also popular were all-over prints, skinny jeans and dresses, and wedge flip flops. Geek chic was born during this time as traditionally nerdy pursuits and topics became more mainstream. The result was a look that was part preppy, part punk, and all Steve Urkel. You can channel this style by pairing a striped shirt with skinny jeans and adding a Fossil lava stone bracelet.
After the death of his father in World War II, Yohji Yamamoto’s mother opened a dressmaking shop in Kabukicho, Tokyo’s nightlife district. Yohji decided to follow in her footsteps, abandoning a law career and studying at Bunka Fashion College.
After graduating he started his own label, Yohji Yamamoto, in 1977 to great acclaim. He soon began showing collections in Paris and New York City and opened his first international boutiques shortly after.
His trademark loose-fitting designs were a complete departure from the strict silhouettes of the time and concealed rather than emphasised the body. His use of tattered fabric and clashing textures deconstructed any existing rules of fashion at the time and gained him worldwide recognition.
Today, the eponymous brand and its sister line Y’s are renowned for their avant-garde style with asymmetry, holes and loose shapes that break taboos. Yohji Yamamoto is the ultimate fashion rebel, a true maverick. His clothes are men’s clothing supplier gothic, outlandish and serve serious Wednesday Addams energy, but they also have an air of refinement – it takes confidence to wear them and that is what makes the style so unique.
He dressed a legion of stripped-down, self-possessed beauty. Stella Tennant, Cecilia Chancellor, Kristen McMenamy, Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss and the like; they were all part of his family, the stoic faces of his new clean, shining, attainable beauty.
The self-taught designer was all about precision and clarity, using sharp lines to create simple but extremely elegant silhouettes. He didn’t skimp on fabrics, exploring holographic wet-look silks and latex-bonded lace. His work could be austere and intellectual, but he never took itself too seriously.
In a way, his clothes became like art pieces. There was a sculptural quality to his work, and in the showroom at 80 Greene Street—which had been designed as a loft-like space—Editors and stylists sifted through his cool gray wool-and-silk suits.
Lang left the label in 2004 almost without saying a word, and he now lives in East Hampton, working as an artist. His label was relaunched in 2007, and last year Isabella Burley, editor-in-chief of Dazed Magazine, was brought on board as the brand’s “editor-in-residence.” But she has left no mark on the collections.