Everything That Was Once Gauche Is Now Stylish

It’s been interesting following the menswear timeline for the past couple of decades. If you are constantly researching clothing, you will eventually notice certain styles, colors, and silhouettes wax and wane in popularity. I started to become interested in fashion at a pivotal point when menswear was coming into its own. New designers were popping up right and left introducing new artistic visions, but at the end of the day, you knew the things you were supposed to be wearing and which ones you weren’t. Those rules are now very blurred in menswear as all those things we were told not to wear are being worn unapologetically, perhaps even rebelliously.

One of those items is something we all know well: the white crew sock. As unoffensive and basic as it may seem, there was a span of time when these things were shunned. I admit, I didn’t wear them for most of my 20s, but truth be told, I never understood the malice toward the garment. My theory is that when menswear started getting dressy with their slimmed down suits and gingham button-ups, white socks were seen as too casual, too usual. At the same time, colorful patterned socks became popular with men as a way to make their boring outfits more exciting, thus replacing their colorless brethren. Now, with athleisure and streetwear all the rage, white socks have become the new standard. You can see them all over the high street and the catwalk.

Another garment that I remember getting into (social media) fights about is cargo shorts and indeed anything with big cargo pockets. As the pendulum swung and oversized fits became all the rage, guys started dusting these things off that were left over from their days wearing Abercrombie & Fitch in the 90s. The reason they were so hated then is that they throw your silhouette out of balance, making you look short or stunted, but that is precisely the same reason they are popular again. Playing around with proportions and upsetting the natural silhouette has become all the rage. Some designers have played around with the placement and size of the cargo pockets in order to make them more or less conspicuous. And come on, if you see Nick Wooster wearing them, there’s a good chance you can get away with wearing them, too.

I would like to formally take credit for (silently) predicting that Western wear would once again enter into men’s closets and particularly in the form of cowboy boots. This is a more recent trend that seems to have reached a crescendo as Raf Simons’ first collection at Calvin Klein in 2017 showcased outfits heavily inspired by cowboy clothing. After that, Western wear began showing up all over the place. Even before CK, the likes of DSquared2 and Saint Laurent were showing off their own takes on the style. Of course, this trend never truly goes away in America because, like blue jeans and camouflage, it represents part of our collective culture. However, what we are seeing today is a modern twist on the trend and proof that you can wear the boots with just about anything in your closet.

The aforementioned are just a few examples of the kinds of clothes that are becoming more palatable to the fashion masses after being banned from men’s wardrobes. You also might consider bowling shirts, high-waisted pants, Birkenstocks, crossbody bags (formerly known as fanny packs), sweatpants, tracksuits, ugly sneakers, pleated trousers, matching pajamas, logo T-shirts, basketball shorts, Doc Martens, and graphic pants and sweaters. It was even suggested that Crocs were going to be huge last year. They weren’t, but the point is, right now everything is in and the more ostentatious and creative, the better. In fact, some publications are going so far as to denounce the term “trend” altogether as it applies to fashion.

One thing to keep in mind is that if you’re going to try any of these items in your own outfits, be sure to keep context in mind so you are sending the right message. You wouldn’t want to wear, say, cargo shorts with some cheap old tee from Old Navy because you will look drab and boring, like you rolled out of bed and put on whatever was on the floor of your closet. You need to dress the shorts up with something like a satin bowling shirt or an oversized Gosha Rubchinskiy jersey because that will make you look adventurous.

These are fun, confusing times in men’s fashion with no real rules except to be yourself, so feel free to explore and experiment while you have the chance because the pendulum is bound to swing back. By then, we’ll all be wearing double-breasted suits.

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