Yes, You’re Probably Dressing up More After Coronavirus
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Almost overnight, the COVID-19 pandemic drastically changed how we think about fashion, not to mention just getting dressed in general.
“Dress to impress” quickly became “dress to get by” and the daily uniform of comfort over all else is almost a point of irony by now.
The natural progression of this is to what we’ll buy next with our COVID stimulus checks as cities and states reopen, and it’s driving how some of the leaders in men’s fashion design, plan, and build for upcoming seasons.
Fashion’s New Good Mood
“In general, the mood is becoming more casual as our lifestyles are becoming more active and comfort is becoming a demand,” says Bonobos fashion director George McCracken.
He says that this comfort will lean more towards a refined “casual,” but only in a strictly traditional sense.
“(These clothes) will still look sharp and will be appropriate for an event or party in the evening,” he adds.
Of course, it’s not going to be an immediate roll back to the social times and norms pre-COVID. It’s going to be incremental as people feel comfortable returning to work and social situations and even though there might be nerves in the air, celebrity stylist Ise White says people are going to embrace fun through fashion.
“They’ve got their skinny tracksuits, their signature watch … pops of interest like a detailed undershirt under a blazer will keep things in luxury casual,” she says.
Watch Out Workforce
Necessity to show individual style will open opportunities for accessories, especially watches, where more niche brands such as Tutima, Zenith, and Oris will garner new interest from those looking to make a statement, not to mention considerable value in the mid-range price category.
White points to Tutima and Zenith’s new collections featuring bold colors and oversized faces as a complement to the pops of color seen across current trends.
Paul Alteri, CEO and founder of Bob’s Watches agrees with the mid-tier sentiment, acknowledging 40% growth in searches of the sub-$5,000 category with Oris, Tissot, and OMEGA leading the way (although the site primarily deals in vintage Rolexes). You can bet that all those watches that have been off-wrist during quarantine are about to come out of storage again as people return to social situations.
Individual style is certainly going to transition in the workplace as well. Although certain professional settings will always encourage something dressier, new rules are being drawn up.
"Establishing the new normality will be an incremental process, where we carefully test and adjust the rules, both in terms of staying physically safe, but also in the evolution of our office dress codes,” says global trend forecasting firm WGSN’s Head of Menswear Volker Ketteniss.
McCracken echoes White with more nods to bright colors and graphic patterns to come and that casual trends already appearing before coronavirus will be accelerated as people return to work and social settings.
Sustainability Matters More Than Ever
One of the more widely reported consumer changes that really started before coronavirus was the shift towards supporting brands who are making a positive environmental impact. According to Neilsen, the conservative estimate of sustainable product sales for the U.S. in 2021 was $142 billion, up almost $14 billion from just three years prior, and it’s no surprise the trend is driven by millennials.
“Millennials, however, are also more likely than Baby Boomers (53% vs. 34%) to say they’d be willing to forgo a brand in order to buy products that are environmentally friendly,” the study shoes. “They also find it much easier to find environmentally friendly products in the stores where they shop (74% vs. 46%).”
“One thing we know for certain as we navigate the ‘new normal’ is that consumers are going to be more conscientious when they make purchases,” says Walter Sky founder and designer Nathan Andersen, whose start-up brand produces some clothing under the top-line Bluesign certification.
“They’ll ask: Do I need this? Why do I need it? Where is it made? What is it made of? How will it work with my lifestyle?”
Even just a few years ago, the impact of a garment wasn’t really front of mind. Now, a brand’s sustainability plan and practice is where the conversation starts.
Although a casual brand like Outerknown has made sustainability a cornerstone of their company, co-founder and creative director John Moore knows there’s still a long way to go — and coronavirus offered the perfect opportunity for a restart.
“Coronavirus was the inconvenient pause in our lives, personally and professionally, that is already making the fashion industry really consider what’s important moving forward,” he says.
With global clothing production at eye-watering levels and thousands of orders sitting overseas (coupled with myriad workers’ rights issues), the majority halt in global retail forced everyone across the consumption cycle to look at how and what they buy.
“Sustainability in menswear, and a push towards circularity in our business model, is here to stay,” Moore says. “Not everyone will participate. But I do believe that most brands, designers, and retailers that want to be on the right side of history most definitely will.”
Less Quantity, More Quality
The overarching sentiment is that consumers will be willing to spend more on higher quality pieces that’ll last longer. “Fast fashion” will still be around, but it’s going to be smaller and act differently than before.
“Comfortably stylish versatility and lasting quality will be the most desirable traits in fashion on the immediate horizon,” Moore says.
With the general economic situation uncertain, Moore thinks people will consider their clothing as more of an investment, spending — and expecting — more out of what they buy. He thinks it’ll signal a return to minimalism, much like what happened after the challenges times in 2001 and 2008. In any case, quality and versatility will be paramount.
As the world begins to open up in the days, weeks, and months ahead, we’ll finally get to express ourselves through one of our most basic tenets: what we wear. Expect more style, more longevity, and less of the same.
A Few Shopping Suggestions
Bonobos Riviera Shirt
“I think that the shift to online shopping has helped boost their success because they are so graphic,” McCracken says about the Riviera shirt. “During the Coronavirus, many Bonobos employees have worn these for special Zoom meetings and virtual happy hour parties. The new knit version is particularly popular at the moment because it’s so comfortable.”
Everlane Relaxed Jean
Everlane has been leading the way for a while now when it comes to transparent practices. In addition to committing to no new plastic by 2021, and using exclusively certified organic cotton by 2023, all denim items are made at Saitex, a LEED-certified factory that recycles 98% of its water, uses renewable energy produced onsite, and repurposes byproducts to create affordable homes.
Outerknown Blanket Shirt
“There are two layers I almost always throw on over a tee depending on which direction my day takes me,” Moore says. “Our Blanket Shirts or our Sur Snap Hoodies both define this idea of uncomplicated style that I always feel most comfortable in.”
Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean
A sophisticated secondhand timepiece is a great way to add a bold splash of color. “The orange bezel Omega Planet Ocean is a coveted edition of the brand’s professional series dive watch,” Altieri says. “Orange accents on the bezel and dial give this 600 meter diver a sporty aesthetic that many Omega collectors (or collectors to be) seek.”
Outerknown Sur Snap Hoodie
This hoodie is crafted from 55% hemp and 45% organic cotton. Hemp is durable, flexible, and requires little water and no pesticides to grow and conventional cotton accounts for 25% of the world’s pesticide use. The brand opts for organic, because it keeps chemicals out of the environment and requires 90% less water to grow.
Walter Sky WS-MT01 Bluesign Tee
“I’ve always been a fan of merino wool. It’s naturally antimicrobial, has beautiful texture, amazing performance properties, etc.,” says Andersen of this Bluesign-certified shirt. “Nuyarn [a stronger, stretchier, quicker drying, warmer, and loftier variation on traditional ring-spun merino] steams their fabric before the cutting process which helps reduce shrinkage, and I also added a bit of length to help compensate for accidental trips to the drier.”
Allbirds Tree Dashers
The latest addition to the sustainable brands footwear family is this technical running shoe. Made with renewable are responsible resources — including FSC Certified eucalyptus trees, ZQ Certified merino wool, and even a carbon negative green EVA midsole — this trainer functions as good as the other guys, but maintains the Allbirds high eco-friendly standard.
Bombas Tri-Blend Calf Sock
Bombas is a favorite at AskMen HQ thanks to its dependable stay-up technology and always stylish designs. WHat’s the best part of buying Bombas is that every pair purchased means a pair is donated to someone in need. Clean, new socks are one of the most in-demand items in shelters, and Bombas put its money where its mouth is by donating at an impressive 1:1 ratio.
Bonobos The Anywhere Short
“We’ve been selling these incredibly well,” says McCracken. “I think that men are adopting them because they are comfortable, but also colorful and cool. Men are much more comfortable exposing their legs than they used to be.
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