Cut yourself some slack

20th May 2020

For nearly two decades, fashion-conscious chaps have trussed themselves up in slim-fit suits and skinny jeans. But now, with menswear edging towards a softer, baggier silhouette, isn’t it time we all loosened up?

Words by Aleks Cvetkovic

Photograph below: Hermès pumps up the volume for S/S 2020.

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I have a prediction for you. In years to come, men will look back at what they wore and lament – completely and utterly – the fashion of the early 2000s. More specifically, they will lament the start of this century’s 20-odd years of “skinny fit” menswear. It’s true that when Thom Browne and Hedi Slimane sent their models down the catwalk in the skinniest of suits in the late-1990s, sporting shrunken proportions and spray-on trousers, it was a revelation, and Slimane’s skinny tailoring, which he pioneered as the creative director of Saint Laurent, took the world by storm. In its day, it was rebellious, youthful and subversive.

But as is so often the case with high fashion, looks that make a statement on the catwalk don’t always translate well to everyday life, and within a few short years, Slimane’s radical new look came to dominate high street fashion – with disastrous consequences for our wardrobes and sometimes for our image, as men of all ages and sizes squeezed themselves into slim-fit chinos and fit-to-burst shirts that do anything but flatter the male physique. At some point, it seems we forgot that men’s clothes are supposed to be both elegant and comfortable to wear. Now, finally, things are changing – with designers upping the volume towards something closer to baggy than skinny.

Now, finally, things are changing – with designers upping the volume towards something closer to baggy than skinny.

One designer who’s pushing hard for this change is Patrick Grant, the visionary behind contemporary British brand E. Tautz & Sons, as well as Community Clothing, a factory collective that promotes British manufacturing, and Savile Row tailor Norton & Sons. In Grant’s hands, E. Tautz has carved out a niche in British menswear, creating clothes that are deliberately generous, with loose silhouettes that are designed to feel relaxed and easy to wear. “Our house look is a reaction to the excessively skinny, mean-looking jacket and low-rise trouser that has dominated menswear for years now,” he says. “I never really loved it, but there came a point a few years ago when it just got boring. At Tautz, we’ve moved towards something that’s much more fluid, comfortable – and, to be frank – something that just looks cooler.”

The E. Tautz SS20 collection is a case in point. Whether oversized shirts with short sleeves and a slouchy-chic look, pastel-coloured blazers or Grant’s signature wide-leg Field Trousers (based on old military chinos) there’s a softness to the collection that feels fresh and sleek. The antithesis of skinny-fit style, Tautz’s designs conjure a wonderful sense of sophistication – perfectly cut whether you’re taking a drive to the country or spending a weekend walking the promenade by the sea.

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Back in the British camp, Kent & Curwen has turned its attention to oversizing a summer staple: the cricket jumper. Creative Director Daniel Kearns has designed several for SS20 with a loose fit and exaggerated V-neckline. Again, these knits take the stuffiness from a traditional piece, lending a contemporary edge to this British menswear classic. Elsewhere, Paul Smith’s collection strikes a chord with Tautz’s, filled with elegant oversized tailoring in bright primary colours. Double-breasted jackets are paired with drapey trousers in tonal, complementary fabrics.

The message is clear: it’s time to get louche and go wide. Sure, an oversized pistachio suit isn’t necessarily for everyone, but you shouldn’t be afraid to experiment with a few looser, more free-flowing pieces in your wardrobe. “I don’t think this look has to feel difficult to wear,” Grant continues. “There are things you can do to soften up your silhouette that aren’t crazy. Just try a slightly higher-waisted trouser or a pleated chino instead of something cut with a slim leg, or you could opt for a linen shirt in a looser fit. Pieces like these give a sense of flow without being too radical.” 

So, embracing a bit of extra room in your clothes is a smart move; it’s elegant, practical and a pair of free-flowing trousers or a loose-cut blazer will help keep you cool in the heat. Best of all? I can finally say to anyone who’ll listen: “Oh, that skinny-fit thing was soooo 1990s.” About time.

This story was taken from the spring issue of Goodwood Magazine.

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