I recently completed two things. I finished the fifth anniversary issue of Monocle and booked a summer holiday. There’s something to be said about planning a holiday early, it gives you something to look forward to and you can organise your holiday wardrobe in plenty of time. With the magazine done and a daily lunch hour temporarily reinstated, I decided to head to the high street and check out the new season’s collections.
Sadly, it was a disappointment. And clearly nothing new. The high street today feels like it has been monopolised by the same creative team. Is there a checklist that has to be adhered to? Plaid shirts, Pantone-picked sweatshirts, semi-smart trainers and chinos in every colour, displayed with the ever abundant roll-up.
This Ivy League meets Japanese pop style has been with us for several years now. And that’s a problem if you want something different.
When Gap, Uniqlo and H&M all come to the same conclusion about how men want to look, choice becomes limited. I wonder how did the US, Japan and Sweden become so creatively aligned?
Stores no longer have distinct identities. Benetton used to have ownership of bright cashmere sweaters. You can now pick them up anywhere. Gap used to hold a large share of the jeans and chinos market, but now every store has their own lines. They’re available in any colour, length or cut. As long as they’re rolled up.
During my high street trawl I noticed in one shoe department that Prada was also making a type of smart trainer: a new suede, low-top bootie. How out of place it looked next to their old Prada Sport-influenced rubberised shoes.
If the high-fashion houses adopt high street trends instead of setting them, we’ll have an even more exasperated state of repetition. The men who may spend more, and are perhaps older, will end up cloning the younger high street shopper. The age demographic will expand between 15 to 50-year-olds. Dressing your age will be made meaningless, as teenagers and middle-aged dads borrow each others’ clothes.
Maybe it isn’t all bad. As an overall style, preppy is smarter than M&S with socks and sandals. So the British male may be in a better place than, say, 10 years ago. But I think any decent high street ought to be able to offer some variety.
I’m not sure what it is I want. I just know it’s not on Oxford Street.