What comes to mind when you think ‘men’s fashion’? You would likely picture a jacket, some trousers, a shirt, or, as is the case with most men, nothing at all (because it doesn’t matter – let’s go get beer).
Along with the t-shirt, shorts, the hoody, the sweater, the under-used cardigan and the over-casualised waistcoat you’ve gone through the largest portion of the western male’s wardrobe. Yes, the aforementioned items are indeed practical, versatile and popular, but they certainly can’t be the only paradigms when it comes to everyday fashion.
Thus, let’s have a look at what history and culture can offer us so we can integrate its elegance into our day-to-day lives without coming across as costumey. That’s no simple feat from a design perspective!
The ancient Egyptians were as iconic in their dress as in their architecture. In referencing their style, overstep the line and you’ll suddenly find yourself in the realm of the Victoria’s Secret Cleopatra Cuts Loose at Spring Break! collection. The main allusion should be the radiating pleat. For men I’m thinking simple white shorts to be worn at the beach, with the pleating radiating out from the fastening button onto the outer thighs; similarly at the back. For women I’d suggest a top with the pleating about the neck and shoulders. A crisp white would be the best choice of colour overall, but any shade of blue would actually work very nicely.
Here’s an interesting fact: cotton was only introduced to Egypt in the Early Modern era. The ancient Egyptians actually used linen (according to egyking.com).
As for the aforementioned shorts, you could have a ‘crotch-drop’ of colourful fabric, such as pictured above. In fact, with any kind of shorts, just an Assyrian-esque side-hanging of good quality colourful fabric would look striking. It would be best kept short, for modernity’s sake.
The Renaissance (doublet and chest-plate)
Next up we have the doublet, a piece of garb still widely produced for costuming purposes but otherwise seems to have been out of fashion for the last few hundred years. Wearing one today would probably make you look like you’re on your break from Henry VIII rehearsals, but I think it’s well deserving of modernisation. Doublets can range from bulky, horizontal affairs such as this:
To tasteful items such as this:
I think the example above could be quite a versatile piece of clothing, as it offers slightly more coverage than a waistcoat. With regular buttons, a looser collar and much shorter flaps at the bottom you’d have something elegant to wear with a long-sleeve shirt.
During the Middle Ages and Renaissance you would see various ornate armours. Now I’m not saying we should start paying visits to our local blacksmith for fitting, but something like this is just prime material for a t-shirt, vest or waistcoat.
Feathers and hats just seem to work, like Pringles and bread – so I’m told. Even if you’re just wearing a cap, put a feather in it and I’m sure you’ll look more sophisticated. Just make sure people can see around you.
Zulu leopard print
There seems to be a puzzling absence of leopard/cheetah print in South Africans’ wardrobes. I mean, look where you are, people! I’m not sure if Shania Twain gave it an undesirable reputation, but I think it’s time to again embrace the print.
The African shirt
The traditional ethnic shirt still has a healthy following, but why not go even classier and get one such as pictured below. With slightly smaller sleeves and worn with white trousers and a belt, you should have a stylish and airy combination.
The Bedouin shirt
Show some solidarity with your brothers in Arabia and wear a Bedouin-style shirt similarly as above with belted trousers. They’re available in various colours and will definitely look distinctive anywhere in the West. I just got an idea for suspenders, by the way!
The lapel flower
This might be a bit flamboyant for some, but it depends on the type of flower. It’s a good accessory to both formal and casual wear. After all, Oscar Wilde can’t be wrong, so there you are.
Okay, I do admit the following is a bit more difficult to pull off if you’re not specifically from a cloak or blanket-wearing culture, and you may come across as a bit of a cock in some situations, but I’m just putting it out there.
Couturiers often flaunt interesting new structures for clothing along with various cultural allusions on the catwalks, but these styles hardly translate very strongly into the casual sphere. The longevity and popularity of the Euro-American paradigm of clothing has seen it being appropriated and made distinct by cultures around the world. But this proverbial canvas, to me, seems to have been left largely blank in the West. So have a look at touches you can add to your everyday wear for a bit of general cultural awareness.
Entry by Christiaan Naudé
Image sources in order of appearance:
– costumersguide.com (Henry VIII – The Other Boleyn Girl)
– tribune.com.pk (Hamid Karzai)