The State of Menswear (The RCS Opinion)

It’s interesting.  It seems that we’ve gotten to a place where we are starting to think about what happens when this is over.  When we can go out again.  We have task forces at work that are thinking about the future of the office environment. Restaurants and retail are itching to get people back into seats and into stores.  My kids can’t wait to see their grandparents and friends again.  I can’t wait to take Mrs. RCS to Umi and eat sushi.  It’s real.

One aspect that has been a creeping thought is this: what happens with our perspective on ‘things’?  What happens to our value of self worth?  What makes us happy?  What happens to our style?  What happens to #menswear?

There have been some excellent articles written around predictions of #menswear.  It’s a real thing to think about after the COVID issues subside and we are able to emerge back in public.  Michael Williams of A Continuous Lean wrote a great piece on Menswear 2.0.  Please read it.  He references another article from GQ that is worth the read.  There is some heavy brainpower that largely aligns to where I am on all of this.  I think the world of all of you, the Red Clay Soul readers.  This isn’t, and never will be a high-fashion blog.  I talk about nice things; brands that have an identity and the accompanying lifestyle.  I’m a little more working-man, so my slant is below.

Eventually we will be back in offices, eating out, going on vacations, and seeing family and friends on a regular basis.  Similar to post-9/11 or post-’07 recession, there will be somewhat of a reset in terms of our consumption and style.  I believe this ‘rona experience is going to cause a few things to happen:

  • Need vs. Want.  We are a nation of consumers.  It’s what drives our economy.  I do, however, believe there will be increased scrutiny on purchases in general.  To no one’s surprise, my closet is pretty packed.  I have too much stuff.  I know it, but it is what it is.  My focus moving forward will be on wearing what I have.  Instead of replacing, I’ll get what I have tailored.  I’ll do a better job of taking care of my things.  Maybe this is the biggest lesson that I take out of this.
  • Saving Money.  @terra_naut wrote an outstanding piece for the blog on personal finance, including a piece of advice that I practice: build an emergency fund.  I hope that this time in history reinforces that having a chunk of money set aside will become the norm.  Whatever that amount is (typically 3 months to a year of living expenses), I believe it creates a sense of safety in uncertain times. It’s a bit of personal leverage for increasing quality of life.  I don’t see why businesses don’t apply this principle as well.  Liquidity.

  • Spending Wisely.  Whenever we see a sale at Gap or J. Crew, we LOAD UP for the kids.  We’ll spend $150 and get two boxes of clothes for our growing boys.  We take advantage of these sales for them, but I can see that changing for me.  This is the ‘buy less, spend more’ argument.  I believe that there will be a more quality-based purchases vs. quantity.  I can see purchasing Aldens and Russell Moccasins vs. cheaper alternatives with a fifth of the life-span.  For me, I’d rather get two USA-made oxfords from Miller Brothers vs. six or seven shirts from J. Crew. There’s a whole ‘Made in the USA’ piece to this argument, which I believe is real, but that’s for another post.

  • Back to Basics.  In terms of style, I think the crazy weird stuff in everyday #menswear gets muted.  At least for a while.  I don’t understand streetwear, so I don’t have an opinion.  Maybe that says what needs to be said about that.  Overall, I think wallets get tighter, which should result in style becoming more a bit more basic, and we see a transition to traditional, ivy-esque styles.  Look – I own some emerald green pants from Sid Mashburn.  I own some really crazy blazers.  I love them, but from a forward-looking perspective, I’ll be focusing more on good jeans, well-fitting chinos, oxfords, solid sport coats, and a traditional lineup of dress shoes and loafers.  And grey New Balances.

Again, this is one man’s opinion.  Honestly, I’d love to hear what you think.  Please leave a comment below and let’s continue the conversation…

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9 Comments

  1. Brian
    04/27/2020 / 9:17 AM

    Agreed on all counts.

    Would love to see your “Made in USA” piece soon.

    Over the past 2-3 years I have bought vintage (used) and a majority made in USA pieces to avoid putting $ in the pockets of the Chinese Communist Party and taking it out of the pockets of our fellow Americans who pay taxes which support our society.

    During the shut down I focused on buying from small business when possible. I have a pair of leather snake boots from Russell Moc on order for my wife. I bought a tweed luggage set from Richards Fabulous Finds in Chicago and several other splurge Willis & Geiger and leather shooting items I have been watching on eBay for some time.

    If I buy foreign made, I favor UK, and EU since there is at least a reasonable chance that the goods are not made by children chained to work tables.

    Keep up the good work!

    Cheers,

    BSR

  2. HL
    04/27/2020 / 9:34 AM

    I also have way too many clothes. I am not bragging, I just have an abundance of t-shirts I acquired from college and after. I have more golf polos than I golf, etc. I am going to stop being a consumer for the remainder of the year. It is my small personal goal to utilize what I have as opposed to just buying more. I have donated clothes recently but its still not enough, I always say “what if I need this one more time”. I am hoping it will mentally change something for the better – be less of a consumer and just pay attention to smaller things around me. I know until the end of the year doesn’t sound like much but I am hoping it clicks in me. It is off topic a little – but I collect watches and so I am going to sell a few to stack some extras cash and wear more of what I have and appreciate the nicer things I already have more and give everything more patina and story.

  3. Trip
    04/27/2020 / 9:39 AM

    I liked the perspective in the GQ article that men will be looking to dress up more after getting out of quarantine. I know that I’m already feeling this way. I had already taken to wearing a sport coat most of the time when we go out to dinner or drinks (though none of my friends do the same), and I certainly intend to continue to do so once things open back up. I’ll probably start wearing ties more often as well.

  4. Michael D Geary
    04/27/2020 / 9:54 AM

    I’m right there with you with leaning towards Ivy League style after all of this. It’s simple and looks good, and you can shut down your brain and not worry about all the options out there. I would get a good case of FOMO on brands, styles etc. This has been a reboot for me. Much needed.

  5. Your Pal
    04/27/2020 / 9:55 AM

    Thanks for this thoughtful piece. I am looking forward to reading the reference pieces as well. Actually, this gave me some hope. Sure the trend of more folks in their gym clothing at cafes and grocery stores might rise, but I have a feeling that getting dressed simply and with intention might upswing. Personally, getting dressed for dinner and one to two hour business time during home isolation every day has given me a sense of dignity.
    For one, it can be argued that for years that “mall” clothing is essentially disposable. Unfortunately that does include some of the brands and makers that we buy, like, and admire. The divide between fashion and style might close a bit more- leaning towards style. Think back to your grandfather. He may have exited the great depression with a small closet, but that wardrobe was likely far superior and better taken care of than anything in our style routines today. I like the notion of a return to USA made. I like the notion of having signature pieces without the behind the back whispers of, “oh gosh here comes BOB in that same blue oxford cloth shirt again.”
    I also love the notion of nice casual perhaps having an opportunity to revive the classic ivy prep look- in a classic non-branded sense.
    Likewise, I like the idea of upstaging with load tailored clothing toning down. I think we will be okay!

  6. Jim Walters
    04/27/2020 / 10:52 AM

    I fully agree with your perspective. I find myself buying quality, and less of the brands I wore when I was younger. I too am begining to focus more on the classics. Grteat piece!

  7. Danner R
    04/27/2020 / 11:20 AM

    I myself have an overstuffed closet. I find myself “window shopping” online and realizing I am looking at items that are similar to what I already have.

    Couldn’t agree more here, great piece.

    P.S.
    I have worn joggers for a Saturday grocery store run, but couldn’t agree more about banning them for other public reasons hahaha!

  8. Randy
    04/27/2020 / 2:40 PM

    I have been thinking a lot of the same. My grandmother lost both of her parents to the 1918 pandemic and was raised in an orphanage from the age of three. She and I were very close and she absolutely lived the concepts you are talking about here. And I know that was a product of her upbringing. She used to sow up the holes in my gym socks level of frugality. And while I may not get to that level, I can tell you I have been thinking a lot about her life and taking stock of my own. Better quality, needs vs wants, less obsessive over certain products. As our pastor has been talking about in our online services, identify what you want to leave behind and take what you cherish about this time into the next phase. Cheers!

  9. JDV
    04/29/2020 / 11:03 PM

    Excellent post. I have a compulsion for buying Brooks Brothers button downs on-line, much to my dismay. I figure, the Italian owners won’t keep making them in the US forever, and these are a quarter of the retail price. But how many does a guy need? I have over 40 button downs but only a handful pair of khakis b/c they make them all too skinny now. So, I hold onto my decade old roomy khakis. Piece in the WSJ two weeks ago or so said that when this all is over, people will hate trading their sweats to get back in their jeans for the office. JEANS. Office wear. So now, even jeans are not enough of a bow at the comfort altar. We demand sweats. It was not too long ago that Fridays in Virginia, basically everywhere but the pacific northwest, meant a blazer and tie with gray slacks or khakis instead of a suit. How far we have slouched. Hope the GQ guy is right instead. Thanks again for the post.

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