Why fashion 'faux pas' are important



By CAROL ODERO
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This is a truth that is universally acknowledged. That a man in want of style outspends a woman expected to have some. Men’s fashion is expected to outsell women’s, seeing that is it growing faster than the latter.

Just how intense is this growth? Brands like Stella McCartney and Isabel Marant were always strictly women’s wear. Now they have menswear lines.

My Instagram feed is dotted with swaths of designers who do everything from made-to-measure, bespoke and custom suits. From new entrant Sir Jay, winner of Menswear Designer of the Year, Swahili Fashion Week Awards, who focuses heavily on men’s formal wear, dabbles in women and designs sports and underwear, internationally based menswear designer Zeddy Loki, Franklin Saiyalel aka Kenyan Stylista’s made-to-measure menswear line Bryson Okut aka Tailor_001 to Kaveke, who constantly encourages young designers to focus on the one thing I really wish they would:  getting into the menswear market.

Then, of course, there are the innovative, stylish, risk taking, rule breaking and just straight up classic influencers from Eddie Kirindo, Sauti Sol, King Kaka, Willy Paul, Sunny Dolat, Moji Shortbabaa, Diamond Platnumz to the newest tan suit on the blogs, Vinie O.

Here is the beauty of male influencers. They are very clearly demarcated. There are the solid, hard-bodied athletes who physically portray traditional masculinity with broad shoulders, a bevy of female fans, a macho appearance like facial hair, defined chins and frames shaped by a great deal of exercise. They are as strong as they look, even in their tailored suits, namesake clothing, shoe brands and multi-million dollar deals.

There are plus-size influencers who seem to have such a knack for style it literally looks like it cannot be taught. They make being plus-sized sexy as hell. The bearded gang runs the gamut from athletes to men who simply love facial hair, representing the fastest growing grooming segment in male skin care. Then there are the fashion forward men who will wear pink, love their bow-ties and wear whatever moves them.

Social media, though, has grown menswear with a diversity that steps out of the hyper-styled pages ofGQandEsquire. Instead, men now get to experience style in as many ways as there are men. Pants could be worn like Pharell or Will.I.Am. They could be Will Smith cuts or rugged like Beckham.

Male brand ambassadors also have quite considerable influence, and not just with the Reeboks, Nikes and Adidas, but with clothing brands like Gucci, Givenchy and Dolce & Gabbana. Naturally, men gravitate toward sportswear.

But the fun part is this. Social media helps grow the smaller, edgier fashion brands. If you look at the Kenyan list of influencers, you will notice they are all considerably young and youthful. Stylish men are increasingly becoming they who do not conform. This can be traced back to the whole male-female social construct. There is no singular definition of masculinity when it comes to fashion.

In fact, men’s fashion has achieved a feat women’s fashion is yet to attain — the ability to define oneself through style. Women still have to push for body positivity to be embraced as uniquely beautiful. Men get to pick and choose. By 2020, the men in your life are expected to spend some $33 billion.

The combination of menswear and womenswear lines on runways and menswear oriented fashion weeks have expanded the horizons. Online shopping allowing for deliveries cuts down on shopping time.

Survey says in Spring 2017 luxury menswear stockists and suppliers in the UK such as Harrods and Saks reported a 100 per cent growth via online shopping. Six years ago, Net-a-Porter launched a menswear side, Mr Porter.

It has grown by 94 per cent. The female side, by 74 per cent. Brooks Brothers, Ted Baker and Tommy Hilfiger grew by 278 per cent. With even more accelerated growth expected for men, any menswear designer worth their brand is strategising on even more ways to rope the men in.

If you are wondering, but why are men this way these days? My dad never even used lotion! Shut your mouth! Women have hounded men to have some semblance of style for practically an entire generation now with expressions like “clothes maketh the man.” Men, like women, want their sense of self and identity. Besides menswear is looking more interesting and fun.

Men are feeling themselves. They have also watched David Beckham grow from presumed fashion victim to one of the most marketable man in the world. You see, while women are inspired by micro influencers, men are all about celebrities like athletes and musicians. Perhaps it is because they get to have second acts.

So, woman, and static man, green is not a good look on you.

PS: Thank you for the Swahili Fashion Week Awards, Fashion Journalist of the Year Award, 2018. I was told by my inner circle to rub faces in it… I figured, Nah. Let me appreciate the sheer awesomeness of people who enjoy letting me be me, as unconventional as I am.

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