Why are all the menswear editors dressing so fugly?

For many dedicated fashion voyeurs, thumbing through one’s IG feed and scanning all the latest street-style looks during the men’s shows is pure brain-nuking entertainment. In fact, one could argue that now street-style photography is so ubiquitous, and everyone and his third assistant has a smartphone, what those attending the fashion shows wear is as influential (to those in the real world) as the clothes that strut down the runway.

But there’s a problem. A really fugly problem. As fashion is being disrupted by the influence of streetwear and social media, so trends that were once more about fit and elegance, good tailoring and a sophisticated cut, are now about visibility, derring-do and looking as far away from trad as you can get. Shoppers want impact and menswear editors want those hero pieces that stand out from all the high street homogeneity: backless loafers with a fake-fur trim; hypebeast trainers that resemble orthopaedic shoes; hi-vis workmen’s gilets worn as legit outerwear items; shirts with an extra arm; hats that resemble gimp masks; Patagonia fleeces in lurid colours worn with no hint of irony; Hawaiian shirts with mismatching patterns; and more bumbags thrown across the shoulder than you’d find at a Nineties revival in Croydon.

Robert Spangle

It is easy to trace fugly’s origin story, that moment in menswear when all those flamboyant Pitti peacocks with their pressed pleated trousers, canes and capes started to look somewhat try-hard. Although we’re all responsible adults – a man is in charge of his own wardrobe, after all – one has to plant some of the blame at the atelier door of Demna Gvasalia, the design maverick responsible for turning Vetements into one of the most coveted fashion brands in the world. His aesthetic and ethos is masterfully defiant, creating clothing that seems to scramble any previous idea of what beauty should look like.

Gvasalia is also the creative director of Balenciaga and, arguably, it was their barge-like Triple S trainer launched two years ago that truly ignited the trend for flipping the ugly into the desirable. Although fashion brands have long been trying to mimic the hype of the trainer industry, by making his trainer so striking yet so cumbersome Gvasalia managed to tap into what the new type of cool hunter really wants: status symbols that shock and awe. And never has social hierarchy through sartorial indicators been more important than for the men’s editors travelling to and from fashion shows. Their coolness is their currency, after all. Just think, five years ago all one had to do was fold one’s pocket square correctly.

Robert Spangle

But fugly should not be attempted by everyone. Sure, there are some editors who can pull it off with maverick aplomb. Take Marc Goehring, the fashion director at German “it-zine” 032c, a true pioneer when it comes to such hideously cool Gonzo dressing. With the pattern clashing of a young Hunter S Thompson, combined with a near-sadomasochistic love for leather and buckle chest pieces, Goehring’s fugliness suits both the magazine he works for and also his own personal aesthetic. If Goehring’s goal was to look like a brutalist sex pirate after an all-day gabber rave at Bergheim, he has definitely succeeded.

But there are also those men’s editors who pick up trends whether or not they suit their own psyche, frame or taste. When you see them trying to wear the latest piece of conceptual clothing by Rick Owens or Craig Green, you wonder who they think they’re kidding. Being truly fugly comes from within; they should quit the super-cool race and stay in their (more elegant) lane.

Read more:

Peacocks, for Pitti’s sake, give it a rest

Why the dad trainer is this generation’s new obsession

Virgil Abloh: ‘I now have a platform to change the industry… So I should’

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