Monday, September 29, 2008

Runway - Marc Jacobs and Marc by Marc: Fall 2008

Although I’m not typically a huge fan of Marc Jacobs’ menswear lines (how can such a genius with women’s clothing play it so safe with men?), this last season did offer guys a few fantastic options that take us a bit beyond the classics.

Leggings and tights have been pushed on men quite a bit in the past few seasons. We have recently seen them all over the runway from mainstream cores (such as Calvin Klein) to the avant-garde grunge (such as John Galliano). For obvious reasons, men do not yet feel comfortable in such revealing pieces. The saturation of men’s super-skinny jeans has allowed us to enter into the world of slender bottoms that re-expose a piece of the true male form. But what happens after you’ve become addicted to a willowy silhouette, but are sick being confused for an emotional young suburbanite due to your skin tight denim? Marc Jacobs has provided us with the perfect next step without forcing us to start shopping in women’s hosiery: long underwear essentially glorified to outerwear status through Jacobs’ typical us of luxe materials and evolved cuts. Although, definitely not a piece for men who are still hesitant about anything that’s not baggy, it does provide another choice for those growing beyond skinny jeans.

This addition of thick leggings provides more options for executing the “skinny on the bottom, big on top” silhouette while ensuring that our every desire for comfortably indulging in a gloomy winter day has been met. Note how, although essentially wearing skin-tight long underwear, the above outfit still looks badass due to the heavy bulkiness created from large pieces on top. A word of warning, as any man well-submerged in the peg legged pants would give, is that footwear will require a bit of forethought. Even some of the most streamlined men’s shoes can look chunky and awkward once suddenly exposed to a narrow ankle. Before planning on wearing such an outfit, ensure your closet contains a particularly slim pair of shoes (test your pairs at home by seeing if they look good when worn without socks) or, even easier, a pair of boots ranging anywhere from angle to knee height will get the job done.

Lastly, please make sure that your top maintains the correct proportions. Not only does the “big on top” part require your sweater to drop below your hip line in order to pull off the look, but, depending on the cut of your new leggings, a longer shirt may also offer an appreciated bit of coverage. Vanguard doesn’t, after all, want to start having to recommend undergarments that include dance belts and tube socks.

In his more playful Marc line, we see Jacobs becoming a tad more experimental, particularly with men’s proportions. Sometimes, knickers can appear a bit flighty; here bold stripes provide weight, especially when combined with heavy socks that join with shoes to create an anchor for the outfit. Exposed socks can be a bit difficult to pull off, but can be worth the effort if you want an alternative to boots for this Fall.

The above outfit is particularly interesting as it can be viewed almost as a proportion study of men’s overalls (notice Shane’s overalls in the post below to further view these proportions). Observe how, although not actually overalls (the bottom of the shirt is simply the same color of the pants), the outfit does creates a similar breaking point between the chest and waist that adds a lot of visual weight below this point. To keep the outfit from becoming frumpy and shapeless, the waist retains a subtle definition while an open focal jacket creates a strong vertical line. Meanwhile, knicker-length pants keep the bottom from becoming disproportionately heavy. Again, the knickers are anchored with heavy socks.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

San Francisco Street - Taking a Second Look

Images by Vanguard - San Francisco

Even before having the pleasure of viewing Shane’s outfits on a near-daily basis, I had known of his reputation of being able to wear things in ways that others would not think to. Being able to see him regularly, however, would inspire anyone to view clothing differently: to take a second look at what they see and to perceive pieces beyond face value.

This outfit is a classic example of how Shane works with the concept of the second look. Here, Shane is wearing overalls, a cropped jacket, and a shear shirt – all pieces that any man of the new Millennium would probably avoid while passing them on a shopping rack. Yet, Shane has looked at them, he has embraced them, and he has put them together in a way that is thoroughly original, completely modern, and removes the clothing from how its standard perception. By doing so, he has breathed new life into the usually avoided.

This boy, like Shane, also takes a second look at the typically ignored, but does so on a smaller scale. Whereas Shane is conquering pieces that would be avoided because of their overall essence (such as their cut and concept), this subway-rider pursues pieces that would be looked over due to their details (bleach washed jeans, paisley prints) while also viewing pieces of everyday life as possible embellishment.

Monday, September 15, 2008

San Francisco Street - Let's Go Out Tonight

Images by Vanguard - San Francisco

Tony (above) is a continual source of inspiration. By designing and sewing his entire outfit himself he has integrated many typically female elements (batwing sleeves, short shorts, and stockings) into an extremely masculine and even dark ensemble. The use of geometric elements, exposure of the male form, contrast of textures, and dark colors allow an assembly that could easily have been ridiculous to instead become something deep, edgy, and masculine. Topping of the outfit on either end with a baseball cap and sneakers keeps it boyish and charming.

Here, the hair is important. Perhaps difficult to tell from the photo – no matter how charismatic it may be – the sides are buzzed short while the top is left long and, for lack of better terms, stringy. This has a 90s industrial vibe to it, which will be taking fashion by storm.

Normally I would be against ironic and trendy facial hair as it all too-typically used as a way for guys to grab a few laughs and attention. Here, however, it is seamlessly blended in as part of the overall style without demanding much attention to itself. Also perfectly executed is the large hair and the glasses. All of these are elements typical to the faddish hipster, but the stylish guy above manages to integrate them as a part of his personal and tasteful style by making them appear natural and appropriate rather than forced.

Looking at the guy on the left, we see a lot of nostalgic irony between the jacket, t-shirt, and black socks with brown shoes. All of these pull together nicely. Although we have been living in a decade of fitted clothing for men, larger pieces like the denim jacket can be a nice way to easily and casually create a unique silhouette. The guy on the right is ironic in ways that are most likely unintentional, but feel free to pull any inspiration that you may find from him as well.

I’m still not sure how I feel about arm warmers. John Varvatos has recently been diligent in introducing them into his line, but I’m also not sure how I feel about John Varvatos. What I do know, however, is that I have a strange inkling towards wanting to wear them, they would be considered a new piece to introduce into the male wardrobe (something Vanguard is always looking for), and they are a much better idea than leg warmers on men. The above ensemble exercises arm warmers correctly by pairing them with a sleeveless knit poncho. Here, they give the arms the extra visual weight needed to balance out the heavy, sleeveless garment.

Want to wear Grandma’s costume jewelry (who doesn’t) without being reminded of those awkward childhood dress-up moments? Juxtapose typical female pieces (large ring, sequin hat) directly against typical symbols of manhood (facial hair, suit coat) and just make sure you have an attitude to match.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

San Francisco Street - Let's Think about Footwear

Images by Vanguard - San Francisco

Shoes are always an integral part of an outfit and can make or break the idea you want to communicate about yourself. Many men, even the most fashionable, tend to stick to a generic shoe for any ensemble. If an outfit has many other particular points of emphasis it can be fine to select a “classic” or generic neutral shoe so as not to distract from the greater emphasis of the ensemble. On the other hand, if a rather minimal outfit is put together, an exemplary shoe can be used as a point of emphasis. In any case, the shoes should flow with the rest of what is pieced together and support the overall concept. The point is this: think about your shoes.

The following are examples of where footwear takes a stylish outfit further, making it unique and distinctive.

Between the liquid-y metallic shoes and the velvet bow tie, it is clear that the above outfit is also about material quality. Not only do we have a contrast of materials and textures between items, but also a play on the expected use of materials and textures within individual items.

Shopping - Oak

Shopping is something that is obviously related to the overall vision of Vanguard (articles of clothing have to come from somewhere) but so far has not been brought up. This is because fashion battles the issue of promoting unsustainable consumerism. Obviously this then also creates a battle for a blog promoting individual expression through the use of fashion. We do try to assist the lifestyle that many intelligent and socially responsible citizens are actively pursuing. Much of the street fashion shown on Vanguard is purchased second hand; this makes it not only sustainable but also affordable. Much of the runway wear is constructed to last more than one lifetime, requiring clothing to be purchased less often, and thus also being sustainable in certain viewpoints. However, the everyday person probably doesn’t have time to rummage through Goodwill and may not have the money to invest in something off the runway. This leaves them in the large world of unsustainable consumers. Although environmentally smart clothing is being designed more and more every day it is still only a small fraction of the retail environment.

Vanguard recognizes the importance of responsible consumption, and plans to integrate socially conscious fashion where applicable, but must make the exploration of expression for every man our primary mission. Thus, online shopping recommendations will be integrated into Vanguard but we encourage readers to consume wisely.

Our first recommendation would be the well-known New York boutique, Oak. Although most of the prices may be a bit steep for people living outside inflated urban centers and although their most recent collection doesn’t seem to quite live up to the cutting-edge reputation Oak has created for themselves, it is still an excellent source to find unique and expressive items. Meanwhile, their frequently updated and stylish website makes their product easily accessible to anyone.

The following is Vanguard’s recommendations for Oak’s current online merchandise:

Monday, September 8, 2008

San Francisco Street - Shane in South Park

Images by Vanguard - San Francisco

When I ran into Shane in South Park and asked to take his photo he replied “but I’m dressed so boring today.” After taking street fashion photos for over two years now, I recognized this as the usual humble reply similar to “but I’m horrible with photos” or “but I didn’t even put on a stitch of makeup” and shrugged it off as such. Little did I know that, with Shane, his comment was actually accurate. The next day Zana showed me her pictures that depict Shane in his typical ensembles created of found and modified pieces that seemingly cross gender lines. With such creativity, Shane is easily inspiration for anyone willing to work outside the box. Meanwhile his daily nonchalant demeanor suggests that his outfits are nothing out of the ordinary. See more pictures of Shane on Zana’s blog, Garbage Dress.

Despite this outfit being a far cry from the regular possibilities of Shane’s wardrobe, it still puts even the most innovative dressers to shame and thus we have a lot to learn from it. What’s most striking is the white button down. This seems to be almost the reverse of Tony’s back-cropped dress shirt on our previous post discussing the exposure of the male body. Here, Shane uses the cropping to create contrast layering that allows the outfit to become striking through its unusual proportions. Like Tony’s shirt, however, only half of it is cropped; here, the back maintains the proportions typical to the men’s classic shirt or reminiscent of a waistcoat. This grounds the piece as a men’s item. The unusual proportions created by the shirt are further exaggerated by the shortened sleeves and the use of black in his pants and t-shirt – allowing his torso and lower-body to be read as one line – and skinny jeans. Combined this has the overall affect of lengthening his body and exaggerating his leanness.

What is also particularly interesting is his use of generic eyewear and handbag. Today’s fashion seems to be overly dependant on distracting, and typically tacky, cost-inflated accessories. Shane creates a statement and puts the emphasis back onto himself by using outmoded pieces (or vintage 90s pieces, depending on your outlook) that seem to demonstrate the irrelevance of label fads.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Runway - Fendi: Fall 08

Large corporate fashion labels face the challenge of maintaining a certain balance with menswear. First, they must not be too adventurous so that they overly challenge their regular customers or alienate themselves from the mainstream. While, on the other side, they must be progressive and different enough to set their brand apart within the sea of retail. Most of the time, in an attempt to create the proper balance, this works against any man trying to be different. It produces results that rely on the same pieces, but change the color, material, texture, or detailing just enough to make them look new to the undiscriminating eye. If we’re lucky, perhaps they evolve the fit a little bit. In certain seasons, however, it is clear that these labels are in higher competition as the balance gets pushed more towards progress and traditional menswear is much more heavily questioned. Fall 2008, so far, has shown us a glimmer of this balance push.

When the balance shifts to progress, even runway shows that in previous years may not have been any more interesting than the latest Banana Republic line, suddenly become relevant in the design spectrum. Already, we’ve looked at examples of forward-thinking pieces in the Armani lines. Here, we see innovation within Fendi.

Although cutting-edge and avant-garde designers, like we’ve seen with Walter Van Beirendonck, create the pieces that are saved in museums, published in books, and will inspire young designers for years to come. Major lines, however, like we’ve seen with Armani and Fendi, can be excellent examples for customers and designers who want to create something new without facing ridicule on the street or in office. While artistic designers have challenged and reshaped clothing to become a powerful statement of our social state, corporate designers have challenged their teams of office-bound brand directors to do the legwork for us: pumping just the right amount of expression into a piece without straying too far from the typical man’s comfort level. Although they may not deserve the artistic esteem of other designers, credit should be provided where it is earned.

What this musing comes down to is a simple recognition of the relevancy of major corporate labels in the realm of the avant-garde…but only when the balance of these labels is shifted towards competitive progress rather than profit-making through mediocrity.

Eat up this balance shift on the runway of Fall 2008 as I doubt we’ll see the same for Spring.

Monday, September 1, 2008

San Francisco Street - Sunday in the Park

Images by Vanguard - San Francisco