At the recent European men’s AW20 fashion weeks and trade shows and there was the perennial talk of what’s next. Branded booths full of fur-trimmed arctic parkas and look-at-me colourful chunky trainers didn’t really give an indication of the next big direction in menswear or fashion in general. Talk of tailoring’s recent return and the variations on the duck boot didn’t really satisfy the over aching question of “What’s the next big trend/idea?”.
Left - GH Bass putting a comfort spin on the classic penny loafer for AW20
When you think about the regular, engaged and fashion buying consumer, what’s the overriding trend of the past decade? It’s comfort. While it started with the dreaded term ‘athleisure’ creeping out of the gym and into people’s wardrobes and then exploded into sportswear, in general, people really connected with the laziness of it all and they’ve got used to it. There’s no going back. Items that are easy to put on, easy to wear, easy to take off, morning to evening, are really the driving force of people’s purchasing decisions. Asking people to be uncomfortable again for fashion’s sake is never going to return. Never.
You don’t realise how used to uncomfortable we were until you give yourself a rare reminder of what we used to wear. And compared to our historical forefathers it was certainly nothing in comparison to those days of being trussed up like a turkey. Even a regular pair of cotton denim jeans feels uncomfortable and such-an-effort to put on without any stretch and an unelasticated waist. The genderless meeting in the middle of sloppy oversized clothes and sports shoes is the perfect example of all this. When was the last time you saw a women hobbling along in uncomfortable high-heels? And good riddance to that too.
Sportswear is currently fulfilling this need, and brands with product outside this genre can no longer wait for the pendulum to swing back to them. They have to get involved. For example, GH Bass, long the custodians of the classic, leather men’s penny loafer has incorporated an Air Max type air bubble sole to their shoes for AW20. Okay, so I know we’ve had shoe/trainer hybrids since the early days of Prada Sport in the 1990s, but this is less about trend and more about getting people to make the leap from trainers back to something resembling a traditional shoe, rather than previously the other way aroun
Right - Fitness Influencer Joe Wicks wearing trainers on his wedding day
Every major shoe trend of the last few years has been related to a slipper. Every Croc to Ugg to Vans to slider is basically an outdoor slipper. It’s all about comfort. The JOMO/Netflix Generation are having to be enticed with a outdoor sole just to leave the house and even then it has to feel the same as if they were indoors.
There’s also a psychological thing going on here. If something feels or looks like an effort, then it is instantly rejected by the consumer. Certain items, fabrics and styles are associated with discomfort. People want clothes and accessorises then can forget about, aren’t conscious wearing and are instantly comfortable. Long gone are the days of expecting customers to wear or break something in. For example, there were many hiking boots styles on offer for the Autumn/Winter 20 season, but looking all the many laced eyelets and thought of having to wrench your foot in and out, has you reaching for the nearest tent mule no matter how beautifully patinated or light they are.
While this all relates nicely to the current sportswear domination, and the two go hand-in-hand, this idea will resonate and underpin any future fashion styles or trends. Whether it’s preppy or more formal clothes, the underlying trend will be comfort. There are generations of young people who don’t know anything different. Fashion has to be realistic and the future is comfortable. The visuals can change, the looks will morph, but this macro trend should be the starting point for any brand or designer hoping to appeal to the mass market. You only had to look at fitness guru Joe Wicks getting married in his trainers this past summer to see how far this has all infiltrated formal scenarios. The shoe makers of Northamptonshire must have been crying into their Cherry Blossom when they saw that. But, he obviously wanted to be comfortable on his big day and it also reflected his brand and personality.
This idea is an overarching trend in fashion. What started with sports could end anywhere. What’s next in fashion nobody's really sure, but one thing’s for sure, it ain’t discomfort.
BUY TheChicGeek's new book - FASHIONWANKERS - HERE
Young men are officially the biggest consumers of footwear in the UK. Move over Carrie Bradshaw, or is that reference way too old when you consider many of these 16-24 year old men weren’t even born when she started shopping for her Manolos.
According to the latest research from Mintel on footwear retailing, 95% of British males aged 16-24 bought shoes last year, making them Britain’s number one footwear buyers.
There’s been a revolution in men buying shoes and while women (86%) are still more likely to purchase footwear than men (78%), females aged 16-24 (10%) are twice as likely to have not purchased footwear in the last year compared to their male counterparts (5%), as the continuation of the casual and ‘athleisure’ trends drive men’s footwear sales.
Male shoe addicts are fast catching up on women. Men’s footwear accounted for 37% of all footwear sales in 2017, up from 34% in 2015. Valued at £4.38 billion in 2017, sales of men’s shoes increased an impressive 31% between 2015 and 2017. In comparison, sales of women’s shoes grew by only 10% over the same period to reach £5.48 billion in 2017.
“Men’s footwear, particularly among younger age groups, is really fuelling growth in the footwear sector.” says Chana Baram, Retail Analyst at Mintel. “In fact, our research shows that men aged 16-24 are more likely to be swayed by big brand names than women of the same age.” says Baram. “With trainers such a popular category for men as a whole, young men in particular are likely to respond positively to advertising campaigns by the big sports brands that feature their favourite male sports personalities.” she says.
This footwear sales growth is being fuelled by trainers, trainers and more trainers. Casual shoes and trainers are now the most popular shoe styles purchased by men.
“These are not just essential buys, but, got-to-have-it buys,” says Richard Wharton, footwear veteran and founder of Office & Offspring. “It’s all about the latest sneaker, there are millions version of that: the luxe trend, the Balenciaga Triple S, Off-White, Converse or Vans or whatever.” says Wharton. “These young guys have never worn formal shoes or been forced into wearing them at school. They buy what they want,” he says.
“Sneaker culture has really grown, from being a niche market to having mass appeal,” says Pamela Dunn, Senior Buyer, Schuh. “The rise of exclusive collabs and hard-to-get releases from brands like Nike/Adidas has fuelled the sneaker market.” she says.
In our age of sportswear and dress-down, our footwear choices have mirrored this and what was once unacceptable in certain social situations has now become mainstream and mass. Comfort is key.
“In modern offices nobody wears any other formal attire anymore so it’s acceptable to wear sneakers,” says Wharton. “Hype’s there. Before you didn’t have trainers for different occasions,” says Wharton. “Where you had that in formal wear, you, now, have that in sneakers: all black sneaker for work, weekend, something casual, or a club, maybe Dior or Louboutin,” he says.
The trainer market has grown to such as size that there is now multiple categories within this market and men are buying a full wardrobe of trainers for every social occasion. Designer brands have piled into this market seeing big margins and huge volumes. But what are these guys buying into?
“Big brands at a more mass market level like Nike/Adidas or more top level brands include Off-White / Gucci / LV etc.” says Dunn.
“It’s so broad. They are buying high-end street couture to basic Vans or Converse,” says Wharton. “Nike rules with guys buy into their new technology. There are huge queues waiting for the next thing and Nike limit it, so they drip feed it in.” he says.
Boys are buying brands and this may go someway to explain the latest movements within the men’s footwear market. Ted Baker recently bought back its shoe license for £21 million. The fashion brand bought ‘No Ordinary Shoes’, the worldwide licensee, from the Pentland Group. “This is an exciting opportunity to drive further growth in our footwear business by leveraging our global footprint and infrastructure, in line with our strategy to further develop Ted Baker as a global lifestyle brand,” said Ted Baker founder Ray Kelvin.
As Pentland lost Ted Baker, it appointed Marc Hare as the new ‘Product Director of the Lacoste Footwear Joint Venture’. He will be leading the new ‘Mainline’ and ‘Future Concepts’ product teams and working with Lacoste JV CEO, Gianni Georgiades, to support the company's vision for the brand. Marc Hare is known for his luxury evening styles and his, now, defunct Mr Hare footwear label. It’ll be interesting to see whether Pentland want to grow Lacoste further out from its sporty origins or use Hare’s skill by giving those sports shoes an elevation to compete within the luxury sneaker market.
What these brands see is growth, but is there further room for expansion or is the market becoming saturated?
“I think males will increasingly buy into footwear in the future, but the market will change,” says Dunn. “I think exclusive products may become less desirable, but brands that are big now will become even more dominant e.g. nike/adidas.” she says.
“It depends when it becomes saturation point,” says Wharton. “So many people want comfort that looks cool and there are multiple sub-genres such as Japanese sneakers, and Palace/Supreme collabs,” he says.
While the sports brands continue to offer newness, limit 'exclusive' product and raid their archives for classic styles, the trainer market seems healthy and will sustain the desire of men to keep adding to their collections. But, this rise of young men becoming the largest consumers of footwear is skewed towards one category and it will be interesting to see how the footwear industry gets this entire generation off their sport wears addiction and into a pair of leather lace-ups.
A strange distraction robbery leaves a Stockholm art museum director chasing his wallet and phone while dealing with the woke environment of a contemporary art museum and his family life.
Winner of the Palme d’Or, last year, at Cannes, The Square’s most memorable scene is the disturbing man/artist playing an unpredictable ape, but I’ll let you find that out for yourself.
Left - Artist 'Julian' in a Q&A from the film The Square
Anyway, on the style stakes, it’s the visiting artist, Julian, played by Dominic West, who is the sartorial inspiration in a scene set in the museum where he’s there to discuss his work. An audience member with Tourette’s syndrome makes it a surreal moment.
Right - Artist Julian Schnabel which some say was the inspiration for the character
Wearing blue pyjamas, a navy double breasted jacket and yellow lensed glasses he bears a striking resemblance to American painter and film maker, Julian Schnabel.
Left - Derek Rose - Men’s Classic Fit Piped Pyjamas - £95
Sky blue cotton pyjamas worn out of the bedroom shows an easy confidence and the yellow lenses on the glasses adds the artistic element. It’s hip to be square!
Left - Reiss - Carlotta B Double-Breasted Blazer - £325
Below - Sunglasses - Paul Smith - £177, available at Sunglass Hut
Left - Sunglasses - Lunetterie Generale - £375
Left - Vans - Authentic Shoes - £47
Below - Dominic West in full 'Julian' PJ look