When a man's got to look mature

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 28 March, 2011, 12:00am

There is a general consensus this season that men's fashion is looking more grown-up. There is an emphasis on being more polished and sophisticated, like the leading men during Hollywood's golden years - Humphrey Bogart, Cary Grant, Gregory Peck, Montgomery Clift. This season is all about looking like a man who knows the ways of the world. A man who can pull off a three-piece suit. A man who knows how to work a classic fedora. It is less about trying to hang on to the coat-tails of youth and more about accepting maturity when it comes.

This sartorial shift can be attributed to a number of things. One is fashion's rejection of all things skinny and androgynous, which have been major trends for several years. Fashion's nature is cyclical, it swings from trend to trend, exhausting all possible permutations of a style then going for its polar opposite. It has done so with the skinny, boyish silhouette. Now it is swinging towards clothes that have, for lack of a better word, heft. They always say that clothes make the man; if this were true, then to be a proper man one must dress the part.

Other factors that have led to this new mood in fashion are shows such as Mad Men and White Collar, in which the characters are always dapper in their well-tailored suits and crisp white shirts. Even Chuck Bass, a popular character on the show Gossip Girl, has been making a play at looking like a grown-up despite being barely of legal age.

Television has pointed its cameras at men who would rather sport a navy jacket (HK$29,900) with cream trousers (HK$3,900) from Ermenegildo Zegna (1) or a relaxed casual linen sports jacket with patch pockets (HK$6,900) from Ring Jacket (2) at The Armoury or a Panama hat from Borsalino rather than on the teenagers it was fixated on a few years ago. You know the type. The Ashton Kutcher trucker-hat-and-slogan-T-shirt-wearing clones. Even Justin Bieber, the current poster child for all things pubescent, has made an effort to wear suits at events such as the Golden Globes and Grammys. Whether he looked like he was playing dress up or he was dressed as a ring bearer for a wedding is beside the point. He deserved an A for effort.

And of course there is the Tom Ford ripple effect. Ever since he launched his eponymous men's line, which is all about classic tailoring - double-breasted suits, strong shoulders, waistcoats - he has influenced many of his peers, which ultimately led to this current mature and classic dressing mood.

This is evident in the clothes available at The Swank, from the linen sports jacket with generous lapels from Corneliani to the double-breasted seersucker suits from Isaia. You can see these are the clothes that a man would want to wear now, because they are classic pieces that will never go out of style. And this is the beauty of classic dressing, longevity, an important factor especially when you are shelling out several thousands of dollars for a suit jacket or the perfect trousers.

Ralph Lauren's Purple Label is all about looking like a man of the world. It is a collection filled with three-piece suits with strong, dependable shoulders, shirts in bold stripes, handsome cufflinks and tie bars, and well-polished monk strap shoes. But my favourite look is that of the micro-houndstooth cardigan with a navy border paired with a starched white shirt, a navy and white tie, and well-cut navy trousers finished with dark monogram slippers (3). It has all the hallmarks of classic elegance, of cocktails in wood panelled libraries in huge mansions in Newport, of a time when everyone dressed for dinner.

Can young men pull off this mature look? Can guys who have yet to grow facial hair get away with wearing a three-piece suit without looking like they ransacked their father's closets? Can men who are just old enough to order a glass of Scotch on the rocks look like men of the world? Yes, if we are to go by Dunhill's (4) spring collection of three-piece suits (HK$16,995), double-breasted jackets, silk and cotton blend cardigans and sweaters, bow ties and tailored spring coats, all shown on young men. The result is equal parts all-male English boarding school a la Brideshead Revisited and Jude Law's Alfie. Dunhill's designer Kim Jones (this is his last collection for the British label) says he was inspired by the Dunhill archives, by 'the pieces that Alfred [Dunhill] himself created that are as relevant and exciting now as they were nearly 100 years ago'.

Imagine that, after 100 years, the shapes of Dunhill garments have endured. This drives the point that when it comes to classic dressing, you will always be in fashion. You can't say that about guys who follow trends blindly. Can you?

Shopping list:

Brioni and Isaia at The Swank, Central, tel: 2810 0769

Dunhill Prince's Building, Central, tel: 2524 3663

Ermenegildo Zegna Alexandra House, Central, tel: 2868 9638

Ralph Lauren The Landmark, Central, tel: 2869 0388

Ring Jacket at The Armoury, Pedder Building, Central, tel: 2804 6991