Dare to be bold
Men have never enjoyed such freedom to express themselves through fashion
This is the result of a blend of the dandyish appetite for tailoring unleashed in recent years, with a joyously modern approach to dress codes and formality. The look is lean, the colours are bold and the forms are soft. There's never been a more exciting time to be interested in men's style, as men have never enjoyed a greater freedom to dress as they please.
This freedom produces a lot of grousing from men dismayed by the informality of modern life, but we see it in positive terms. Outside very formal work environments, men are largely free to wear what they like. Of course, some guys just treat this as an excuse to dress down, but we believe there is a social, professional and romantic advantage in dressing well.
In short, the only rules this spring are that a man should enjoy what he wears and use his clothes to express himself, whether his sartorial goal is to be eye-catching like David Bowie, beautifully tailored like Gianni Agnelli, or enviably casual like James Dean.
The bomber jacket embodies all that's best about this season's trends because it rolls up virtues of comfort, sophistication, ease, luxury and style in one simple garment. Crafted from beautiful suede, the bomber is always a casual-looking item, thanks to the leather's matte finish, and the fact that it's got ribbing around the neck rather than a more formal collar. Complementing the casual look is the fact that, thanks to use of soft suede, a bomber is extremely easy to wear. However, no longer is style the price of comfort. In the past, bomber jackets had wide, saggy shoulders, droopy armholes and rolls of spare leather around the waist. In 2013, they have been radically remodelled by brands such as Alexander McQueen and Bottega Veneta, with slim waists, and neat, high armholes.
Conjure the mood with a mental image of a man piloting a vintage sports car, perhaps a convertible Jaguar E-Type, along California's State Route 1, which runs north from San Diego, past Los Angeles and San Francisco, up to Sonoma. However, as this is 2013, not 1963, Australian band Tame Impala's album Lonerism is on the stereo, so the outfit should reflect the contemporary aesthetic. What this means is that if you're heading for a weekend lunch in a good restaurant, try a pair of tailored cotton trousers, soft moccasins or driving shoes, and a button-down shirt with a bomber jacket. If you're planning to attend a more casual event, have coffee with friends or just drink a beer in a bar, dress the jacket down with a pair of jeans (try Gucci), Castaner espadrilles or simple sneakers, and a white or black T-shirt.
Until recently, shorts were decidedly casual because for years men habitually wore rather shapeless cargo shorts. While casual styles work well for a barbecue or when on holiday, this summer it's possible to achieve a much sharper urban look with a pair of tailored shorts. These come in neatly creased cotton or linen (try Loro Piana) and are designed to be worn with a tailored shirt and even, from Valentino, with a matching jacket. The idea is to provide a man with an outfit for hot weather that is simultaneously smart and comfortable. The cuts are lean, while the shorts are respectably long so that there's no excess of skin on display. For inspiration, we look to the denizens of American high society, who wore smart resort wear in Slim Aarons' photographs of the '60 and '70s.
The most important decision concerns footwear, and the best choice is a pair of leather shoes. Soft loafers are the easiest to wear, while hard leather derbies are the more directional choice and produce a look much loved by American designer Thom Browne. In between the two, and hitting a sweet spot between comfort and elegance, are blue (try Gucci) or sand-coloured suede derbies with rubber soles. Above the shorts try a soft button-down shirt and a navy or ecru cotton blazer. If you feel the occasion calls for a tie, we suggest a knitted one, but before tying the knot, do ask yourself if shorts are really appropriate in an environment where ties are necessary.
While we like the simple elegance of grey and blue suits, we are excited to see summer suits in a wide variety of colours, including a tomato red from Paul Smith and a washed green from Gucci, both of which featured in the brands' catwalk shows. Clearly, a man needs to give some thought to where he's going to wear such a suit - they would be a bold choice for a client presentation - but in the right circumstances we believe that they balance impact with elegance. It's a look that Lapo Elkann, one of our style icons, frequently pulls off with aplomb.
Inevitably informal, a colourful suit is most easily paired with a white T-shirt or a white shirt (try Burberry London) worn with an open neck. Either way, let the suit take centre stage by combining it with relatively neutral shirts. Footwear should be in keeping with the informal look, so consider simple white sneakers (try Saint Laurent) or white or off-white suede shoes.
Over the past couple of seasons, men have been rediscovering their appetite for sneakers, largely thanks to Lanvin's suede low-tops. No longer is their use restricted to streetwear ensembles. Thanks to the new eclectic mood, they are as likely to be worn with a blazer as they are with a pair of Neil Barrett jeans. This makes sense when the styles are sleek and the patterns and colours are reminiscent of works of abstract art.
Chunkier styles (we particularly like Pierre Hardy) look best with relaxed track pants or jeans, while more elegant styles, even when the colours are pretty wild, are appropriate with relaxed suits and tailored trousers.
One of the best things to come out of the recent resurgence of interest in classic menswear is the renewed emphasis on patterns. It's many years since up-to-the minute shapes were available in vibrant patterns, but this season sports jackets have a youthful appeal, thanks to designs from Alexander McQueen and Maison Martin Margiela. The references for these styles are not the heavy tweed jackets associated with British country style, but the lightweight silk and linen jackets worn by sophisticated Italian guys during the summer. The fabrics are feather light, the patterns easy to wear and the mood expressive. These jackets represent the zenith of contemporary male elegance.
These are not formal jackets - bold patterns are rarely compatible with formality - and so should be worn more casually with white Dolce & Gabbana jeans or chinos. Some thought needs to go into the way that colours work together, but that's no barrier to embracing the summer and combining a sports jacket with a pair of pink or pale blue chinos. A tie isn't necessary, but if you want to wear one it should probably be knitted, while Lanvin loafers strike the right tone. Imagine you're dressing for a weekend lunch at a good restaurant in Naples if you're struggling to summon the right mood.
The fashion revolution that the sixties brought to the world of men's style is chiefly remembered in the form of Hollywood's comedy spy Austin Powers or the excesses of the hippy period. However, before we judge the look too harshly, we should remember how liberating those clothes were at the time. This season there is a reinterpretation of '60s style in the form of the floral prints that have made a return to fashion, thanks to their use by brands including Balenciaga and Raf Simons. Fashionably small collars and lean shapes separate current designs from the old ones.
While small repeating prints (try Maison Martin Margiela) can be worn under a casual blazer, albeit without a tie, bolder prints, such as those from Alexander McQueen and Gucci, make a statement that deserves to be heard, so don't cover them with a jacket unless it looks like rain (in which case a casual bomber jacket will complement the look). The bold prints can be dressed up with slim tailored trousers and colourful trainers, or dressed down with jeans. Short-sleeved shirts (try Burberry Prorsum) are always very casual, so it's not appropriate to wear them with a jacket or a tie; instead consider them as a stylish alternative to a T-shirt and wear them with shorts or slim chinos.
The manner in which colours become fashionable is mysterious; even experienced members of the fashion industry will be pushed to explain why last autumn burgundy simultaneously appeared in almost every designer collection, from Balenciaga to Junya Watanabe. In time for summer, a consensus has appeared around the colour indigo, which you could reasonably point out is always in style in the form of jeans. However, not only are jeans too warm to wear comfortably in hot weather, but the colour in question is a more solid indigo, which takes particularly well to drill cotton. It's a look inspired by old European workwear but made relevant with modern cuts and styles.
Between the colour, the fabric (cotton) and the workwear associations, this is a trend that lends itself to casual wear. The easiest places to start are APC's chambray shirts (where white threads sit among the blue ones to create an attractive mix of colours), and Slowear's casual shorts. If you can take the warmth, jeans are always an option, but our favourite examples are casual jackets and, best of all, Oliver Spencer's superb casual cotton suit.
Mansel Fletcher is features editor of mrporter.com