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The Style Column | Camo's Comeback

The Style Column | Camo's Comeback

Retreat! The return of camouflage and other trends coming your way.

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As we step into autumn, a few of us fashion professionals have only just returned from viewing next summer’s clothing on the catwalks.

And with that, there’s some good news, and some bad news. The good news is that next summer you’ll be wearing more or less what you were wearing for this one. A little bit boring perhaps, but fairly cost-friendly at least.

The bad news is that a trend that seemed quite charming this summer, and will retain some of its charm throughout the autumn, will have grown by monstrous proportions by next spring.

I’m warning you of this so that you don’t invest too heavily in this particular trend now. I fear it’s going to become so popular that it will soon be spotted all over every high street store, dodgy nightclub floor and episode of Towie for months to come. I’m speaking of camouflage.

Camouflage seems to go in and out of fashion quite regularly: it usually returns with a clever little twist on a Savile Row jacket, or a tie by an obscure Japanese label, then gets sported by a style-friendly musician, like Tinchy Stryder (see below).

So far, so good. Soon after, it’s there on Converse sneakers, or a pair of shorts from a popular British streetwear brand and you nod and notice: it’s catching on.

Within months, it’s on everything in Primark, wrapping paper in Paperchase and Smart cars are offering it as a limited-edition finish. That’s the danger of certain trends: they start off being a little bit edgy and end up a little bit everywhere.

Last February, I was bold enough to invest in a pair of very fetching camouflage trousers by Beams Plus. When I first wore them, they were greeted with a mixed bag of comments: “very brave” was the least damning.

However, I rather liked them, felt that they looked good when teamed with a deconstructed navy blazer, and so I “bravely” packed them to wear at last June’s fashion shows in Paris and Milan.

The first day I wore them in Milan, a large number of camouflage-patterned pieces paraded down a well-known designer’s catwalk in front of me. “Ha,” I thought, “I’m a few steps ahead of this guy.”

But by the end of the day, camouflage had appeared in a dozen more collections and showroom presentations. And it was more of the same in Paris. I had stopped being “on trend” — as we fashion folk like to call it when something we’re wearing seems to be on the rise — and had become instead a bit of a fashion cliché.

The nail in the coffin was when one member of the fashion fraternity not known for his restraint, taste or age-appropriateness when it comes to the latest fashions, sported a camouflage jacket, combat trousers and a pair of jackboots.

He looked as if he’d just popped to Paris having just completed some Action Man black-ops mission. The camo pants were packed back into my suitcase and may never see the light of day again.

Now, I would not want to dismiss camouflage altogether as a little dab here and there can look quite dashing: Jimmy Choo and Stubbs & Wootton, for instance, have both produced some witty camo slippers (below).

And if I didn’t put you off, those Beams Plus camouflage trousers are still available at mrporter.com.

Be warned, though: footwear is quite tricky with a strong pattern like this. If wearing with boots, make sure they don’t make you look like you’re in the Territorial Army. I would suggest your safest choice is to dress them down with a pair of white Jack Purcell sneakers, or even a brown leather tasselled loafer.

The other trend we saw on next summer’s catwalks that I suggest you steer clear of is the sleeveless jacket. A surprising number of designers showed suits or blazers with the sleeves removed, an idea that I can’t really fathom; it just looks too contrived and pointless. Why would you want a jacket with no sleeves?

I can understand a sleeveless coat or gilet in a mild winter where the body of the coat will keep you warm enough and yet leave your arms freer to move, but on a tailored piece of summer clothing it simply looks like something’s missing.

And as for the blossoming trend for teaming socks with sandals — I could count on one hand the number of fashion shows that didn’t think this was a good idea — it’s wrong, wrong, wrong! Who wants to look like Keith from Mike Leigh’s Nuts in May?

Oh Lord, what’s happening? I’ve come over all practical in my old age. I’m turning into the Victor Meldrew of the fashion world. I promise to be cheerier next month.

Jeremy Langmead is the editor-in-chief of mrporter.com