When I get back from the fashion shows, my friends always ask me what I saw. My answer is always the same and not especially helpful: lots of trousers, quite a few coats and dozens of decades. The fashion world loves a decade. This summer it's the Fifties, next autumn it's the Seventies, and there's still a pinch of Eighties hanging around. Someone apparently spotted a bit of Nineties last week. There's no longer any decade that style forgot; it cherishes them all like an indulgent Grandpa Werther with his toffees.
I'm not quite sure why fashion is so obsessed with time travel and trawling through thrift shops to find new inspiration from old clothes. Admittedly, there is only so many times you can reinvent the wheel (or the blazer) and so we have to bounce back and forth trying the different shapes and ideas others tried — and often eventually rejected — before us. And I suppose once you hit on a theme, it's hard to let go….if you're going to do flares then you may as well go the whole hog and team them with skinny-rib sweaters and platform heels. For a fashion show, at least.
TV shows and movies play a big part, too. Every now and then something comes along that so brilliantly brings an era alive — and makes it seem so alluring despite some obvious aesthetic drawbacks — that you can't help thinking that you'd like a bit of that, too. Who didn't watch American Psycho and rather admire Patrick Bateman's grooming regime and fastidious wardrobe choices? Or watch either of The Thomas Crown Affair films and want Steve McQueen or Pierce Brosnan's outfits for their own. Or decide after viewing Reservoir Dogs that a sharp black suit was all one needed in life?
There's a movie opening in May called The Nice Guys starring Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling. It's a comedy thriller set in LA in the Seventies with the two leads playing, respectively, a tough enforcer and a down-on-his-luck private eye. It features some Seventies style classics that by the end of the film seem worryingly appealing: there's a lot of on-trend print shirts (shorten the collars and they're exactly what's in the shops this summer and coming autumn); some leather jackets in unusual colours that, if not quite so beaten up as seen on Crowe, could easily be by Berluti or Gucci, and some brave shirt and tie combos. Add a good soundtrack and some vintage car action and you walk out of the movie quite furious that it's 2016 outside.
Here's a brief guide to five of the current Fifties trends:
Tigers, tropical plants and snakes (motifs popular in the Fifties and Seventies), are all the rage on shirts from brands like Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana (£675) and Dries van Noten. All of which could comfortably (if snugly) have been worn by Crowe in The Nice Guys.
These Fifties items popped back into fashion last summer and are still going strong. Check out those by Marc Jacobs and Alexander McQueen (£325). I find them quite tricky to wear but this trend will be here for a while.
Embroidered bomber jackets — which hark back to post-WWII Japan when US troops had theirs embellished — are very fashionable this summer. They've reappeared a few times in the last few decades but are currently offered by everyone from Valentino (£2,625) to Louis Vuitton.
Zip-fronted, shirt-collared, ideally in a check, are another Fifties staple that's very popular at the moment. Easy to wear with a T-shirt and jeans, check out those by Acne Studios (£1,250).
This spring, everything from Chelsea boots to derbies feature crepe soles. To a summer wardrobe, they add lightness and a bit of height if you go for a chunky option. Officine Générale and Common Projects (£330) do some very easy-on-the-eye versions.
There are numerous other Fifties trends around — such as neat-fitting, lightweight suede jackets, for example; much looser trousers. Obviously, you don't want to pile them all on at the same time or you'll look as if you're off to a Secret Cinema Back to the Future event. And if you enjoy The Nice Guys as much as me, you might be hopping forward two decades. Fortunately, the Fifties and Seventies had more in common than you might imagine on the style front. It's just your hair that will need to grow.