Why Time Is Up For The Dandy Look

The trussed up, pocket square look of old is over. Time to kick back, says Esquire’s Teo van den Broeke

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As immaculate in a suit as he is in jeans and a chambray shirt, David Beckham is, without question, one of this country’s most stylish exports. But is his crown on the verge of slipping?

Worryingly, over the past few years David Beckham has become one of the key proponents of the Dandy trend.

To be clear, a Dandy is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as “a man unduly concerned with looking stylish and fashionable”. In his current guise, a Dandy is a man who wears a perfectly pressed three-piece suit with lace-up Oxfords, a contrast collar shirt, a tie, tie bar and pocket square down to Sainsbury’s on a Sunday morning. Which is probably a bit much.

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Granted, Beckham’s made the look work. The moment he wore a navy suit with a contrast collar shirt to deliver the Olympic torch via speedboat on the Thames will be etched on the public consciousness for years to come.

The problem is, impeccable is no longer the ‘thing’. The dandy is dying, you see. Men trussing themselves up in torso-constricting suits decorated with pocket squares, tie pins and collar bars has become a bit old hat. This, friends, is the age of the louche. Forget bow ties (seriously, forget them), the modern man’s accessory of choice is no accessory at all.

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Right now, getting dressed is less about putting on armour against the big bad world, as it has been for the past few seasons, and more about looking and feeling comfortable. “Economic uncertainty helped make the trappings of the past look very attractive, but things aren’t quite as perilous as they were,” says stylist Tom Stubbs. “The thing is, it’s all gone too far. Dandy treacle has already trickled down to the high street, where budget versions of the costume are out and about. No one likes a budget version of ‘their look’ bopping about in front of them. It's a muted death knell for Dandy Mania.”

Don’t believe us? Down on Savile Row, typically the strong hold of trussed up style, the likes of Carlo Brandelli at Kilgour and Jason Basmajian at Gieves & Hawkes are offering a more relaxed take on tailoring. At Gieves, Basmajian’s Autumn Winter ’14 collection is focused on elegantly-cut separates teamed with fine gauge jumpers, slim roll necks and knitted polo shirts. “Men have moved towards an easier, more relaxed style.” Says Basmajian. “We still show and sell a lot of tailoring, including three piece suits, but we’re softening them up and showing men how to wear them with knits, denim shirts, and accessorising in a more relaxed way. Men want to look sharp, elegant and modern but not too theatrical or studied.”

The same is happening at Kilgour, says Stubbs. “Carlo Brandelli’s new work on Kilgour No.5 is dispensing with yet more superfluous detailing and ‘period’ notions, as Brandelli calls them. He’s stripping away accepted norms of tailoring, dispensing with the out-breast pocket for example, and therefore, (panicked dandy faces) the pocket square.”

Brunello Cucinelli, the Milanese tailoring brand with a focus on cashmere, has been promoting the soft tailoring trend for years. The inventor of the one-and-a-half-breasted jacket (a less formal take on double breasted) Cucinelli’s approach to the season’s new look is a practical one, “In terms of constructing a more relaxed look, replacing the suit jacket with key pieces such as waistcoats from basic styles to those with lapels, with or without peaks, and cashmere knitwear achieves a more laid back style.”

The super brands are getting in on the act too, at Burberry Prorsum Christopher Bailey’s Autumn Winter ’14 collection featured double-breasted jackets teamed with looser trousers than the brand has shown in years, string vests (yup) and floaty, belted overcoats. It was a look mirrored at Louis Vuitton, where Kim Jones’ exemplary AW’14 collection featured double-breasted suits worn over T-Shirts and bombers worn in place of jackets. At Korean brand Wooyungmi, suit jackets were teamed with cuffed wool jersey tracksuit bottoms - the same was happening over at both Bottega Veneta and Lanvin, where Lucas Ossendrijver sent out suits worn over zip-up sports tops, polo shirts and trainers.

Even Milan’s more traditional brands are at it. At Ermenegildo Zegna, where Stefano Pilati (formerly of Yves Saint Laurent, as it was then known) has taken the helm, they showed suit trousers worn with quilted bombers and tie-free shirts. And let’s not forget Armani, where the emperor of deconstructed tailoring, produced a show which felt relevant and desirable, a symphony of draped trousers, soft shouldered jackets and collarless shirts.

Celebrity wise, Ryan Gosling – who is so ahead of the curve that he wore a silk pyjama top with chinos to a photo call in Cannes a few years ago – Pharell Williams, who can wear a dress and still manage to look masculine, Ryan Reynolds (one of Cucinelli’s preferred brand ambassadors) and Tinie Tempah are a few of the men nailing the trend. It’s a point on which Mehmet Ali, design director of Savile Row brand Hardy Amies agrees “ I had the pleasure of styling [Tinie Tempah] recently in one of our double-breasted hopsack jackets,” he says. “He's a good advocate for modern, unstructured dressing because he always looks cool and effortless in a minimal t-shirt and jacket.”

So, a message to all the bow tie wearing dandies out there: your days are numbered. And if in doubt, Esquire says relax.


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