Why does menswear never seem to go out of fashion?

There are websites set up to admire the fashion sense of Benedict Cumberbatch.

There are websites set up to admire the fashion sense of Benedict Cumberbatch. - Credit: PA

I know a lot of men buy their own clothes. In fact, I know two who have exactly the same range of shirts because they both (independently) buy five from M&S every time their other shirts wear out.

Cary Grant is a long-time style icon

Cary Grant is a long-time style icon

A man’s definition of “worn out” may not concur with a woman’s. In my opinion a work shirt is worn out when the collar points and/or cuffs start to fray... not when the collar rucks up into pleats and the elbows are transparent. In my experience, men will even then be reluctant to throw out an old, had-it shirt, insisting it will be okay for gardening. At home, we have a whole section of wardrobe devoted to gardening clothes.

Some men have a good eye for fashion and colour. The city look with the return of waistcoats and sideburns is a fashion statement that will be gaining ground, I suspect over the next 18 months while we could well see a decline in hipsters (men with beards) which will be bad news for the men who have been trying to grow a beard but aren’t there yet.

The other look is what I call the Daily Planet. Men wearing their shirts with, soft-collars and “bicycle clips” to elevate the sleeves and keep the cuffs from getting dirty. They tend to look a little dishevelled and unironed... a bit like a news reporter who’s been up all night with a breaking story, hence Daily Planet.

But while the fashionistos take a bit of trouble, most men at work defer to the classic collar and tie worn with a dark suit.


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In hot weather you might get an occasional outbreak of pale linen and a Panama but this can attract teasing.

But keeping on trend, whether you are a man who does his own clothes shopping or, as in some cases, have a partner who does it for you, is important - if only after working hours. Marks and Spencer is on the case. They tell me: “This Autumn Winter, statement prints take two trend directions; classic tartan and modern geometric.

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“For a top to toe look, choose the traditional green tartan M&S collection suit, alternatively the Blue Harbour oversized check tartan scarf is a subtle way to incorporate the print trend into your daily look. For a contemporary print try pieces from the Autograph range, where knitwear gets a fresh update. The geometric print knitted polo shirt in teal is the perfect way to inject some colour to your transitional Autumn wardrobe. Whether you choose classic or modern, make sure you add an M&S print to your wardrobe this season.”

Burton Menswear jacket £89; trousers £40; waistcoat £35; shirt £35; tie £10; sunglasses £12

Burton Menswear jacket £89; trousers £40; waistcoat £35; shirt £35; tie £10; sunglasses £12 - Credit: Archant

So there you have it, tartan and geometric. Dickens’ Mr Gradgrind (Hard Times) would doubtless be glad to see no incursion of fanciful ideas such as climbing shrub prints or similar.

Meanwhile, there are any number of websites devoted to male fashion icons. Among them, you will find the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch, Johnny Depp, Bradley Cooper and Tinie Tempah but style icons transcend time. Audrey Hepburn, Doris Day, Marilyn Monroe had a look that we still yearn to reproduce. Likewise men such as Sammy Davis Jr, Cary Grant, Greogory Peck, James Dean and Bob Dylan - all men who look at ease in their clothes. And maybe that’s the clue. Buy for self confidence.

Top tip? Try clothes on in the shop and look at yourself from all sides. It’s not good enough to simply announce: “I’m a 32” medium leg; 16 collar and 34 waist so I’ll have this, this and this,” dump the clothers on the counter, pay, leave the store and, assuming you were telling the truth about the waist size, be happy because you have clothes that fit you.

The clue, if any were needed, is when your mum/wife/partner/son/daughter says: “Are you going out in that?

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