Art + Design

From the Design Desk: Men’s Fashion


Ralph Lauren once said: “I don’t design clothes. I design dreams.” Unlike books, which you inhabit only in your imagination, fashion can be that little (or big) dream you actually exist in. The clothes you wear, your explorations in style, can undeniably be exercises in creativity and self-expression. Wes Anderson, for example, uses fashion in his films as a key stylistic device to establish characters and mood. Design*Sponge called out some stylish accessories and home objects inspired by Anderson’s film The Darjeeling Limited.

Design*Sponge also noted Adrien Brody’s fetching appeal, which is notably enhanced in The Darjeeling Limited by the smart light-gray suit and the classic white linen shirt he wears. Style is a hard thing to quantify, but like any dabbling in design, it’s fun to play with, be it color, texture, (visual) volume, a nod to the past, or a dash of irreverent graphics. And whether it’s the influence of Mad Men, the new Victorians (post steam-punk), freak folk music, or bands like Vampire Weekend, the level of creativity seems to be on the rise.

You don’t have to be a guy to appreciate the great style featured on websites like Nerdboyfriend (above), Style Salvage, and Street Etiquette, all of which are dedicated to men’s fashion. Nerdboyfriend highlights a huge range of styles from many different eras and pinpoints specific accessories, clothes, and colors. In this diverse sea of style and attitude is a vast sense of fun, expression, play, and yes, even a little romance—or flirtation to say the least.

In This is Not a Suit (above) photographer Adrien Sauvage explores male individualism through the suit. And we also like sites like The Sartorialist, although it’s not limited to men’s fashion, and 1001 Rules for My Unborn Son, which is not really about fashion at all, but touches on style quite a bit.

In these shaky publishing times, it’s also nice to see men’s style magazines staying strong, getting better, and even expanding, like the great Fantastic Man, new on the market.

The Handbook of Style, published by Esquire Magazine, is a little gem of a book. This “man’s guide to looking good” is a brilliant manual breaking down different attire, style, and even “personal care.” It’s also a sweetly designed book with a hard cloth cover and a sticked-in label for the title. The layout is classic and clean, and filled with photographic examples and illustrations. And we might be biased, but the Nordstrom Guide to Men’s Everyday Dressing, which followed Nordstrom Guide to Men’s Style, is a pretty good handbook as well.

In the new documentary Bill Cunningham, about the New York Times photographer, Mr. Cunningham describes fashion as an armor that we use to survive the reality of everyday life. The power of that armor lies in its creativity, imagination, and self-expression, which can bring a little bit of beauty, flair, and color into the world, or as Mr. Lauren called it “dreams.” And that is what all good design should aspire to do.

Suzanne LaGasa

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