The ‘high low’ approach to men’s fashion
Merging off-duty gear with formal workwear is becoming something of a trend
Get the high-low look: mix casual or sporty items with smarter pieces
Menswear, normally slow to move, is undergoing change at the moment. The guy who takes style seriously is no longer dependent on a suit to look in charge in the workplace. It means off-duty gear merges with formal workwear clothes to become more casual. What’s called “high low” dressing is about mixing casual sporty pieces with smarter items – chunky trainers with pinstripe trousers, hoodies or bomber jackets with smart trousers – as sportswear and athleisure become wardrobe staples.
Those in their 30s may discover that paying more for a piece that will last – a trench coat, a good quality sweater, handsome crossbody bag or leather Chelsea boots – pays off in the long run while older men will learn the power and versatility of a well-cut blazer and discover that seasonal colour is the best and fastest way to update an existing wardrobe. And there is nothing like a waistcoat to flatter and hide an expanding waistline.
Style leaders show the way – in the GQ list of best dressed men, names like Eddie Redmayne, Cillian Murphy, Jack Guinness, Ryan Gosling, Matt Smith and Conor McGregor are some of the well-known public figures cited for their savvy sartorial style.
Often it is the accessory that marks them out – the bold use of a scarf, the signature shiny brogues, the offhand air of a beanie or shades, and an overall look of assurance and confidence. Gary Goldman, for instance, mixes vintage with contemporary for a new bohemian look while Rafferty Law (model son of Jude) can get away with an embroidered hoodie and oversize denim.
Braver with colour
Valerie O Neill, Arnotts fashion director and head of the biggest menswear offering in Ireland, reckons that guys are getting braver about putting colour together but what flatters the older man may not suit the younger one.
The good investment pieces –leaving suits aside – are a smart city raincoat (one to the knee and below to elongate the body), a blazer in plain navy or black for both work and weekend wear (a structured piece that’s good for giving shape and line and not the top of a suit), a good piece of knitwear (merino lasts longer than cashmere), a smart shirt (leave florals to the tie) and jeans (most people can’t wear jersey tracksuit bottoms to work). Insert colour or shots of pattern with scarves, socks and ties to add personality.
The menswear market is growing, in the UK it is now worth £15 billion (€17 billion), and outperforming womenswear. In Ireland the increasing number of barber shops alone is in itself a marker of greater male awareness of self-presentation in all its forms. “For the younger guys, it is all about a more sporty look and there is still a strong emphasis on graphic prints and logos,” according to O Neill who says the store’s expanded trainer offer is driving a lot of sales. As in womenswear, many of the Scandinavian brands suit Irish customers, the more fashion forward Samsoe & Samsoe from Denmark being one to note alongside Gant, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Levis and other more familiar brands known for their easygoing, relaxed dressing.
All clothes and accessories from Arnotts, Henry Street, Dublin. Photographer: Sean Jackson, assisted by Colin Fleming. Styled by Jan Brierton, Morgan the Agency, assisted by Michaela Mullan. Model: Abdullah, Distinct Model Management. Hair: Stephen from Zeba at Arnotts; shot at Baldoyle Library.