If you’re looking for a masterclass on how to win over a whiny blogger, look no further than Gant. A while ago, after frustration got the better of me, I tweeted about an employee refusing to give me a refund for a pair of socks that had gone into holes after I’d worn them twice. Since then, they’ve sent me two replacement pairs (both of which have stayed intact!) and spontaneously invited me down to a bloggers’ breakfast to check out the new collection. WELL, I figured it would be positively rude not to…
You might imagine that for a brand like Gant, things are very much ‘business as usual’ and, to an extent, you’d be right. However, while it remains clear that they aren’t planning to fix something that’s not broken, their latest collection is full of little touches that really demonstrate the brand’s commitment to stay fresh. I spoke with a member of the brand’s marketing department, who told me that social media and blogger outreach are starting to play a much bigger part in the brand’s strategy. While those of us who spend most of our lives online don’t find that too surprising, it’s worth observing that this already puts Gant ahead of a lot of their competition. It’s also worth pointing out that word of mouth has always been a big part of Gant’s business, and this is still true today…except now it’s probably more likely to be in the form of a tweet than a conversation on campus.
With brands like Shore Leave and Farah, two high street contenders that both (to my mind) recall the preppy style of Gant and Ralph Lauren, on the scene it’s clear that Gant don’t intend to rest on their laurels. Take, for example, this unstructured dip dyed blazer…
…from the brand’s collaboration with Michael Bastian (a partnership now in its third year), also Head Designer at Gant Rugger. Speaking of Gant Rugger, I’ve fallen pretty much head over heels for this varsity jacket from their latest offering, which has sheepskin on the sleeves instead of the usual leather -
For once, I think I’ll let the pictures do the talking -
The fact that Gant invited a group of bloggers to their flagship London store says as much about the brand as the fact that this year’s S/S collection draws from coastal cultures all over the world, as opposed to the brand’s humble New Haven beginnings. It’s clear that they have big ambitions (evident from the fact that they now have stores in over 60 countries), far beyond just being ‘that one preppy brand’.
Now, if you need me, I’ll be in heaven (read: by that shirt display).
There are two things in life that I never ‘got’. The first, one I still don’t really get, is pubs. Maybe it’s just a Newcastle thing, but the concept of going out and not getting drunk enough to think it’s acceptable to proclaim the person you met in the toilet your best mate and give homeless people regrettably large sums of money before waking up on your friend’s sofa with sick in your hair is…weird. To this day, whenever someone suggests ‘just going for one or two’ I make a face like I’ve opened a packet of salmon that’s gone off. The second thing I never used to get is running.
Until a couple of years ago, I was like one of those supporting characters in rom-coms who ends up lagging behind a quiet, but actually super fit, mate (probably played by Hugh Grant or, since it’s no longer 1998, maybe Ryan Reynolds) who proceeds to chat up some other curiously in-shape misfit while I fall into an artificial lake in the background because my legs have gone numb. Then, last year, I ran a 10k ‘survival race’ with 10 obstacles in just over an hour. I realised, actually, I was not bad at running; I just used to be really lazy. During this survival race, people literally stood and clapped as I ran past. Clapped! Turns out that applause for putting one foot in front of the other was exactly what my ego needed to realise that running isn’t so bad after all.
But it wasn’t until today that I realised how much impact a decent pair of running shoes can have. I recently managed to pick up the shoes pictured above (the Nike Lunarglide+ 4 if you want to give it its fancy name) for the quietly knocked down price of £66. Since then, they’ve gone back up to £90. This is either due to the fact that I’ve told everyone I know about these shoes (I literally rang my estranged uncle to tell him about them) and Nike whacked the price back up, or they’ve sold out of the epilepsy inducing colourway that I purchased. I usually find myself with a bit of ankle and foot pain after a long run (which I probably should have taken as a warning sign, but I assumed it was just my useless body falling apart prematurely), but after a 5k run in these babies? Nothing. Nada. I could honestly go outside and run another 5k. If you too get sore feet after a long run I can’t recommend these shoes, or something similarly ‘specialised’, enough.
Now I know what you’re thinking. ‘This is all a bit first world problem-y, isn’t it?!’ Well actually, smartass, it’s not. It’s also a huge, and much more serious, third world problem. In fact, 300 million children worldwide don’t have an adequate pair of shoes. Meanwhile, 790,000 pairs of shoes end up in landfills every year. To draw attention to this issue, my friend and fellow fashy blogger Madison Hughes is doing a project called Febshoeary which involves her wearing just one stacked pair of heels for a whole month. To work, to the gym, to go shopping…to do everything. She’s getting a lot of funny looks and, despite what this picture would suggest…
…she’s actually doing pretty well. I encourage you all to donate, offer her support and/or chuck a Compeed blister patch at her if you see her in the street. Good luck, Madz, only 15 days to go.
Finally, to end this shoe mega post, I came across this great video by ESPN to celebrate Michael Jordan’s 50th birthday. It probably comes as no surprise that I’m a big fan of the Jordan brand, and this vid neatly summarises a lot of the reasons why. I present to you, ‘It’s Gotta Be The Shoes’ -
In case you don’t have eyes, it snowed this week. And with the snow came the things that inevitably accompany it – people moaning about the snow on Twitter, people moaning about people moaning about the snow on Twitter on Twitter, flurries (pun, lol) of Instagram pics out of people’s windows and fashion blogger-y pictures like this.
Overlooking the fact that the above outfit is OUTSTANDINGLY well co-ordinated (a particular love of mine), let’s just consider how impractical it is for the snow. The answer is very. Let’s face it, she’s going to last two minutes in those heels before ending up falling over and ripping that flimsy looking sweater.
Of course, it’s not just when it snows that fashion and fashion blogs walk the line between the sublime and the ridiculous. Take this guy -
Yes, he looks very moody and striking in a ‘quiffy Zac Efron in a world where gyms don’t exist’ sort of way, but where did he get that chair from? Aside from the fact that it looks like Kurt Angle should be breaking it over The Rock’s head, remember that he’s had to bring that chair from home. Imagine the looks he got on the bus. I bet the local hoodlums call him ‘chair dude’ now.
And we can’t forget poses like this one – bloggers taking photos of themselves ‘walking’ (satirised in this old post of mine) is…really weird. It’s like in Peep Show when Gog catches Jez pretending to write.
But let’s get a little deeper. Poses like the one above generally remind me of classic paparazzi shots, which implies to me a subconscious yearning to be in the public eye. That’s what a blog is, right? But casting oneself as the perpetually visible artist is a pretty dangerous thing to do, because with celebrity comes huge pressure to be perfect. I was talking to Lily Pebbles and Ella Gregory (Names? Dropped.) about blogging the other day, and the amount of pressure they put on themselves sounds far more intense than my ‘might sit down and write something today’ approach…I think I even heard the phrase ‘content schedule’ being used. Meanwhile I was sat there picking dried pizza off my shirt.
At some point, without anyone really being aware of it, it seems like it was decided that cupcakes, Mulberry Alexas and meatLIQUOR are the pinnacle of perfection and that everything else isn’t worth blogging about. You know what I say to that? I say, pfft. Some of the most prolific blogs and features in the past couple of years were so successful precisely because they dared to break the mould. Look no further than Advanced Style (street style for over 50s) and Style Rookie (a fashion blog started by a twelve year old girl) for evidence of this. Not to mention that Chinese man who started modelling his granddaughter’s clothing.
It probably shouldn’t surprise me that blogging is getting surreal – we live in a world where airbrushing, size zero models and overly posed photos are ‘normal’ and permeate the mainstream media. It makes sense that bloggers would mimic this, because it’s what we’re exposed to on a daily basis. Yes, it’s difficult to be ‘different’ in a world where everything seems to be the same. But it’s worth the fight.
I’ve seen a lot of blog giveaways before, but I’ve never really seen any for men. I thought I saw one once, but it turned out to be for an all female spa. In hindsight, probably for the best that I didn’t win – I don’t think I’d fit in with my Spongebob towel. So, when Ladbrokes came to me with some man stuff to do a giveaway, I decided to say yes. However, that’s not to say that you ladies aren’t welcome to apply to – maybe you’re really good girlfriends or maybe you want to flog the hamper on eBay (sad face). Or maybe you have a beard…I won’t judge.
Anyway, the contents are as follows -
Esquire Magazine’s Handbook of Style
Reiss pocket square
The Bluebeard’s Revenge shaving foam and brush
Love Hearts, yay!
If you fancy a flutter, you can find some more Ladbrokes deals here. Just don’t bet £20 that Janet Devlin will win X Factor and spend three days locked in your room pouting when they get voted out. Like some of us did.
I’m going to let you in on a secret – I’m a pretty bad blogger…not because I think my own blog is bad (though you may disagree…), but because I hardly ever read other people’s blogs. I’m making a renewed effort in the new year (no, I’m going as far as to use ‘the r word’) to change this, and seek out some up and coming blogs that I can mention. Although I find 90% of Lookbook posts to be pretty absurd, to the extent that I recently created a satirical side project called WTF LOOKBOOK, the site is a nice way to get a snapshot of someone’s style. My hypothesis? If you find someone’s style interesting, you’ll probably enjoy their blog. That’s how I found By Otto.
Otto’s blog is, in some respects, like a bizarro version of NSLL – the focus is very much on the visual and he tends to use 10 words where I would use 1,000. Living in rural Denmark may not make for the most exciting stories, but it sure makes for some beautiful photography.
It’s also hard to believe that Otto is only 18 – he’s far better dressed than most of the guys I hang around with, and they’re all in their late twenties. I’m not one to jump to conclusions, but it’s tempting to read the environment of Lookbook as indicative of the future of fashion blogging. At the time of writing, four of the top twenty looks were from guys. Of those four, three were aged 18 or under. I’ve already joked that the time will come when fashion blogging isn’t seen as girly or effeminate, and that it will become more common amongst both sexes. With more and more teenagers making an effort to look their best, and document those looks on sites like Instagram, Lookbook and Tumblr, it appears that time may not be so far away.
If you’re wondering where Otto’s galaxy sweater (which is very Black Milk for men) is from, the answer is Aloha From Deer. The bad news? AFD is based in Poland and it would cost over £50 to ship one here. Looks like I’ll be going galaxy sweater-less for a little longer…unless anyone wants to find me a suitable UK alternative?
It’s not often that five girls concurrently ask me to betheir boyfriend. Of course, it’s worth pointing out that they’re offering to act as a beard to sneak me into a bar near Bond Street that’s hosting a Next event they’ve convinced me to gatecrash. Yep, I pretty much have the best blogger friends around.
Getting past the bouncer is the easy part, the saloon door moment (you know, the moment when a stranger walks into a saloon in a cowboy movie and everyone falls silent) comes when I walk into a bar FULL of girls. Already slightly buzzed on Babycham, I lean into Amy of Wolf Whistle and whisper ‘everyone’s smiling at me and I don’t know if it’s because they all know me or if some weird collective flirting thing is going on.’ ‘Well of course, everyone knows you, Stu,’ she replies. I’m not sure if she’s being sarcastic. Babycham buzz fading fast, I manage to acquire two free drinks pretty much immediately (the Gatecrashers’ Manifesto is pretty much ‘gatecrash hard, drink fast’) and am dubbed ‘Two Drink Stu’ by Becca of Fashion Train, who I instantly love.
Despite admitting to not having been invited, Next give me a VIP pass and invite me along to the lock-in anyway. They even gave me the same amount of store credit to spend as everyone else. I have to say, this is pretty stellar of them – even just letting me crash was nice of them, but gifting me products too was above and beyond the call of duty. WELL DONE, NEXT. There’s probably a moral in there somewhere – maybe it’s confidence can get you places, maybe it’s brands fear repercussions of turning people away, maybe it’s just that Babycham makes me absolutely irresistible…
The shopping experience itself was sublime. Admittedly I spent almost no time in the menswear department, instead lurking with Law, Maria and Hayley in the womenswear bit…doing nothing for my hetero rating, as per usual. I’ve always seen Next as something of a ‘safe’ choice, hence me spending my store credit on navy desert boots (pictured at the top of this post) and some wintery cable knit socks…
but the lock-in proved me wrong. The womenswear department in particular had some really quirky numbers. I fell in love (not in a creepy way though ~) with a pink lace blazer, which I ended up picking up for a special someone but haven’t yet managed to get a picture of them wearing. Whatever Tanya tells you, don’t listen to her; it WASN’T for me…
Massive points also go to the DJ, who not only looked the part but played some massive tunes. It’s not often that I have to fight the urge to get down with my bad self when I’m in Next. Credit to the photographer who snapped the following pic – I tend to forget to take ANY pictures as soon as a drop of alcohol passes my lips.
So yes, thanks for a great night, Next! And well done for proving that you ‘get’ social media and blogging – it would have been very easy just to turn me away from the whole thing, but you made me feel more welcome than I could have hoped for. And I didn’t even have to pretend to be anyone’s boyfriend.
A couple of days ago I received a text from a fashion blogger I’d recently met an event. “There’s a column about male fashion bloggers in Company this month,” it read. I was silently pleased at this recognition of diversity, until I read the rest of the message. “It says blogging is a women’s thing.” I was taken aback – surely my friend must have gotten the wrong idea. Company couldn’t endorse such a shallow and restrictive belief…could they? When I read the article for myself I came to find that, actually, yes they could.
The article, written by Pandora Sykes, briefly mentions a few male ‘big guns’ in the world of fashion blogging, only to brush them aside and assert that female bloggers have ‘a higher profile’ than their male counterparts. ‘For years, men have been the ones closing financial deals and creating billion dollar ad campaigns, but now it’s our turn,’ she says. ‘It cannot be denied that from a feminist angle, this is a triumph of sorts.’ I disagree. Feminism is about equality and treating a person the same way, regardless of their gender. To belittle the efforts of men in the blogosphere and boast that women are ‘winning’ is no triumph.
I’d like to briefly quote Martin Luther King – ‘I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.’ King understood that the past should be left in the past as, while it will always inform it, it should not and must not define the present. To capitalise the first letters of the words men and women defies this notion and is, in my opinion, absurd. While ‘Men’ may have been creating billion dollar ad campaigns for years I, a man, have not. For the same reason, I am disturbed by Ellie Mae O’Hagan’s assertion this week that men cannot be the victim of institutionalised sexism. Here’s why.
It would be foolish not to recognise that, as a straight white middle class male, I enjoy certain privileges – strangers don’t comment on my choice of partner, I am rarely (though it does happen sometimes, and no, it isn’t flattering) subjected to ‘compliments’ from people on the street and I’m not aware of the police ever regarding me suspiciously, even when I am wearing a hoodie. However, I am an ‘outsider’ in at least three out of four of the social groups I consider myself as belonging to. While the majority people at screamo gigs may look just like me, most fashion bloggers don’t. Nor do most basketball players. Nor do most hip hop fans. Every time I go to a fashion event, a basketball court or a hip hop gig, I risk sexual or racial discrimination. I fail to see how anyone who claims to be a campaigner for equality can’t realise that.
To return to the article, one blogger is quoted as saying for a man ‘to overtly celebrate and share his image? That just wouldn’t be, well, manly, would it?’ This is almost offensive as the article’s opening statement, which states that ‘it is a truth universally acknowledged that women like to talk about fashion.’ How, in 2012, people can still think it’s acceptable to make such sweeping statements about gender, I don’t know. However, there are still plenty of examples of it going around at the moment – take, for example, the ASDA Christmas advert that states that ‘behind every great Christmas, there’s mum.’ This slogan manages to simultaneously insult all mothers, single fathers and families that divide the Christmas workload equally.
The other day I was embarrassed and encouraged in equals measures when Maria, of Miss Drifted Snow White, told me about how I’ve inspired her boyfriend, who blogs as The Blogging Bloke. ‘You’ve shown him that it’s ok to be vocal with his opinions and that you can still do that and make it, whether you’re a guy or girl.’ It’s with that sentence ringing in my ears that I write this blog post – I wish I knew a better way to soothe all the bitterness around race and gender that still exists, but writing some words about it is the best I can do.
The article ends with the following musing – ‘You could argue that makes us no better than the sexist male controllers of Mad Men-era advertising, but surely it’s our turn to gloat.’ First of all, congratulations for acknowledging that rather than working to end sexism, you’re choosing to perpetuate it. Secondly, goodbye. I’ve long been a fan of Company, and I thought that they understood the evolving role of bloggers in the fashion world. Clearly that doesn’t apply to me, so I won’t be buying any more issues.
Until fairly recently (say, a couple of years ago), I wasn’t even aware that New Look did menswear. The fact that they are now one of the dominant forces on the high street and, in my opinion, one of the few big retailers doing anything varied or offbeat demonstrates the extent to which they’ve focused on developing the menswear side of things. As does the fact that they hosted a press day last week featuring only men’s clothing, something of an anomaly in a world where male collections tend to be something of a footnote at a lot of events hosted by high street brands. One of New Look’s PR team, Nicola, told me that this was a conscious effort on the part of the brand – ‘Menswear has outgrown that notion of only occupying a corner at otherwise female centric events – we like to host events like these, get the guys down and feed them up!’ She’s not wrong; the spread is spectacular, featuring everything from fish and chips and battered sausages to langoustines and an ocean of Buck’s Fizz. In which I pretty much drowned…
The room was divided into three, which corresponded to three main categories – ’90s revival, island life and rockabilly – the latter of which excited me the most. I instantly fell in love with this Day of the Dead inspired Mexican skulls t-shirt -
I was initially a bit sad to see that there are still a load of tribal prints around (I’ve kinda been over it since Topman decided putting it on EVERYTHING was a good idea), but I did like some of the more subtle Aztec touches. Like those on this shirt, for example -
Another favourite of mine was a pair of swimming trunks that seem to have been inspired by Orlebar Brown…
…but I somehow doubt that New Look’s dupe will sport the same £80+ price tag. I also have a suspicion that they’ll be finding their way into my wardrobe.
On the slightly more extravagant side of things…
Some of the ’90s section was a little more subtle, with shirts like this giving a quiet nod to The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and splashy ’90s prints -
Overall, I think the team have done a great job of coming up with something fresh (yes, like the t-shirt above – THAT’S THE JOKE.) and original. I really like the rockabilly influences and can see it making a big splash on the high street. Who knows – maybe next summer all the One Direction-alikes who spend their Saturdays roaming Westfield will be dressing like James Dean and Elvis. All I know is those clydes better stay away from Bloomsbury Lanes or they’ll get a knuckle sandwich, ya dig?
Now, to get you in the rockabilly mood, here’s Tiger Army.
Unless you’re living under a rock, you’ve probably seen Brad Pitt as the new face of Chanel No. 5. If not, here it is:
The negative response the campaign has had from a lot of fashion bloggers and industry pundits doesn’t really surprise me. Responses tend to fall into one of two camps – ‘lol he looks like a tramp’ and ‘OMG, I LUFF BRAD’. In my opinion, both of these responses completely miss the point of the advert. I keep swinging between two responses of my own, and until all the constituent parts of the commercial are released I doubt I’ll be able to.
Theory number one – It’s worth stating that the second part of the new Chanel No. 5 movie (embedded above) still contains a ‘Chanel girl’ – positing Brad Pitt as the ‘star’ of the first advert then having him appear less in the second, his presence occasionally reduced to a mere voiceover, is indicative of the fact that the Chanel girl overshadows everything, even Brad Pitt. If I’m on the right track, the next part of the commercial will presumably feature even less of Pitt, perhaps leaving only his voice.
Theory number two (and the one I prefer) – To those who claim that Brad Pitt isn’t ‘a fit’ with Chanel, it should be pointed out that a big part of Chanel’s history is stripping away extravagant and overwrought aesthetics. Pitt’s masculine ‘au naturale’ look is a perfect contrast to Nicole Kidman’s OTT ‘I’m a daaancer’ advert. In this way, Pitt’s individualism and self confidence embody a masculine reworking of the Chanel girl. Pitt must have been aware that the advert would kick up controversy and parodies (…inevitable), but he did it anyway. Though the $7 million cheque in his pocket probably helped.
I’ve previously written about my experiences as a straight man in fashion (that post is probably still my favourite thing I’ve written on this blog), but recently I’ve noticed that things are changing. Pitt being chosen as the face of Chanel No. 5. David Beckham appearing on the cover of Elle Magazine. Articles appearing in this season’s Shortlist MODE supplement about men flirting with extravagant fashion. All of these are indicative of the fact that the voice of straight men in fashion is getting louder.
I’ve long has issues with the word ‘metrosexual’ – it’s insulting to men, both straight and gay. It designates fashion and grooming as being inherently feminine, thus associating homosexuality with being somehow girly or sissy. It also implies that men with an interest in fashion are a bit ‘wrong’ and can’t really be straight, so they need to be labelled something else. This is incredibly damaging to young straight men who are interested in fashion in that it can lead them to question their sexuality and identity. Weirdly, the show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy actually went a long way towards dispelling myths about homosexuality – the contrast between Carson and Jai’s tendency towards effeminacy and Thom, Ted and Kyan’s fairly masculine natures served as a reminder that homosexuality and femininity aren’t mutually exclusive. Excusing the odd joke about checking the straight guys out in the shower, the Queer Eye guys were never really that ‘gay’ – they’re just well groomed, stylishly dressed men who happen to sleep with men.
Something that appears in most fashion magazines that really frustrates me is the ever present ‘ask the bloke’ section. The name and aim may vary from mag to mag, but there is inevitably a column in which men offer up their opinion on trends only to be picked apart by industry experts. The whole experience is not only incongruous – Page 4: Laugh at what these ridiculous men said about mullet skirts!! Page 6: How to keep a man interested by dressing slutty!! – but also incredibly distasteful. There have been a couple of occasions where people have made remarks to me like ‘interesting opinion, for a guy’. I’m not one to get on a soapbox, but if wolf whistling at women and comments about how women don’t understand the offside rule aren’t ok, then neither are articles about hot guys we wish had fashion blogs (ok, ok, not quite a fair comparison, plus the article is much less shallow that the title suggests) or the assumption that a man’s opinion on fashion is less valuable than a woman’s.
But lately, the tide has been turning. I’ve done a couple of freelance styling projects (no mega-brands, just some chilled out advice) recently and was told that I was picked not only because of my honesty and frankness, but also because I have a solid opinion on most trends. This is something a lot of fashion bloggers seem to lack – they sit on the fence until a consensus has been reached about whether or not something is ‘in’ (usually relying on Company Magazine to declare it so) before they play their hand. As anyone who reads this blog knows, I’ll always happily put my cards on the table. ‘Do you think that’s because I’m a guy?’ I asked a friend I was helping to pick out an outfit. ‘No,’ she replied. ‘I think it’s because you have good instincts, and I trust them.’ Then I made a joke about us not being on an after-school special and we went back to chugging white wine spritzers.
Fashion is becoming more ‘unisex’ in other ways too – I was recently at the My Celebrity Fashion relaunch in Hoxton, and got quite a shock when I left. ‘Let me grab you one of the men’s gift bags!’ chirped a smiley PR lady. A MEN’S GIFT BAG. Granted, the only difference is that it had a tie in as well as the other stuff, but still! Since then I’ve been to a couple of events where they’ve had gift bags for the men in attendance as well as the women, but kudos to MCF for being the first one that I encountered.
Of course, revolution isn’t just about attitudes; even clothes themselves are changing to blur the lines of gender in fashion. Take, for example, Karl Lagerfeld’s recent capsule collection for Selfridges, differentiated only by fit. Other than that, both the guys’ and girls’ versions are identical -
Maybe that’s the revelation here. I frequently joke that I’m the only straight male fashion blogger in the world, but the world is changing. Teenage boys all over the world are opening copies of Vogue (which might just as easily be their own as their girlfriend’s, boyfriend’s or mother’s), think ‘that’s a beautiful dress’ and not feel the need to question their identity or their sexuality. What a time that will be.