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Fashion rolls in its own muck

17 March 2008

Apparently, there’s a war on. It’s a war of attrition, as designers from both sides throw model after model down the runway. They are battling for our wallets. The two entrenched sides are – again, apparently – narrow trousers and baggy trousers.

According to a feature in the Financial Times, on one side are Dolce & Gabbana, Dries Van Noten, Galliano, Antonio Marras, Vivienne Westwood and Giorgio Armanni. These apparently favour the baggy trouser, though I’m sure I’ve seen narrow suit trousers on D&G models just as frequently as wide ones. On the opposing side are Burberry, Roberto Cavalli, Daks, Costume National, Fendi, Prada and Marni. Though I’ve yet to try on a Daks suit that has narrow or cropped trousers.

Whatever the truth of it, this war feels like the fashion world rolling in its own muck. Having created a world that obsesses over people and brands, and insists on changing the hot new item every few weeks, fashion can now create its own little battles and stories, its own tiffs, face-offs and fights, all played out in an entirely artificial world.

The situation isn’t helped by fashion journalists. You can see them all crowding around the catwalks, all desperately looking for “this season’s trends”. They all have to go home and write exactly the same feature: what the runway shows mean you will be wearing (or should be wearing) next season. Because there are so many designers, with so many different ideas, a trend is hard to find. So journalists frantically cobble together examples from different shows, shoehorning one look into a trend. Sometimes journalists just give up – GQ’s coverage of the spring/summer shows went with theme of celebrating diversity.

Men’s suit trousers are the pinnacle of this self-involvement. Granted, trousers change over time. Jeans are narrower than they were three years ago. But suit trousers rarely change that much. Perhaps they lose or gain pleats, or cuffs. The rise has certainly lowered in the past ten years. But the idea that they are that affected by fashion is ridiculous.

Suit jackets are complicated. The number of buttons, width of lapels and padding of shoulders does change significantly. Ten years ago it was cutting edge to have four buttons. Today that figure is one. It’s not hard to work out what the man interested in permanent style should do: go for two or three. Equally with shoulders, lapels or vents – pick something that suits you (don’t go for a very natural shoulder if you already have rounded shoulders, like me) and stick with it through fashion changes.

But trousers aren’t complicated. They should be straight, not wide or skinny, and pleats/rise depends more on your figure than anything else. This (apparent) war just doesn’t affect men and their formal dressing at all. Ignore it and move on.