The Big Idea: Back to Basics
The events of the past 12 months have made us all reappraise our definition of “essential.” In the earliest days of lockdown, we were pressed to consider what we truly needed and what we could live without. Cocktail hour? Hard yes. Double-breasted suit? Not so much. In times of crisis, fashion often seems, understandably, inconsequential. But then again, getting dressed is essential. It may not have been the time for daring sartorial statements, but style is still fundamental.
Despite the shifts in how we shop and dress, the appeal of beautifully made classics is stronger than ever. Rather than answering with austerity, this year’s best menswear homed in on items that are as essential to one’s wardrobe as salt and flour to a well-stocked pantry. That’s not to say that getting back to basics has meant sacrificing indulgence or innovation; these are clothing staples elevated to their finest form.
Comfort took precedence across the style spectrum, and for many, that meant suiting up in sweats (when the occasion calls for it, we suggest Loro Piana’s leisurewear). But some makers took the anything-goes dress code as an opportunity to stray from the formality for which they’re known and embrace a more relaxed breed of refinement; see the swaddling luxury of Brioni’s washed-silk suits and Cleverley’s unlined suede loafers. It’s not stripping back the decadence so much as doubling down on it, with quality, style and comfort in equal measure. Call it the Marie Kondo 2.0 effect: endlessly wearable clothes designed to objectively spark joy.
Fashion typically thrives on novelty—what’s hot and what’s not—but this year exposed the flaws in that insatiable attitude. There were industry-wide calls to slow down and get back in sync with what shoppers really want: thoughtfully made, lust-worthy items to wear till death do they part. Yes, you heard the phrase “less but better” ad nauseam over the last 12 months, but some designers took it to heart, producing more sustainable and more desirable wares. Of course, this is a mantra to which some, such as Brunello Cucinelli and Hermès, have long subscribed. But others better known for catering to the zeitgeist, like Fear of God and Dior, also turned their attention to designs that endure.
Now that life is approaching something close to normalcy, the urge to get dressed again is palpable. Fashion’s vicissitudes may well return, but with an arsenal of exceptional basics in your wardrobe, you’ll re-emerge prepared to elegantly weather whatever the future holds.