The last decade was a momentous one for menswear. It was the decade in which men’s fashion finally caught up with womenswear in both creativity and clout. The work of men’s designers was analysed in a way once reserved only for the fairer sex’s creative directors. And the glacial pace of plain old ‘bloke’s clothes’ accelerated, as trends exploded and ebbed away ever more quickly than ever. At the beginning of the 2010s, we were still under the thrall of Don Draper. The collective love affair with sharp tailoring made men take style – and the details of style – seriously like rarely before. Then came the hipsters, the Scandi minimalists, the normcore hardcores. And then, of course, came streetwear, making the swing to casual dress close to complete.
Unlike decades past, no one style ruled. This was an era when anything went, when the internet made fashion ultra-accessible. Everything was cool. It was also the decade in which we simply wore some really great stuff (and some really not-so great stuff). From skinny jeans to designer merch, these were the clothes that men obsessed over in the 2010s.
Perhaps the biggest influence on menswear over the last decade wasn’t a trend or even a designer, but forums – groups of like-minded men who’d meet online to discuss shared interests. They were catnip for obsessives, and nothing in a man’s wardrobe attracts obsessives like selvedge denim. In 2010, you couldn’t swing a cat in any trendy neighbourhood without hitting a bearded man who was boring on about his fades, Japanese shuttle looms or why “real denim-heads actually wash theirs in the sea.”
Luxury brands have a problem – their cachet is based on exclusivity, but they need to find more customers in order to hit growth targets. The solution? Merch. In the 2010s, brands realised that they could still knock out unaffordable couture and luggage, but also tap a new millennial and Gen Z audience by hocking logo-covered bits of, well, anything. Their prices, though still eye-watering, were in reach of the teenage wallet in a way that, say, a monogrammed trunk wasn’t.
In a world where sneakers are ubiquitous, it seems strange that, for a while, brogues were the style-aware man’s de facto footwear. They were easy, versatile and perfect for a moment in which dress codes were relaxing, but you probably still had to wear chinos to work. Then, in a few short seasons, the minimal sneaker supplanted them as the office staple, and thousands of pairs of Loakes were pushed to the back of the wardrobe to make way for pairs of Common Projects Achilles or Stan Smiths.
As well as the post-hipster workwear boom, forums also birthed a peculiar strain of classic menswear nerd. Overnight, the kind of man who’d only ever shopped on the high street became versed in legacy Italian tailoring brands, the perfect suit ‘drop’ and the precise way to fold a pocket square. Menswear trade show Pitti Uomo was soon overrun by ‘peacocks’, who would strut past street style photographers in double-breasted blazers and monk strap shoes, thirstily showcasing their mastery of sprezzatura. Then six months later, they all came back and did the same thing in tracksuits.
In 2015, Vladimir Putin appeared in a photoshoot wearing a $3,200 cashmere tracksuit, and the world laughed. The menswear heads, however, were silent; it suddenly looked like everyone might cotton on to their luxe sportswear secret. They’d been wearing Brunello Cucinelli’s luxury joggers for a few seasons, first purely as off-duty wear, then to work with unstructured blazers and knitted ties. Men had realised that they could be kinda dressed up but also super-comfortable, and they weren’t going back to the starch and stiffness.
There had been hyped sneakers before, of course. Other shoes that a particular kind of man would hyperventilate over. But never a trainer that was both limited and mass-market, niche and wildly popular. All the most bonkers things about sneaker culture today – raffles, resale mark-ups, pre-teens flipping shoes for grown-up money – were mainstreamed by the Yeezy 350 in 2015.
The counterpoint to straight-cut selvedge was a hangover from the noughties that, at first, seemed, like it would disappear, only to re-emerge midway through the decade on the legs of Love Island contestants. Skinny jeans have now crossed from fad to trend to permanence, and like the cockroaches of the menswear world, they just won’t die. If they’re your fit of choice, more power to you. Just know that we’ll be over here, luxuriating in loose legs. At least until Hedi Slimane (who we really have to thank/blame for it all) tells us to switch back again.
Trouser widths were predictable; bumbags were not. The ’90s punchline stopped being so funny when Kim Jones at Dior reimagined the house’s iconic saddlebag as a cross-body carrier, with a target market that didn’t include guys selling dodgy pills at Parklife festival. But perhaps men should have seen them coming; the revival of the Hacienda days, coupled with the proliferation of stuff we all carry with us now arguably made them inevitable.
Until the 2010s, the lines between high and low fashion were clear. By the decade’s midpoint, they’d blurred beyond recognition – suits with sneakers, joggers with overcoats. The hoodie was where the two cultures collided most violently, as an already controversial piece of clothing that had been further politicised by the killing of Trayvon Martin was reimagined as a bank account-draining luxury buy. There is no world in which a hoodie with a logo on should cost four figures. And yet that is the world in which we now live.
What goes in must come out and, as fertility-challenging skinny jeans become ever more popular, menswear’s pendulum inevitably swung the other way. Towards the tail-end of the decade, pleats escaped your grandfather’s wardrobe and men rediscovered the joy of being able to breathe out. Remember, though, that this is only a momentary relaxation. History is doomed to repeat itself, and there’s every chance we’ll be back to pouring ourselves into tight trousers before the 2020s are out.
As part of the whole casual-goes-smart movement, designers raided the military for clothes that had a martial bearing but casual feel. The bomber jacket, which had previously oscillated in and out of fashion, suddenly became a staple, as it was reimagined in everything from cotton to scuba fabric. Today, they’ve supplanted cardigans as the lightweight layer you reach for when you want to dress down, but not all the way down.
Physiotherapists will perhaps look back on the late-2010s as the decade that destroyed the posture of a generation. Non-prescription orthopaedic shoes, like Balenciaga’s watershed Triple S, the Alexander McQueen platform trainers and Gucci’s Rhytons, have now filtered down to the high street. You can argue forever about whether deliberately ugly fashion is a challenging creative statement or irony eating itself, but now they’re here, you can’t make them go away.