FFS – For Fashion’s Sake – is a new column that picks the threads of directional, divisive menswear. From the omnihype of luxury streetwear to the foibles of designers’ trippiest fever dreams, these are the bleeding-edge trends to cop or scoff at right now
For some time now, the world of menswear has scrabbling to find a kind of ‘fourth way’ when it comes to trousers. Despite the efforts of adventurous designers, men have always been limited in their options when it comes to keeping your knees warm and your decency upheld. Essentially, we’ve always been stuck between three pillars; jeans, smart trousers and joggers (some might consider chinos a type, but really they’re just golf club jeans). Recently we’ve seen a huge upsurge in the ‘fitted jogger’, a sleek, tapered, Cottweiler-influenced take on the form. This very millennial brand of ‘sports trouser you can wear to a party’ is definitely creeping towards wider respectability – you’ll even see them in Mayfair clubs and restaurants these days – but they are, and always will be joggers. By wearing them, you are summoning up the spirits of trainee P.E. teachers, hungover Sundays, laundry Mondays and early morning trips to top up the gas card. For a lot of people, those associations are just too hard to shake.
Yet there is another option, perhaps the most controversial leg-piece known to man: leather trousers. A style synonymous with Ricky Martin, hairsprayed ’80s rockstars and fetish clubs. The 50 years or so since Jim Morrison donned a pair have done little to ingratiate them into the everyday menswear lexicon. They are the ultimate outsider’s trouser, an aesthetic signifier for debauchery, narcissism, social transgression, or line dancing. They’ve been knocking around the high fashion sphere for a few years, probably peaking when the likes of Kanye and A$AP started wearing them – much to the chagrin of macho bedroom rap fans around the world. But recent catwalk developments have suggested that there may well be a thirst for the leather trouser beyond spornosexual swag lords, decaying rock stars and suburban swingers parties. The A/W shows last year had more leather trousers per-man than a Berlin biker bar, with the likes of Alexander McQueen, Givenchy, Saint Lauren and Dunhill all offering the sort of legwear that’d chafe the skin off a rhino. A quick glance at Selfridges or Browns also reveals more than a few options for anyone who’s into that sort of thing. Balenciaga also do a pair, but that’s hardly surprising – that they have the crotch still intact and a leg circumference of less than a tennis racket is probably more notable.
High fashion is definitely hot for leather, but whether this proliferates to the Bicester Village crowd, or even just the post-metrosexual brigade, remains a great unknown. The question – as it usually is – is can the humble man on the street, or at least the slightly-braver-than-most man on the street ever take them up? Are you going to walk into the office one day and find all the lads talking about last night’s game whilst lubricating their thighs for the day? Will you be able to stroll into your local in a pair without everyone assuming you’re a GHB dealer? Well, the first real stumbling block, like many a hyped-up trend before it – would be that tedious old issue of practicality. As much as we’d like to live in a world where style rules above all, the fact is that the modern urban environment with all its queues, bus crushes, hot liquids and warm workplaces doesn’t necessarily suit the cow-hide leg lifestyle. One of the main reasons the fitted jogger has come into prominence in recent years is the stylised utility they provide; their breathability and adaptability for today’s living. Leather trousers are about as breathable as a sunken submarine.
Then of course there’s the climate. Leather trousers aren’t really suitable for any season. The people who wear them – Rolling Stones, rappers, Berghain weirdos – tend to take pleasure in wearing them in all seasons, because private planes and nightclubs don’t really have weather. They are also people also tend to live semi-nocturnally, rather than the rest of us, who spend our days desperately just trying to keep our heads above water and our guts above our belts. Fit-wise, they also tend to suit the 19-year-old catwalk model from Stockholm than those of us who prefer Power League and Real Ale to Instagram and Ambien. And if you’re the kind of guy who doesn’t skip leg day, then chances are you’ll look like a small-time wrestler or an extra from the bar scene in Terminator when you’re wearing them. But the main factor that might hinder their journey into the aesthetic language of the working man, is quite simply the history and baggage they come with. To wear a pair of leather trousers out is to invite a world of piss-taking upon your person, it is to wear the same badge as a thousand other ridiculous men through history; Jagger, Kravitz, Iglesias, Kanye, Bryan Adams, Keith from Boyzone, Djibril Cisse.
It’s a slightly less culturally insensitive sombrero, an item of clothing that might be mistaken for a lost-bet forfeit, an invitation for a fight or a depraved random sex act. If you have the minerals for that, the fair play to you, proceed and go straight to Mr Porter. When it comes to women, you’ll find leather trousers on teachers, CEOs, newsreaders. But on men, they are still the domain of extroverts, attention-seekers, perverts. And if there’s one industry that will fail to change people’s minds on that front, it’s probably the fashion one. The only thing that will really convince the public on men-in-leather-trousers is a huge, grass roots shift towards them – a kind of aesthetic normalisation we haven’t seen since since blokes started growing their hair the 60s. We need the straightest, stiffest of celebrities; footballers, TOWIE stars…Paddy McGuinness to take them up. We need accountants, chartered surveyors, brickies and postmen wearing them loud and proud. But my guess is that one stray ‘Oi it’s Ross from Friends!’ jibe from a passing van and only but the bravest of men will retreat back to their safe, warm, socially acceptable denim bosom.