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How to buy menswear

How to buy menswear
Contributed by
Siana Quinn

Siana Quinn, fashion editor, gives us her views on fashion issues for men… For women, the challenge of dressing fashionably for less has opened up a fresh source of inverted pride in their crunch-chic credentials. 

The breathless female-to-female inquiry – “I love your dress. Where’s it from?” – will frequently elicit a stage-whispered but unmistakably smug: “Topshop, would you believe? Only £40!”

Such displays of discernment prompt gasps of admiration. It’s not just acceptable but de rigueur to flaunt your high-street bargain-hunting skills, leaving room to splash out on designer handbags and sunglasses.

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For the male of the species, however, things are different. Notwithstanding our hard-wired reluctance to discuss clothes (only when our partners cry, “You’re not going to wear that again, are you?”), options for economising our wardrobe are both scarce and unappealing. One of the anomalies of the British high street is its failure to cater for men of a certain age. For those of us not ready to be shipped off into middle-aged mediocrity clad in M&S Blue Harbour, budget options are limited.

We could join the kids in Topman and All Saints, but while women can pull off a high street/designer mix-and-match, men just look like fools poured into skinny jeans or slogan T-shirts, and that’s if they can mentally get past the pushed-forward fringes of the (male) shop assistants. Most men over 30 don’t seek to be “on trend” so much as naturally stylish, preferring enduring quality to bold statements. However, there is some good-value menswear out there if you know where to look.

Banana Republic is a Godsend even if it does still have only one store in this country. Its brand of grown-up sophistication at acceptable prices is all too rare, but those who can make it to London should zone in on its Monogram line for designer-feel tailoring and outerwear (check out the plaid suit, above, at £335) or its Heritage collection for eco-friendly pieces (such as a canvas military jacket for £165) with that lived-in look men favour.

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Despite its connotations, good ole Marks & Spencer has some underrated menswear; try its Autograph shirts (from £25). Jaeger is also undergoing a men’s tailoring renaissance – the sharply cut wool-mohair suits from its London line, in particular – to match its recent womenswear return-to-form. Gap provides the best jeans with its limited-edition, Japanese denim 1969 range, plus a fine fleece-lined parka jacket at around £100. And Reiss, despite switching its emphasis to womenswear, delivers trends without resorting to silly seasonal gimmickry.

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If all that fails, abandon the high street and revert to premium brands. I’d go for knitwear from Nicole Farhi; Margaret Howell shirts; Nudie or Rogan jeans; Lodger footwear, and winter jackets and coats from Nigel Cabourn or Aquascutum. It’s what women would now term “investment shopping”, but us chaps have been doing it for years.

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Source: William Drew, The Timesonline

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