It’s a letdown that I’ve faced far too many times: You walk into a department store, past the fabulous and fun women’s clothes, only to find the men’s section is in a dingy basement and filled with sad, drab pieces. Unfortunately, the men’s market has historically been a snoozefest. While men in Hollywood have stuck to their classic tuxedos and suits on the red carpet, retailers have also clung to what sells (which is said classic suits, or simple pieces in quiet, neutral colors). I’ve often had to shop in the women’s section to find anything remotely adventurous and bold.
Save for the runways, where high-fashion labels like Versace and Gucci have long offered up innovative menswear designs, it’s truly been a bore to take in the men’s market as an obsessive fashion fan. Like the runways, I want my stores and stars to inspire me with a fantasy! Luckily, in 2021, we saw things shake up in the men’s scene more than ever before. Finally, options for the more fashion-forward man have presented themselves in fresh, new ways—and it’s about time.
Below, five ways men’s fashion changed for the better this year.
Hollywood stars took risks…
Hollywood’s male A-listers were not afraid to experiment with fashion on the red carpets this year. There were plenty of classic suits and tuxedos in the mix, of course, but we also saw actors, singers, and models venture out of the box. Highlights from 2021 include Harry Styles’s pink feather boa at the Grammys, Troye Sivan’s black Altu dress at the Met Gala, and the strappy, bondage-style top Lil Nas X wore to the Variety Hitmaker lunch earlier this month. Where Hollywood gents once played it safe, it’s refreshing to see stars go for bold statements, and to reject the invisible lines around gendered style. This representation also has a ripple effect—think of the influence they also have on designers and fans, who now may just be that much more willing to take risks, too.
… and so did regular men!
It wasn’t just famous men daring to experiment with their look, though. On the street style scene, both “regular” men and nonbinary folks challenged gender norms by slipping into heels, skirts, and purses with ease. (And for once, they can fit into them: Brands like Syro specialize in larger heel sizes for men.)
Even retailers are noticing a shift in the way men are shopping. “More and more, men are beginning to see dressing as less of a burden and more of an inherently social act,” says Jian DeLeon, the men’s fashion and editorial director at Nordstrom. “The more guys relax their attitudes about what they can wear and really just be willing to experiment, the more they can see how much fun you can have with your clothes. That’s what I’m looking forward to.”