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Male order: the cycle of fashion

It might still be summer but fashion's seasonal change is upon us as the autumn/winter ranges appear.

This is followed by the comedy routine which sees display windows full of mannequins wearing flip-flops while it’s snowing, and jumpers when it’s finally warm enough to wear shirt sleeves.

Happily, men’s fashions change little over a 12-month period and a comparison between this year’s autumn “essentials” and last year’s confirms it. The 1920s mountaineer and 1950s lumberjack looks; Harris Tweed jackets and Fair Isle sweaters; narrow trousers; all remain in vogue.

Classic pieces are still classic pieces and heritage brands such as Barbour and Hunter continue to diversify – or, if you prefer, milk every penny out of their popularity. There is a sniff of something called “hunt punk” but if it involves tight white trousers, furry mammals and shiny black boots you can count me out. If I want that, I’ll go to a fetish club.

In short, you can still dress like you work on a whaling ship circa 1930. As long as you don’t smell of fish, people will not point at you in the street. Instead they will admire your style and ask questions like: “Is the waistcoat Nicole Farhi or Margaret Howell?”

Take a step back, however, and two everyday items are notable by their scarcity or even total absence: jeans and trainers. Anecdotal evidence from my friendly independent high-end clothes retailer says sales of the latter have tanked over the last few years, at least in high fashion circles. It’s been brogues, boots, slip-ons and deck shoes instead.

Similarly, jeans seem to have disappeared from view, swamped by an avalanche of chinos in shades of stone, sand, mushroom and – God help us all – raspberry, bramble and whatever other squishy roadside oddities our grannies once used to make jam. When the cold weather does finally arrive, it’ll be to wool and corduroy that we turn, not the heavy blue denim we might once have preferred. Fashion, it seems, is going more egg roll than rock ’n’ roll.

This has happened before, of course. In the mid-1990s, Britpop saw an entire generation shoe itself in Adidas Sambas and the trend for “reissuing” trainer designs from earlier decades probably started then. Around the same time we all started wearing combat trousers, a fact which saw denim sales decline and fashion writers begin penning obituaries for blue jeans, the mainstay of the grunge era.

Sales of jeans recovered, of course, as they will recover again. Trainers, too, will be back. I don’t imagine the 1930s whaler look is going to come around too often, though, so enjoy it while you can. n

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