5 trends that stood out from Men’s Fashion Week Fall 2021

(Source, left: jilsander.com; middle: prada.com; right: dior.com)

Another season of shows has come and gone, with Fall 2021 Men’s Fashion Week wrapping up over the weekend. The fashion calendar is undergoing a reorganization of sorts, as brands and fashion councils struggle with what’s necessary and what’s not. London forewent the men’s schedule, rolling its shows into next month’s women’s shows. New York, too, called things off. In Milan and Paris though, the shows must go on. Most brands opted for lookbooks or pre-shot videos; others, elaborate live-streamed runways; and still others, actual in-person shows, albeit with very few attendees.

One thing remained constant though: there are hints about what’s to come a year from now. There are always trends that never take — things it seems the industry writ large wants to see, but which peter out after the shows. Others take off from nothing — a piece here or there — and end up dominating the landscape for a season or two. 

Considering the uncertainty surrounding the next year, it’s hard to say for certain what will and won’t catch on. These five, however, stood out as the most interesting.

Protected necks

If the Fall 2021 shows are any indication, face coverings may give way to neck coverings by this time next year — perhaps buoyed by the hope of a post-vaccine world. From established luxury houses to upstart American designers, it seemed every collection was chock full of turtlenecks, funnel-neck coats, knits worn as scarves, or snoods that doubled as face masks, running the gamut from elegant to utilitarian.

In Milan, Ermenegildo Zegna showed simple, soft funnel-neck sweaters, which was echoed by both Lemaire and Hed Mayner the following week in Paris. Raf Simons and Miuccia Prada’s first collaborative menswear collection featured a number of classic turtlenecks sent down the Milanese runway, ranging from chunky knits to sleek, sporty takes. Dries Van Noten offered thin patterned turtlenecks that appear designed to offer an aesthetic punch rather than any warmth. In contrast, Jun Takahashi’s Undercover presented some cartoonishly large knit turtlenecks that could easily double as face coverings in a pinch, but which undoubtedly offer unrivalled warmth.

The obsession with neck coverings went beyond turtlenecks though. At Jil Sander, there were beautiful coats with collars that flipped up and fastened to create a funnel-neck. Presenting in Milan, Samuel Ross’s A-Cold-Wall collection featured high-collared technical jackets, but also standalone hoods with a kind of puffy, insulated bib. Rick Owens might have done it most organically though, with masks that had long, draping tails fluttering in the wind as models walked, mimicking Owens’s famous T-shirts. 

All-in on intarsia

Intarsia knit sweaters appear to be what designers have retained from their years-long dalliance with streetwear — an artisanal approach to graphics. Intarsia is a knitting technique used to create multicoloured designs, which appear to fit together like a puzzle. It’s achieved by leaving the yarn hanging where a colour ends, rather than carrying it across the back of the fabric. You’re probably familiar with intarsia from argyle socks, but you’re likely to get even more familiar with it come next fall.

In Milan, Silvia Venturini Fendi offered mohair intarsia stripes for her family’s eponymous house, which usually has about as good a handle as any when it comes to commercializing trends. Simons and Prada were again spot-on, with intarsia knit leggings, sweaters and cardigans featuring prominently in their offering.

In Paris, Charaf Tajer’s Casablanca — which has excelled at elevating graphic-driven design to a luxury-adjacent level in the last few years — offered intarsia galore, with standout crewneck sweaters and zip-up jackets. At Louis Vuitton, Virgil Abloh’s collection was inspired by James Baldwin’s 1953 essay Stranger in the Village and touched upon masculinity, travel, capitalism and cultural appropriation, with maximalist silhouettes and styling. Despite the maximalism, one of the collection’s standout pieces was one of its most simple: a grey sweater with an intarsia-knit airplane on the chest that embodies Vuitton’s travelling DNA.

Climbing to the top

Gorpcore — the relatively niche aesthetic movement whose name is derived from hikers’ slang for trail mix and which encompasses outdoorsy wares and climbing gear — has made it to the mainstream. Its climb has been steady, bolstered by Instagram mood boards and brands with cult-like followings. Now, it appears to have completed its ascent.

Reese Cooper — who was showing from California, but fitting in with the Paris schedule — has explored the wilderness for two consecutive seasons, building off a strong Spring 2021 collection with a Fall 2021 line that takes cues from hiking and will, in part, benefit the U.S. Forest Service.

More interesting though, were the likes of Dior, Loewe and Y/Project including gorp-y references in their clothing. Kim Jones, a frequent Nike collaborator, has always had a penchant for sportswear, and Dior’s Fall 2021 collection is no exception, with sports and outdoorsy elements worked in: a sombre but sophisticated take on woodland camouflage, cargo pants and insulated hiking boots. At Loewe, Jonathan Anderson presented two collections, with the sustainability-driven Eye/Loewe/Nature offering squarely in the gorpcore camp, from the way the models were positioned to the chunky hiking boots, Fair Isle knits, technical jackets and branded backpacks. 

Rounding things off were a pair of collaborations on outerwear. Y/Project’s Glenn Martens — rumoured to be the next guest couture designer for Jean Paul Gaultier — partnered with Canada Goose to create billowing parkas, while Undercover worked with Eastpak to create oversized backpack jackets.

Leggings get a leg up

A good pair of long johns is a prerequisite for conquering Canadian winter, but they’ve rarely been elevated to one of the “It” items of the season in the fashion world. That might change come next fall, as established luxury houses and emerging designers alike embrace the staple of cold-weather layering.

Eli Russell Linnetz and Spencer Phipps are behind two of the younger labels on the fashion calendar, but they’re also undeniably among the most influential designers. Both offered simple long johns as part of their Fall 2021 collections. ERL did so as part of a stripped-down ’80s collegiate collection — think a little rough around the edges and debaucherous, but in a good way. Phipps, on the other hand, integrated leggings into an oceanic activ
ism-themed collection — perfect for sea shanty TikTok!

More established names lent their hand to the legging movement too. Prada, once again, was tapped into the zeitgeist, with wonderful intarsia knit leggings that could easily pass as slim-cut patterned trousers. Abloh’s Louis Vuitton collection was one of the few to feature skirts and kilts this season — breaking with the return of classical tailoring, though he had that too — and those were paired with minimalist leggings underneath. 

Throwback styles — with an emphasis on tailoring

Old school tailoring is coming back and so, too, are other decades-old menswear styles. Interestingly, though, there’s no one decade that seems to inspire universally.

Take London-based Wales Bonner, for example. Designer Grace Wales Bonner was inspired by Britain’s Black scholars of the ’80s, who had travelled to Oxford and Cambridge from the Caribbean. There are well-structured blazers; throwback sportswear, in collaboration with Adidas; and a sepia hue that extends beyond the lookbook to the actual clothing.

Meanwhile, Doublet, darling of Japanese conceptual design and winner of the 2018 LVMH Grand Prize, went further back, presenting an edgy collection that drew heavily on retro counterculture, with a strong eye to the ’70s. But it also made room for quirky tailoring and retro-looking neckties. Casablanca, for its part, drew on the glitz and glam of Monaco in the ’60s and ’70s, with its Grand Prix collection featuring throwback sportswear and tailoring alike, for both men and women. At Louis Vuitton, the tailoring had roots even further back, with some suits drawn with mid-century lines — which means plenty of glorious double-breasted options.

Marc Richardson is a Montreal-based writer and photographer. His work focuses on fashion, culture and the intersection between the two. He’s spent the better part of the last decade observing and cataloguing menswear from New York and London to Florence and Paris. You can follow him on Twitter @quicklongread and on Instagram @shooting.people.