Sunday, August 27, 2006

For men, the fall look is dressed up

By Dwayne Campbell
Philadelphia Inquirer Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA -- For the second straight fall season, dress-up clothes rule.

The look is based on the traditionals - tweeds, cashmere, stripes and fine plaids - but with ultramodern or homage-to-vintage twists in silhouettes (lean), accents (lime-green stripes in a dark suit) and accessories (cap-toe shoes). There's also a strong dash of the city-slick monochromatic, especially for nights - head-to-toe black or layered grays.

Think investment banker, but one who has Gnarls Barkley on his iPod, lunches at Morimoto, and sips Patrón on the weekend while wearing Hugo Boss' sleek, sharkskin jacket, a slim-cut shirt from Thomas Pink, and Prada jeans.

Less costly denim will do, too. Achieving the fall look isn't about cashing in your IRA at the House of Boateng; you'll find the key items at multiple price points.

Nearly every designer and fashion brand - from Ralph Lauren, Thom Browne and Hugo Boss to Zara, Express and Target - has produced something in tweed, plaid or velvet.

"There is a general sort of classicism going on in fashion," says Nick Sullivan, fashion director at Esquire magazine. "The main thrust is very dressed up, and it seems to be getting more and more dressed up."

That dress-up fall clothing appears to come in two categories, Sullivan adds: the weekend look and the office look, both upscale in appeal and comfortable in fit, with options for every man.

When you're ready to cop a few new pieces that reflect the fall aesthetic, here's what you'll find in stores:

An abundance of suits, including three-piece versions; most have the skinnier silhouette, but there are options for bigger guys.

Blazers (some of the best come in cashmere).

Cotton shirts in banker blue and light colors such as lavender or jewel-tone stripes.

Turtlenecks in cashmere or light wool.

Dark, narrow-cut premium denim.

Cut-to-the-body three-quarter-length coats.

At Boyds on Chestnut Street, a big seller is Etro, one of the brands that best exemplify the season's twist of traditional for the modern man.

Take, for example, the black-and-white windowpane plaid suit, which has unobtrusive, bright green stripes running through it vertically and horizontally.

At Macy's, including the new downtown Philadelphia store that opened this month in the former Lord & Taylor spot, the trend is also toward traditional tailoring and fabrics but with the contemporary aesthetic. Check out the sporty Jack Victor blazers in various tweeds.

Neiman Marcus has tagged the fall season "jacket required" even when ties are not, and has been selling two- and three-button jackets and blazers from Paul Smith, Gucci, Roberto Cavalli and Dolce & Gabbana. Wear them with premium jeans for a city-slick look.

"Many people are still wearing jeans, and we feel fall is the perfect time for them to put on a jacket with their jeans," says Colby McWilliams, vice president and men's fashion director at Neiman Marcus' corporate office. "The important thing is that the jacket is in plaid, checks or tweed."

As they were last year, corduroy and velvet are strong materials for jackets paired with jeans.

"The right jeans and jacket can give you an overall polished look," says Wendell Haskins, a New York stylist who has worked with the NBA and entertainers such as Mos Def, Musiq Soulchild and Bobby Valentino.

This fall he's planning to put some celebs in Ralph Lauren tweed or corduroy jackets and dark, slim-cut Prps jeans.

According to McWilliams, the other funky, key fall items are graphic T-shirts (to be worn under blazers in early fall); big belt buckles (most silver, but a few in gold from Prada and Dolce & Gabbana); and designer sneakers (Prada, Paul Smith). Military-inspired clothing (lots of pockets, epaulets and shiny buttons) and fur details on coats are also part of the mix.

A good look for a fashionable fall night on the town might include a cashmere turtleneck and signature belt and shoes, all in black and all from Gucci; tweed Polo Ralph Lauren jacket; and dark jeans from Antik, AG Adriano Goldschmied, or Diesel.

The more cost-conscious should check out department stores that carry various brands over a wide price range. But go for the Gucci belt and shoes; consider them a fall treat.

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