The Look for Men Is 90s Tech CEO
Grab a pleated pant, drape your arm over an enormous computer, and you're good to go, guys.
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The men’s fall 2023 collections just wrapped up in Paris and it appears the skinny suit trend that has dominated menswear for around two decades is finally giving way to pleated pants, swishy silhouettes, and an über-normcore vibe I can only describe as 90s tech CEO. Men: do you have a giant tan computer you can lean on for an #ootd? Now’s the time.
I give you Steve Jobs and Rick Owens:
Elon Musk and Prada:
And Bill Gates and Zegna:
I called menswear expert and Substacker, who writes (definitely subscribe and tell all the men in your life to do the same), to ask if he was noticing the same loose-fitting business casual explosion on the runways as me. Williams had just returned from seeing these shows in the flesh in Italy and assured me I wasn’t crazy — he saw it too. “I think of this as the Houston airport look. Like, that’s what I imagine every businessman in Texas wearing — no disrespect to Texas,” he said. “I have to be honest, I like it. I think it’s weird and good.”
I like it too. It seems like the perfect back-to-office transitional silhouette because a lot of it looks so damn comfortable and not self-conscious. Like, when Reed Hastings was posing with bins of Netflix DVDs for that early aughts photo below, do you think he was worried about serving looks? Of course he wasn’t. He was there to cuddle Netflix-sleeved DVDs in a company jacket with nothing but innocent, nerdtastic enthusiasm. The cut of his jacket in the below photo almost perfectly matches that of the one pictured from the Fumito Ganryo collection, which was photographed in what looks like your typical modern open floor-plan office.
These clothes bring us back to a time when business casual was just taking over offices. Steve Jobs hadn’t adopted his uniform of a black turtleneck, jeans, and sneakers, but the offices of booming future tech giants were casual and that look spilled over to workplaces more broadly. Williams said, “It seems kind of clean and like a return to a time of innocence, when actually people went to an office and everything wasn’t at your house. It’s like some weirdo fantasy of work.”
I sent Williams some of the images in this post and regarding the below, he said, “Steve Jobs looks cool in that photo.” (Right?)
Another nineties Jobs-on-the-runway moment could be seen in the tiny cardis at Prada. (Tiny cardis were seen not just in Prada but widely across the men’s runways.)
Williams said that nineties accents have been bubbling up in the mens’s collections for a while now. For instance, Bruno Cucinelli has been doing silver-tipped belts for a number of seasons. “But now, this thing has hit critical mass where this season it feels like this mid-nineties tech vibe is really coming through,” he said.
Williams and I agreed that we never thought this stuff would come back. Some credit is surely owed to Balenciaga designer Demna, who popularized normcore with his early Vetements collections in the mid-2010s. Yet that was happening at the same time as super-slick, slim suiting that finally wasn’t the predominant note this season.
So what are fashion-interested men going back to the office and into the world more broadly to DO in the face of a trend so many almost surely own none of at the moment? Is it time to rethink well-fitting jeans and jackets and acquire cropped cardigans and pants with pleats that could hide cake pops? Williams said no, not necessarily. He, along with every fashion expert I interview these days, pointed to the unmoored nature of the trend cycle. Designers’ ideas used to filter down to the masses through fashion publications that picked out and generally agreed on each season’s trends. But now, no one can even agree on what cut of jeans are in style.
“Everything’s really splintered so that’s what I think is happening in menswear, too. There’s guys still trying to do the Steve McQueen thing, there’s guys trying to do the slim suits. It’s all happening at the same time,” he said. “It’s kind of liberating in a sense because there’s no way to mess it up at this point.”
So tell your dad or father-in-law or husband or whoever you know who’s been stuck in the Bill Gates 1999 vibe that they’re good. No notes.
It did strike me, however, that while men are getting these deliciously loose, arguably nerdy clothes that seem to bask in comfort and a disregard for fashion, women got heels so high they were causing professional models to fall and cry on the spring 2023 runways. JW Anderson, in fact, even sent models down the runway in his recent men’s show carrying pillows.
Honestly this is the energy I hope someone brings to the Met Gala red carpet. And when Emma Chamberlain asks them if that’s a pillow or a purse on the Vogue livestream, I hope the answer is just, “YOLO.”
Earlier in Back Row: The Return of Dangerous Shoes
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Super interesting especially because a lot of female influencers have been trying to make this same tech CEO look happen in the women's world since around 2020 and calling it "minimalism." (Link to one example here but not to single this person out!) https://www.instagram.com/reel/CnMqpudqY_8/?igshid=MDM4ZDc5MmU=
My 76 year old husband, who has not had a good fashion moment since the 80’s, will be thrilled to know his silver tipped belts will bring him back to “older hunk status”.