Looking good: How men's fashion startups are transforming the style landscape of the country
Believe it or not, being fashionable and being manly are now inseparable. Despite the widespread belief that women care more about being fashionable than men do, men have always been just as conscious of their appearance.
History is a testament to this fact. During the Victorian era in Europe, men paid great attention to the attire they wore and many even used makeup. In the Mughal Court, men chose their attire carefully and after independence Raj Kapoor and Dev Anand set the sartorial tone for the entire country. Just as in the men of high status in England and India advertised their place in society by using tailor-made apparel, today men in India do so by wearing branded clothes or high-end, tailor-made ones.
Fashion and the man
Looking good is about making the right style statement
Today, there is nearly nothing worse for men than not being attuned to fashion. Even in villages, fashion errors are admonished and young men do their best to wear the trendiest clothes and carry the highest quality accessories.
Whether this trend can be attributed to the influence of Bollywood, a desire to capture the attention of the fairer sex, the need to look as good as they feel or a combination of all, men increasingly want to advertise a high fashion quotient nowadays.
The rise of fashion startups
A slew of fashion startups have sprung up across the country today, that are helping men look their best. They create apparel and accessories using styles that are showcased on the runways of Paris, Milan, and New York. These startups are bringing fast fashion to Indians living in cities, towns, and even villages.
If one needs proof of the evolving fashion quotient of Indian men, watch a Bollywood flick from a few decades ago and check out what young men wear on the streets today. The plain collared shirts, pleated trousers, and simple dress shoes worn by the movie stars of yesteryears have been replaced with tailored jackets, bright chinos, sneakers, man bags, and designer cuffs.
Compared to young men today, young men in 1970s, 80s, 90s could not innovate but instead kept going to the same tailor and ordering the same pleated trousers and formal shirts year after year. Accessorising was alien to most of them.
The sartorial influence of international fashion was invisible until new-age startups brought it to the masses in India. Granted a few men in India always dressed as fashionably as the most fashionable guys in Europe or North America, it was not till the advent of new age fashion startups, that global style became available to millions of people.
Fashionable apparel and accessories sold by startups are extremely trendy and in demand, hence they remain out of reach of the average consumer.
The world of accessories
Men's fashion accessories need to be chosen with care
Fashion isn't restricted to apparel. Men have learned that finishing an outfit often demands accessories be worn or carried. Increasingly, men are detail oriented, not superficial. Since they want to look their best, they delve into details like high-quality leather wallets in their pockets or well-crafted baroque shoes on their feet.
Many men also advertise their fashion sense by carrying man bags.
Man bags are the ideal male accessory because they advertise a man’s ease with his feminine side, without negating his masculine qualities. Many men also wear designer cuff-links engraved with their initials. Such attention to detail signals that a man takes himself seriously and isn’t just making a superficial sartorial display.
Brand and image
Tailors who stitch designer clothes for their customers now face tough competition from branded labels that sell ready-to-wear clothing, so much so that many young men have never visited a tailor at all.
Most young men recognise leading brands. And yet, this is not the full story. Not only are men familiar with leading brands they also understand how such brands enhance their persona. While some brands are believed ideal for men in their 20s who like to listen to particular genres of music, other brands are considered appropriate for men over 30 who like to engage in adventure.
The fashion brand that you choose to wear portrays your lifestyle
As a matter of fact, some new age brands have allowed consumers to partake in their brand's story. Hence a brand that's associated with adventure has carved out a niche among a subset of men who enjoy outdoor adventure activities. Such men realise the brand they wear is associated with a particular lifestyle. They wear apparel manufactured by the brand because it advertises their fondness for adventure.
Every successful new age brand advertises that those wearing or carrying its products are part of a unique subculture. Many within the subculture wear products manufactured only by a specific brand. For instance, new age brands that sell luxury cufflinks, create a clique of men all of whom wear cufflinks manufactured by the label. Hence the stories of new age brands aren’t completed simply after their products are marketed; rather they continue to be told by the actions of those who use their products.
Find your own style.
Young men today dress in a wider assortment of clothes and carry a wider array of accessories than did those a generation ago. The large variety of apparel and accessories available today has added variety to people’s lives- in addition to allowing men to express their individuality. Men no longer feel bound to wear what everyone wears, rather because of new age startups, men are able to dress in a style that is uniquely theirs and those that no-one can copy.
(The writer, Ambud Sharma, is the Founder & CEO of Escaro Royale which offers premium handcrafted men’s footwear, bags & accessories.)