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What goes with what

What's better, timeless style or trends?

What's better, timeless style or trends?

There are two schools of fashion thought, those who subscribe to the timeless capsule wardrobe and those who believe more is more. It’s the Sharks vs Jets of menswear. So we asked two of our stylists to debate the merits of a trend-led or timeless style and whether it truly needs to be either/or.

Freddie Kemp: Timeless style means items or looks that, year after year, still look good, still feel fresh and still last. It’s the style, the cut, the fabrication. All that stuff makes it timeless.

Alexander McCalla: True, but trends keep things interesting and push the boundaries. It’s where you get the freedom to play around with colours, patterns and fits.

Freddie: I think a lot of trends start with good intentions, wanting to become timeless. But there are bandwagon trends that push something for the sake of testing boundaries. There’s always going to be room for it, but my problem is you’re always chasing something new.

Alexander: I think one argument for trends is the confidence that clothes can give you. I remember being at school and keen to start off a trend by wearing my shirt or tie differently, and then when people start copying you, you feel empowered. You get a confidence boost from something like that.

Freddie: Sure, but only a few people that are able to do that. So my counter to that is that the majority of people following a trend are constantly seeking gratification through a style that’s not really their own. Timeless style is about moulding it to your wardrobe, your personality, your characteristics. It’s saying “Ok, does that fit with how I want to dress?” And I think those are the most stylish people. Because, you’re right, you do get these spikes and confidence boosts with trends but I think that someone who has achieved a timeless style – a good one – is constantly in a real state of confidence because it’s a comfort thing. It’s yours, it feels right, it’s perfect for you.

Alexander: It’s effortless cool

Freddie: Exactly. And I think that’s probably the more satisfying feeling than the more impulsive highs that come along from trends.

Alexander: But if you’re smart about how you approach trends it can help evolve your style. There’s a level of experimentation that’s needed to firmly set in stone what your style is and that’s where trends can really work well. I think the main thing is don’t be a slave to trends. Understand which ones you’re comfortable with and decide within yourself that these are the ones to commit to. Don’t just do it because your mate’s doing it.

Freddie: We’re assuming that to wear trends you try all of them once in every outfit, which is not true. You’ve got try some new things, different styles or colours. But if you try it and it doesn’t work – fair enough. It’s not like we’re saying you’ve got them all on suddenly you’re trendy.

Alexander: True, but trends allow us to create a new kind of timeless piece. So even though they seem at odds with each other, they’re kind of a symbiotic relationship – they bounce off each other.

Freddie: I think people can think about their style both in terms of trends and in timeless style. Trends are cyclical, so if you’re smart they can be pieces you come back to, but not everyday, like you would with something timeless.

Alexander: And if you get it right then you have a really good balance of timeless pieces that are your essentials, the bits you can throw on without thinking about and then you have those little extra trendy bits that add a little character to your aesthetic and make things punchy and vibrant. It’s just about balancing those things, or holding onto them until a later date.

Freddie: I think if you just had a wardrobe of one or two of every timeless category, you’ve got a really beige, undistinguishable style. What you need to do is develop a kind of uniform. Pick out three or four timeless pieces, which also have variety, so your style is recognisable but it’s not the same every day. You’re not Bart Simpson. Then you can be on top of trends but know the ones to build into your wardrobe, which is probably a nice way to balance the two.

Alexander: So you’re saying timeless style is enhanced by trends?

Freddie: I’m saying it’s hard to build a style with a starting point of trends. If you start by thinking, “What’s trendy?” you’ve got a mismatch of stuff. You want to build from a timeless style and then allow the trends to filter in.

Alexander: If you are going to go for the trend-led approach, be really smart and mindful of the trend categories you’re buying into. Buying a really jazzy pair of jeans, if that’s the only pair of jeans you have then it’s quite a dangerous move because it’s really hard to make that work with the rest of your wardrobe. But if you’ve got the staples covered then you can have one-off pieces without feeling like you’re interrupting your wardrobe. Accessories are a great way to get into trends because you can always put that accessory to the side if it doesn’t feel quite right.

Freddie: It’s also good to shop in outfits when you’re thinking about trends. You need to think, “Ok, I want to buy into this trend – what am I going to wear it with?” If you wear head-to-toe trends you can look like someone who has tried too hard.

Alexander: I would say that it is possible to dress head-to-toe in trends, but you have to take ownership of that trend. As opposed to, “Oh I’m wearing this trend today but completely switching my style tomorrow,” because that’s when it looks false.

Freddie: It’s a lifestyle thing, doable in the right context. You can take elements and references and try to replicate part of that style, but head-to-toe, I think you have to be an embodiment of the lifestyle as well as the clothing. Plus, it’s hard to adapt it to everyday life, to wake up each day and say, “You know what I’m going to wear a fur coat and white trousers today.”

Alexander: Yeah, but come on, that’s the extreme end. If we take streetwear as a good example, guys wear Yeezys, they’ve got their Supreme sweatshirt or whatever and they wear their skinny ripped jeans and they’re 18 or 19 years old. All those guys are very comfortable about what they’re wearing.

Freddie: It is interesting to see how young guys are dressing now because it’s not just in cities, everywhere there’s a lot of full-on streetwear vibes. With the mass access to information and style online, everyone can pick it up. But do you not think they’re going to look back on those photos in fifteen years and be like ‘oh no’?

Alexander: That’s part of the style evolution though, you have to break a few eggs.

Freddie: You’ve got to go through it as long as you come out the other side. I think a big part of it is confidence and a genuine love for it. I think a lot of people are vacuously following trends and doing it for the sake of being trendy and that’s when it’s not cool. If you’re just following trends and wearing stuff because other people wear it then you’re just following trends and you’ll grow up and realise that wasn’t for you. I think it’s about being true to what makes you happy and what feels right for you and then no one can question it really, but for most people that’s probably developing a timeless style.

Alexander: Trends stop everyone looking the same and boring as hell in white t-shirts and jeans though.

Freddie: Trends definitely keep things interesting and it is inspiring to see people wear stuff in a cool, different way. But that’s the thing though, people do they see that and think immediately they can replicate it but that’s not always the case – it doesn’t always translate.

Alexander: I think you have to be very aware of what will and won’t work for you. And that’s part of our job, right? To understand trends, dissect them and present them in a way that’s wearable.

Freddie: Yeah. And with trends, you have to be willing to take the good with the bad, right? Because not everyone will dig it.

Alexander: Also, know your crowd. It’s about understanding and knowing where you are. But it’s a lifestyle thing. I think that’s the thing with trends, it does come down to aspiration, lifestyle, how you live, how you want to be seen. That’s something you can only really get with trends, not timeless pieces.

Freddie: We don’t want everyone dressing the same, that’s not the argument for timeless style. But I think trying to develop a wardrobe that you know for you has longevity, has quality, well then you’ll have a timeless style. Ideally it will be comprised of a little bit of trends and a little bit of timeless style. And that’s where the magic lies.