Colorful fashions are not the exclusive province of women this spring and summer as men infuse their business wardrobes with livelier hues. New light-weight fabrics, a return to suits and designer jeans are among the latest trends for men too.
Keith Kinkade, who co-owns The Rogue of Jackson with Luke Abney, refers to the new palette as sunset colors. “It’s pinks, oranges, greens and blues. We’re seeing more colors of the rainbow and sunset in ties and shirts,” he said.
At Neilson’s Department Store in Oxford, Amanda Hyneman agrees that pastels are huge for men in everything. The venerable store that was founded in 1839 even has chino pants in pink and mint green. “Men are buying these pants and putting them with white shirts,” she said.
The five retailers interviewed by the Mississippi Business Journal see a return to suits for business and professional dress. To stay cool as temperatures soar, all advise men to stay away from dark colors for spring and summer. Charcoal, blue, olive, oatmeal and light tan are popular shades for suits.
“Men are buying suits and ties again. The grungy, dressed-down look has had its day,” Hyneman said. “It’s the nature of fashion to be cyclical.”
With a definite nod to Mississippi’s hot climate, retailers are ordering suits in linen, seersucker, silk, light-weight wool and fabric blends. Some suit pants now weigh as little as six or eight ounces and the blends are less prone to wrinkling. Coats are made with two or three-buttons and often are not fully lined.
“It’s called a butterfly lining that covers the shoulders and arms. That makes it lighter and cooler,” Kinkade said. “The natural fibers always breathe and are accepted by our climate better than synthetics.”
In Gulfport, Ferrell Alman, owner of S.F. Alman Ltd., says the poplin suit made from a cotton blend is the uniform for men during the area’s blistering heat. “We want the coolest fabric we can get and that blend holds its shape better,” he said. “We also sell a lot of seersucker in the classic blue and white. The natural pucker of the fabric helps with wrinkling.”
A plus of the poplin suit is that all the new bright colors go well with it, including pinks, yellows, oranges and tattersall checks. “You can close your eyes and point to any ties and it will go with a tan poplin suit,” Alman added.
Now a standard fabric for summer suits, he points out that poplin means Pope’s cloth and was originally made for the Pope as a summer fabric.
But if he doesn’t sell a lot of suits this season, Alman has it in perspective. “Put into the real world, men down here are trying to get by now,” he said. “A lot don’t have clothes or closets. Or they have a tiny trailer or maybe their business is not back to normal yet. Our business is great as people try to get some basic clothes and are replacing what they lost.”
Robert Loeb, owner of Loeb’s in Meridian, says poplin and seersucker never go out of style in the Deep South. “Now there’s a lot of tropical wool when a man needs a dressier suit,” he said. “It’s not heavy and bulky like regular wool and it’s breathable.”
He notes that old things are among the newest things this season as the look goes back to traditional. “It’s that Brooks Brothers look and it’s just fashionable again,” he said.
Loeb also explains another new trend for men — jeans as a fashion bottom paired with changing tops as women do it. His store is now re-ordering jeans every week instead of once a month as they used to do.
“The $100 and $200 designer jeans have trickled down to men,” he said. “Men are being shown how to wear them with a dress shirt and jacket to go to dinner. If done right, it looks good.”
He says the fashionable jeans may not be in as high a demand for summer but predicts they will resurge in the fall.
“The South is usually behind other parts of the country with trends but men are noticing this now,” Loeb added. “A lot really do care what they wear and look like, but usually they take care of the wife and kids first.”
For those men who haven’t bought anything in four or five years, there are some surprises in retail shops, says Joe Myers, partner with Steve Scott in Great Scott of Jackson.
“There’s not just one model any more in suits. Styles change. There are side vents and non-vented suits now,” he said, “and we’re seeing flat-fronted trousers and fewer pleats as the new trend.”
Myers also thinks the new, light-weight fabrics are a major improvement. “It’s amazing what they’ve done with wool. It almost feels like silk it’s so light,” he said. “We want to look good and be comfortable, and the mills have responded to our needs.”
Bamboo fabric is one of technology’s most surprising new fabrics. Myers says Great Scott has a coat made of it that feels like cashmere. “We’re in a new world of fabrics and there’s a lot of excitement in fabric, along with bright colors,” he said.
He feels the added color is being done in a tasteful way — perhaps a charcoal suit with a bright olive accent stripe in it. It’s still conservative but has some color and can be paired with a colorful tie, too.
The retailers have some advice for young men just beginning their careers or to seasoned veterans looking for rejuvenation.
Hyneman: “To look professional and stay comfortable, keep it simple.”
Alman: “As business gets tougher, people have to present a better image. Take every advantage possible to outdo your competition. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.”
Kinkade: “Dress as close to your boss as you can, or better. Dress for readiness or whatever comes your way. You’d rather be the best dressed person in the room than the other way around.”
Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at email@example.com.