What Do Men Want to Wear Today?

An intern candidate that ultimately didn’t work out posed an argumentative question to me during a heated conversation.  He asked:  what do men want to wear today?  The question came up because he has an ideal that is different than reality for a vast majority of men.  It is inconceivable to me that a vast majority of men are ready for unconventional clothing.  He dreams of designing it.  I told him to get out there and create that brand.  His wouldn’t be the first.  The other non-conformist menswear brands that already exist serve a very small sliver of the menswear market.

To answer the question, what do men want to wear today, I have to put a framework around the explanation.  Men, simply want to look like men.  Men want comfort, and they want their clothes to be easy to put together, and easy to put on.  This was too simple an answer for this young man.

He leveled several accusations my way.  He said that I promote a heteronormative view.  I had to sit back and scratch my head.  Heteronormative.  Most of the world’s population is heterosexual.  Newsflash:  I am not hetero.  But, I don’t promote a homonormative viewpoint either in my work, or in my personal life.  I just want you to be you, in the best possible ways, and I endeavor to do just the same.  Oh gosh.  I had to end the conversation.  It was not going well, and wasn’t going anywhere either.

Another accusation is that my archetype structure is inhibiting.  I’m not sure what planet some people are on sometimes, because their ideas are not always from Earth.  I love to see people exactly as individuals.  No client I have ever worked with has defied the personality patterns that my archetype system encompasses.  Based on modern psychological theory, I use archetypes to learn who a person is so I can dress him properly.

In thinking about what do men want to wear today, I always filter options on two bases.  The first is my handy-dandy archetype methodology.  You tell me who you are and I’ll know what clothes to put you in.  Secondly, the extent of whatever clothing styles currently produced further limit the possibilities of what you can wear.  Yes, we could even have clothes made.  But, if it’s not conventional, it quickly turns into costume.

I can’t imagine that the market for Thom Browne and Rick Owens [who does make magnificent clothes for women, too] will exponentially expand.  I’m thrilled that these designers – and others – exist and serve that very small sliver of the populace that best self-expresses by wearing that look and feel of apparel and accessories.

The men I presently work with have charged me to dress them to match their style.  First, I task them to learn what their style is.  Then, they take ownership of their style as it pertains to their very identity.  They appreciate having a structure into which they can learn more about who they are.  They want to wear “typical,” but individuated clothes.  Most men want to feel like they fit in with their social structure, be it at work or socially.  Therefore, a more conventional approach to personal style allows a man to distinguish himself from others who are otherwise similar to who he is.

I promote individuality in the construct of the way most men dress.  It’s socially correct and polite that a man dresses in a way that he slightly stands out while fitting in.  For those few non-conformists who would rather look like street urchins, there is still clothing for them, too.  I just don’t think that most men are promoting a heteronormative agenda by looking conventional.  There’s a social system for dressing in place, and we all need to know about it and respect it.

What do men want to wear today?  The answer will never be as easy or as boring as, “I’d like to wear pants and a shirt…”  Owning and wearing clothes and accessories feels special when they are uniquely selected.  This premise equally honors the corporate titan and the street urchin.

So, the search for the ideal new intern continues…

Joseph Rosenfeld helps successful Silicon Valley technology entrepreneurs and executives discover their personal brands and design their personal styles.  Get Joseph’s free report that helps you know “6 Secrets to Success in Silicon Valley.” Get details about Joseph’s proven program that transforms your life through personal brand and style development.

My role, as a personal brand and style strategist, is that of a storyteller. I learn about a person’s personality and strengths, translate that into an appropriate personal style aesthetic, and help each client to visually and non-verbally tell her or his story with ease and authenticity.

  • Joey DeSousa

    Hmm. An interesting question. I can understand where both you and your ex-intern were coming from. Menswear, in my opinion, has come a long way… but it is a little… institutional… even… do I dare say… boring?

    It works within a much narrower framework than womenswear. Generally, it doesn’t exceed what’s considered socially acceptable, unless you’re talking about an avant-garde look seen on the runway. Designers tend to keep it in the realm of sportswear, military uniform and tailoring.

    One could argue that the archetypal pieces would be… the bomber jacket, the peacoat, the trench coat, the field jacket etc. etc. – which womenswear has its classics, but it varies in silhouette immensely. Men’s fashion today would be recognizable by our ancestors, whereas womenswear would look like something from Star Trek.

    For instance, the suit… the tux… it bores me. It’s been around since the 18th century. Made popular by a pompous aristocrat nonetheless.

    But I digress! I do agree with you though. I believe men buy more with longevity in mind than women. Classic/archetypal clothing have a very obvious appeal, as do brands which market on their long-standing history, evoking notions of “timeless-quality” – whether it’s real or perceived. It’s easy and requires little thought. That being said, I do think men are willing to put more thought and feel into their looks.

    At the end of the day… whether a man wants to wear a button-down with chinos or a skirt with boots… it should always be about that person’s individual style and identity, owning that, and feeling great about it.

    Just my two cents!