Ignore everything that you have learnt about fashion and grooming, and pay heed to what the fashion industry has to say about post-pandemic changes
No one can ever argue that fashion always helps capture the zeitgeist of phases in history. Menswear, just like women’s clothing, has evolved over time. Be it Jean René Lacoste’s vision of the classic polo shirt, the ’70s bell-bottoms thanks to the age of Disco, or even one of the most recent gender-neutral ambassador, Harry Styles, we have seen sartorial narratives change because of political conflicts, wars, life-changing events, or fashion-forward men. Now, with the pandemic, most of us have seen up close how fashion can transform within the realms of comfort.
While the fortune-tellers of the fashion world remained cooped up at home, men took matters into their own hands, and turned to clothing that they felt most relaxed in. But if you think your loungewear exploits can work in front of your boss post the work-from-home (WFH) hiatus, you probably are in for a rude awakening. As the world debates on whether the post-pandemic man will eschew traditional styles to adopt a comfort-led identity, it is still unclear what changes men may expect and embrace in fashion and grooming. Of course, time will tell. But we decided to speed up and go straight to industry experts on what they think will work as post-pandemic fashion for men.
Designer Kunal Rawal is certain that the events of 2020 will play a major role in setting the mood for future fashion. His idea of 2021 is that it will be a year of “comfort, customisation, and personalisation”. Rawal opines, “Comfort will become an important element for men, whether it is comfortable fabrics or comfort-driven silhouettes.” Celebrity stylist Isha Bhansali agrees, adding that it will be difficult to resign from the loungewear hangover. That said, we may notice occasion-based style to an extent. Bhansali adds, “Dress trousers might be replaced by chinos; dress shoes by loafers. Eventually, the transition will dissolve, and we will get back on track.”
Call it the aftereffect of WFH culture or not, it is true that men are slowly realising nothing beats comfort in clothing. But designers Shantanu and Nikhil Mehra, co-founders of the eponymous label Shantanu & Nikhil, stress that the post-pandemic sartorial leanings of men will not just be defined through comfort, but also the functionality. “People are inclined towards practical designs, which aren’t restrictive but also unconventional,” they mention.
The greatly-exaggerated demise of the classic suit has been doing the rounds for a while. Will it happen? We may be unable to predict this but surely, the clinical approach to men’s workwear will be retooled. How about the other trends that will rule the roost? Shantanu and Nikhil add, “Classic silhouettes, clean cuts, and a good fit — these elements hold the ability to make a design timeless yet modern. It is good to keep these three factors in mind while jumping on the trend bandwagon. Nonetheless, reinventing your classics can never go wrong.”
Rawal bets on multi-functional styles. “Versatile separates will be a big trend. I think men will buy pieces that they can later multitask with to create multiple looks, giving them a bang for their buck.” He also emphasises on a hint of rebellion through fashion, adding, “People will now seize the opportunity to stand out. We will see layers of streetwear make its way into occasion wear.” Men may also refuse to steer clear of athleisure, banking more on the ‘leisure’ in this trend. “Athleisure and streetwear will still be predominant trends. More utility suits will be brought in — casual suits with more pockets, adding more edge,” Bhansali says.
Talking about colours, Bhansali’s vote goes to a spectrum of hues. Shantanu and Nikhil add, “Earthy tones, unconventional silhouettes, off-beat details, and bold drapes take centre stage in a calming mélange of safari-chic styles.” Rawal, on the other hand, opines that military tones for occasion wear are here to stay. He says, “Men are moving towards more versatile shades and military tones like olive, gunmetal grey, or deep charcoal are perfect for it.”
According to Shantanu and Nikhil, design will be paramount in the post-pandemic landscape. They mention, “Occasions and the big fat Indian wedding have subdued intimate ceremonies. We have observed a lot more sentimental value in our patrons with respect to their choices. Consequently, trends will become more personal, one that celebrates you.” Rawal agrees, adding, “With weddings becoming smaller, intimate, and some moving to digital platforms like Zoom, grooms are looking for one-of-a-kind, handmade, personalised pieces that do more justice when looked at up close.”
What about the trends that will not see the light of day? Bhansali thinks that couture will be less preferred in a post-pandemic world. “Also, flip-flops,” she adds, “must only be allowed on the beach.”
Opining that bigger motifs and one-piece suits will take a backseat, Rawal clarifies that it is only because they are not easily repeatable. He says, “Clients today are looking for multi-purposing garments, so that they can wear parts of the outfit again and style them differently to make them appear like a new piece.” Reinvent, don’t renounce, mention Shantanu and Nikhil, adding, “Why are we still discarding clothes in 2021? The lockdown has amped up the creative side of a lot of people and it is for the best. Revisit your classics and accessorise them. A good brooch or a bench-crafted belt goes a long way, and adds the millennial element a classic piece may otherwise lack.”
And now, coming to grooming. Despite an interest in grooming, post-pandemic salon visits will only be a necessity soon, according to Bony Sasidharan, hair expert at Schwarzkopf Professional India. He says, “There will be a boom in self-grooming with the help of DIY videos.” Sasidharan talks about men wanting to embrace natural hair texture. “The wash-and-wear look will be highly preferred. Men will want to maintain long hair and long beard, but by keeping it tidy. Even the stubble beard will be a go-to style.”
Classic styles in grooming will also get a new lease of life, adds Sasidharan. “Mullets will return, but those who want easy-going styles will opt for the short crew or buzz cut. Post-pandemic looks will include gender-fluid hairstyles with hair colour and the long hairdo.” He also suggests it is time to steer clear from combing over to cover a bald patch.
Evaluating these thoughts by experts, there is no doubt that after embracing a life of sweatpants and isolation beards, men will walk into a post-pandemic age valuing what makes them comfortable. The lockdown has made men ready to ‘cancel’ the business formal, rock the man bun, advocate for the quarantine stubble, and re-evaluate their relationship with grooming products. So we might just witness the rise of a non-conformist man, in the post-viral era, who feels liberated in choosing what he wants. It could be, just as Rawal points out, “I think men’s fashion is shifting to ‘you be you’”.
THE ULTIMATE GUIDE FOR POST-PANDEMIC FASHION:
What to keep:
- Versatile separates
- Classic silhouettes and clean cuts
- Athleisure and streetwear
- Gender-fluid hairstyles
What to ignore:
- Over-exaggerated details and bling
- Bigger motifs and one-piece suits
- Combing over to cover a bald patch