Fashion is, and always has been, cyclical. In 2016, many styles reference trends from the ‘90s, which at the time were already drawing inspiration from previous decades, and so on and so on.
When you’re young, you tend to have tunnel vision and can only see clothes or accessories in the moment. Over time, however, you grow to understand and appreciate the context. It really hits home the first time you see a look that you rocked as a teenager reincarnated by the current set of teens. Sure, you could simply blow off the current trend because the people embracing it don’t understand the past the way you do. But as soon as you do that, you become Old Man River. A better approach is to appreciate the current styles without giving up your own personal style. You want to be the reed that blows with the wind but doesn’t get fully uprooted, to get overly philosophical about it.
One approach that I find to be effective is to think about what you’re wearing today and mentally time travel your way (preferably with a DeLorean) into the future. Would Future You make fun of the look that Current You is rocking? If so, then it might not be worth it.
Appreciating current trends doesn’t mean hopping on the bandwagon for all of them. Knowing which waves to let pass by is as important as understanding which ones to hop on. Again, think about how Future You would see things. When it comes to these five trends, he would definitely poke his finger and chuckle. So no matter how popular they get, you’ll probably be better off leaving these looks by the wayside.
1. DAD HATS
It’s not that I’m against the curved brim or the slouchy crown. It’s the pre-made broken-in-ness that I have trouble with. When I was in high school, I had three hats—a Gatorade one, a National Geographic Society one, and a triple bar University of South Carolina one that said “Cocks” on it (subtle, I know)—that would all fall into the “dad hat” category. But none of them started their lives that way. They all began as flat-brimmed, upright crown snapbacks that achieved their “dad hat status” only after months of constantly fidgeting with, sweating in, and generally beating the crap out of them. Sure, this might sound like a “Back in my day we used to walk through the snow uphill both ways to school” lament, but that breaking-in period also forged a deeper connection to the hats. Sure, they were just baseball hats. But right now, I wish I still had all three of them (well, maybe I’ve matured a wee bit past the South Carolina one) and that is because of the time I put into them. When you buy something that doesn’t evolve over time, that bond is not nearly as strong.
2. SOCKS WITH HIKING SANDALS
This is one of those ones that I’ve been watching with bemusement, expecting there to be a moment when everyone says, “Ha, gotcha. We were just messing with you. We didn’t really think this look was cool.” That moment has not come. Brands like Teva and Chaco have collaborated with some of the coolest names in fashion—including the likes of Opening Ceremony and Comme des Garcons—all without a trace of irony. What’s interesting is that people who are dead-set against wearing flip-flops in the city will proudly rock a pair of Tevas through puddles of air-conditioner drip as though there is any difference from a hygiene perspective. But even if I could wrap my head around the hiking sandal look, the socks with sandals look is a bridge too far. I guarantee that every under-35 person who pulls this look off right now has at some point mercilessly mocked someone many years older for doing the exact same thing. If it was at the beach, the object of ridicule was probably waving a metal detector like a magic wand. If your feet are too cold when you wear sandals, there is a solution other than wearing socks under them. It’s called shoes.
3. ALL-BLACK SNEAKERS
It doesn’t matter how much hype is behind them or if you call them “triple black” or “pirate black”; the all-black sneaker inevitably looks like a shoe that should be worn by either a waiter or a senior citizen. A friend who used to wait tables—and was required to wear entirely black sneakers as part of her uniform—used to complain about the lack of options available. Today, there are many more kicks to choose from, but that doesn’t make them any cooler. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why all-black sneakers don’t work in the same way that all-white ones do, but it might have something to do with the darker color being more reminiscent of somber, stuffy dress shoes, while white has always been a staple color in athletic footwear. Mind you, this is not a rant against black sneakers, only the completely murdered out ones. Sometimes, just a tiny pop of color is all that’s needed to transform a moribund sneaker into a legendary one, as evidenced by kicks like the Air Jordan 11 “Space Jam” with its white midsole and purple Jumpman logo, or a more minimal shoe like the Common Projects Achilles.
4. T-SHIRTS TUCKED INTO PANTS
The T-shirt is the foundational piece of casual attire. It can be made with higher-quality fabrics and sold at expensive price points that you make you ask “A T-shirt costs how much???” but it is still, at its core, just a T-shirt. There is no need to make it look formal by tucking it into your pants. Much like the socks-and-sandals look, this is another style that originated with senior citizens and has been co-opted by the youth. Even if you can get past the nerdiness of the style—and make no mistake, it is nerdy—there is also the effect that it has on your proportions. Tucking your T-shirt in makes your torso look shorter and squatter, which is rarely the look that most guys are going for. It also makes the shirt less comfortable because it’s constricted by the waistband. Why anyone would want to take the most comfortable garment ever created and make it less so, is beyond me.
5. PRE-RIPPED JEANS
This is a tough one because I can very clearly hear my parents in my head asking a teenaged me, “Why do you want to pay for jeans that already have holes in them?” and thinking that they just didn’t get it. Now here I am posing the exact same question. But the issue that I take with pre-ripped jeans is not the holes themselves: it’s the fact that they aren’t earned. Much like with dad hats, I believe that men should take pride in breaking their jeans in, even to the point that they become threadbare. When you stick with a garment through that entire process, the clothes tell a story. When you buy jeans that are pre-distressed you are buying that story, and it’s easy to tell that it’s not an authentic one. Whether it’s where the holes fall on your legs or how the creases don’t sync up with your anatomy, the clothes end up wearing you as opposed to the other way around.