New York -- Juxtapositions and contrasts emerged as key spring 2014 trends for men during New York Fashion Week. Suits are changing, preppy favorites have been emboldened with unexpected pattern, business classics get paired with athletic accessories, and casual pieces are reinvented in luxe fabrics.
A new take on traditional tailoring offers an update to the male silhouette in a way that will be welcome news to many men: The slim, '60s-influenced cuts featured in the suiting of recent seasons are giving way to a return to a fuller, more relaxed shape.
"In terms of suiting, we saw boxier blazers," says Matt Feniger, menswear editor for trend forecasting service WGSN. "The three-button, single-breasted jacket seems to be a silhouette of choice." Feniger also noted "fresh details, a sportier look, button guarding, more minimalism" as popular updates to suiting on runways in New York and Milan. The double-breasted sport coat made a comeback over the summer in European collections, but Feniger admits "it can be tough in mainstream (American) retail." Malan Breton and Billy Reid showed double-breasted suit options in New York.
The "short suit," featured at David Hart, DKNY and J. Crew, will also continue to be popular with men ahead of the sartorial curve, even if the everyday client is slow on the uptake.
"It can be a bit of a hard sell for the professional man and U.S. consumer, who tend to gravitate more toward lighter-weight fabric (in spring) than a short suit," Feniger says, "but I think the fashion-conscious man can pull it off. " Certain retailers, such as British import Topman, have already started carrying it.
Beyond shorts, pant lengths are rising across the board, with rolled cuff and other ankle-skimming looks at Michael Bastian, Nautica and Ovaida & Sons. Feniger sees the shorter pant as a great way to feature another key men's trend for spring: athletic pieces for everyday, especially the statement sneaker.
"As men become increasingly interested in accessories, especially shoes, the shorter pant is a great way to show off that statement," he says. "Trainers and slip-ons have their moment this spring in fashion."
The athletic influence goes beyond footwear. Kenneth Cole featured leather boxing shorts and the use of sporty mesh for men mixed with traditional suiting elements. Nicholas K offered bohemian takes on tennis whites, while Carlos Campos played with soccer elements, Jeremy Liang experimented with wetsuit fits and finishes, and Shades of Grey reinvented the baseball jersey.
"Sportswear is going to continue strong," Feniger says, predicting that jock elements will continue integrating themselves into men's everyday wardrobes. "In suiting, zipper tailoring adds a sportiness, jogger pants are a huge item in the bottom category that you see getting updated with luxe elements, whether it's leather or chambray or denim. We've been seeing a lot of that in outerwear with anoraks and windbreakers. These elements will continue to collide," Feniger says, predicting that the sports influence will remain in fashion past spring.
Bomber jackets at Marc by Marc Jacobs, Kenneth Cole, Shades of Grey and Calvin Klein were among the many reappearances of the longtime favorite. Feniger thinks bombers will do well as an item men purchase to update their looks.
Prints and pattern provide another new twist. Michael Bastian's pineapple print pants, rich patterned jackets from David Hart and Mark McNairy, florals from Ernest Alexander and stripes at Duckie Brown are among the bold new statements. A favorite in the realm of print was Billy Reid's clever take on military and hunting schemes with his "camo" printed poncho: a drab olive color palette lends a camouflage feeling to a print that, upon closer inspection, is actually revealed to be a series of camellias.
The palette for spring includes bright color washes, neons, sherbets and pastels and a strong use of white with differing textures and new takes on traditional fabrics for contrast.
"A big update for men is always through fabric, and a lot of that is through technology," Feniger says. "The intersection between technology and fashion is only going to grow."
7 key trends
Suiting: A fuller, more relaxed shape moves men away from the '60s slim silhouette as boxier jackets and double-breasted and three-button blazers move to the forefront.
Denim: Dark denim accented with the rolled cuff continues to be popular with natural indigo denim gaining prominence.
Pant lengths: Hems continue to rise to show off another spring trend: the return of the statement sneaker.
Athletic influence: Jock elements like mesh, jogger pants, boxing shorts and sporty outerwear will integrate themselves into men's wardrobes this spring and likely stick around into fall.
Bomber jackets: The bomber returns in a big way this spring as does its little brother, the slightly less sporty Harrington jacket.
Print and pattern: In all areas of menswear, print, pattern and texture are great ways to add impact to a look this spring.
Palette: Neon, sherbets, pastels and a key use of white in new materials and finishes.