Being a professional fashion victim is fun. But there are limits. I hit mine one recent Monday morning en route to the winter 2019/20 show of Craig Green, currently Britain’s most exciting menswear designer.
Like many Londoners, I took the Tube to work. And like them, I took care to dress appropriately. My boots, shearling-lined and commando-soled, were climbers by Mr P, with nylon, paracord laces. The woven, water-repellent trousers by Japanese label And Wander had reflective seams and drawstring ankles. They held up just fine, but to be extra-certain I secured them with an additional belt, made of climbing rope – literally just a piece of climbing rope, about two metres long – from Nonnative (£90m/$118), another Japanese brand.
Besides my usual backpack, I was wearing a green “crossbody bag” – formerly known as a bum bag, or a fanny pack in America – looped around one shoulder, with an external lattice of nylon strips, widely used in military clothing to attach extra kit. Over this, and my Patagonia fleece, I wore my fresh-from-the-slopes Moncler ski jacket complete with thermo-sealed seams, inbuilt avalanche GPS rescue system, and attached goggle-cleaning cloth. At last I’d got with the programme.
I’d been dressed entirely inappropriately for the last few days of shows. My jeans and sweaters by whomever, plus trusty Trickers monkey boots, were comfortable but banal. High-fashion right now is pushing “technical” clothing: garments and accessories that are functionally utilitarian or technologically cutting edge. The night before I’d met a colleague in an east London poké bar. He was wearing a Junya Watanabe cagoule made in collaboration with Karrimor, featuring an inbuilt backpack (£2,290/$2,614). At fashion week, catwalk models wore ski goggles, tailored jackets spliced with shiny puffy arms, and bright, hybrid trainers close to climbing boots. Models for Dior Men wore tailoring with inbuilt “tactical jackets” (first made for military use) and strap-on, revolver-shaped bags.
The current yen for the rugged outdoors is mostly confined to menswear. It apparently services two almost contradictory predilections. One is to display our mastery over nature through technical innovation that promises to make our lives ever more leisurely. The second is to lend those of us who lead pampered, urban lives to a macho, ready-for-anything persona (sometimes with S&M overtones). Either way, I was happy to succumb: after all, it looks very cool.
Hence my radical Monday morning restyle. I strode onto the Tube platform feeling pretty damned hot. Three stops in, I was simply boiling. The Moncler, perfect with a minus 7 windchill on Mont Blanc, felt less perfect deep below Camden Town: I wrestled it off. The train was standing-room only, and I felt my fellow passengers flick glances at my reflective trousers and climbing-rope belt. I was wearing the bumbag like all the kids do, and then I saw a real kid – OK, a twenty-something – regarding it with a discernible sneer. My Apple Watch 4 pinged an alert: it had detected a spike in my heart-rate. I was dadcore mutton dressed as military-industrial lamb. I got off at Mornington Crescent, went home and changed.•