The State Of (some) Fashion Reporting and Where Are We With Denim Now?

Thank you Tom for sending me this article from Mr. Magazine, and the rest of you can thank me for sparing you from reading it.   I can’t wait to read the comments today, I am not good at conspiracy theories but there is an agenda for media to continue to push the no-one-gets-dressed-up-anymore narrative, to the point where they are making the following reaches:

I forget, can irony be funny?  When you follow the link to the Wall St. Journal Article entitled “What Does Men’s Business Casual Look Like Now?” you get this picture of it:


Apparently YOU don’t know either.


Ok, so denim.  There is a difference between denim and jeans.  Denim is a fabric, jeans are a garment.  That’s an important distinction as we wade through this reporting:

  1. From Mr. Chip Bergh of Levi Strauss at a third quarter earnings call (their fiscal year ends November 28 but who am I to keep score?), “New looser fit silhouettes are definitely driving a new denim cycle. The total jeans category in the past nine-month basis is up to $11.2 billion here in the US. That’s higher than it was pre-pandemic. During the same nine-month period, it was $10.6 billion and way higher than it was during the pandemic at $8.5 billion.”  A few things to pull apart here.  First, the pandemic is over.  That’s good news.  The second thing is, if this quote is to be believed, the math comes out to (give or take) about $4.6 million a day in jeans purchasing in the US.  Can that be right?  Not when Mactrotrends reports: “Levi Strauss revenue for the twelve months ending August 31, 2021 was $5.465B, a 17.9% increase year-over-year.”
  2. But okay, at least the jeans are looser.  But those numbers are more bloated than me after cheesecake.
  3. Don’t worry, in the same article, Mr. Gary Flunn of M. Dumas and Sons in Charleston says, “In the denim world, it’s all about comfort, stretch and slim.”  needle scratch Slim?  I thought…
  4. Confused?  Wait.  Same article.  Mr. Justin Berkowitz, the Men’s Fashion Director at Bloomingdale’s says, ” “We’ve been seeing a strong performance in the denim department these last several months due to an increased desire to look more professional.”  More professional than what?
  5. Yesterday on the Facebook Group I posted a picture of me working through some of the white ocbd samples for the review, and got more comments on my hair than anything else.  Glad I did that, because I rubbed it all of last night trying to make sense of this quote, same article, from Alan Gibeley of Giblees in Danvers, MA.  “Our client views denim as any fabric in that 5-pocket model.”  So now we are including any fabric in a report on denim?  I am picking the Rams to win the World Series.
The aforementioned picture in a test shot of a Besnard white ocbd, one of the first we will be reviewing. Yes, I know I didn’t flip the image back. It is not a woman’s shirt. As an aside, from Smithsonian (I am clearly on a Smithsonian tear lately): “But while rich men often dressed themselves, their female family members most likely had servants to help them put on their clothes, both out of luxury and necessity. To make it easier for servants to button up their employer’s dresses right, clothiers might have started sewing buttons on the opposite side.” And why do men’s button the other way? “Because male soldiers also often drew their weapons with their right hand, building their clothes with the buttons on the right side would have made it a lot easier to adjust and unbutton with their free left hand.”

And so forth.   Numbers get muddled.  Sometimes as a writer who quotes people you have to cull through some of the soup and distill a point.  None of that is being done here.

Why the fervor to report the dressing down of America?  Well, in fairness to the reporter, the numbers can fool ya.  Perhaps in some circles the sales of “denim” is going up.  In mid-May of 2020, NASCAR became the first sports league (I mean, they call it a sports league, don’t kill the messenger) to resume competition after the pandemic shut down.  The sale of  Goodyear Eagle Race Tires went up.  That doesn’t mean that you see more Eagle Race Tires on the way home from work.

This is anecdotal so take it as such, but the professionals I work with, and myself, have actually stepped up the dress since we went back outside.  It could just as easily be argued (and the sales of our advertisers support this) that instead of buying fat pants for the two-days-a-week office obligation, men are actually tired of not having a difference between what they wear to help feed their families and what they wear to bed.

Which is what I suspect.  As a society, as a world, probably, none of us really know what is coming next after this turbulence.  Sure.  But that doesn’t mean we are going to wear a drawstring to it.





10 Comments on "The State Of (some) Fashion Reporting and Where Are We With Denim Now?"

  1. According to the Wall Street Journal, the latest trend in men’s denim is JNCO super-wide (50″ opening) $300 skater jeans.

    I first saw these jeans in the 1995 movie “Kids”. There is a scene where the protagonist enters a convenience store and walks out of the store with a 40 ounce hidden in the bottom of his jeans.

    That is SUPER wide. – JB

  2. Don’t scratch your head too hard, JB. Here, too, the problem is caused pervasive creative thinking exacerbated by chronic hallucinogen use.

    Two years of fashion design school, plus two more years of corporate leadership training, plus hours and hours of collecting and analyzing data, only to arrive at a conclusion based purely on one’s own uncultivated proclivities.

    You may very well have a good point here sir – JB

  3. Checked out the Giblees site. Standard issue Tommy Bahama, P Millar, and Robert Graham. That style works fine on Vegas vacations and night clubs with bottle service.

    Good one. – JB

  4. vintage cameras can be cool. vintage DIGITAL cameras not so much

    Huh? – JB

  5. [Involuntary snort upon reading “More professional than what?”]
    I was in high school in the ’90s and vividly recall the kids wearing the Jncos. I was much too square (and eventually too goth) for that crowd. “Kids” was a pretentious movie but it got the jeans right. I am stunned to see Jncos are still in production, but the fact that I haven’t seen them in the wild in well over 20 years brings some measure of relief.

  6. Allow me to admit my ignorance: I’d never heard of Besnard before.
    Looking forward to your evaluation.
    In the meantime,it sure looks good.

  7. Charlottesville | February 10, 2022 at 10:28 am |

    J.B. – Regarding the WSJ article referenced above, you didn’t miss much. I offer the following nugget: “‘Easy pants’ are here. These indulge us with drawstrings or elastic waists but otherwise pass as regular pants.” No word on whether footie jammies are permissible at the office, but I would not be surprised. There was at least a mention that some men may choose to wear a suit to board meetings, and Mark Cho said that the Armoury is selling a lot of sport coats, so it was not entirely bad news.

    I plan to continue soldiering on in suits and ties, whether the board is meeting or not, but I don’t expect to see many others doing the same if we ever return to regular office hours. Hopefully a sport coat or two will make an appearance on occasion.

    As for the hair, well … um … nevermind. At least it’s not a man bun.

  8. Here, with my compliments, is the WSJ article (minus the illustrations):

    What Does Men’s Business Casual Look Like Now?  
    After nearly two years of working from home, many men are saying goodbye to daytime pajama bottoms and returning to the office. This is a tricky proposition. The rules governing workplace attire were already relaxing pre-Covid; throw in two years of Zoom calls and a universal acclimation to comfy outfits, and the once-standard “business casual” dress-code has become problematically hazy. One clear consensus: More than ever, we’re allowed to dress for our days. No in-person meetings on Tuesday? Your garb can be more relaxed than it could pre-pandemic. But if you’re seeing clients on Wednesday, you’ll want to match their vibe—which could mean dressing up or down. “You have to gauge the occasion,” said Robert Dahdah, 54, the chief revenue officer at a Boston software technology firm. “Some days, a tie is not the right thing to wear.” This “choose your own adventure” situation can generate a fair bit of head-scratching, so we’re stepping in to answer five questions about appropriate business-casual attire in 2022. (Spoiler alert: The Crocs will have to stay at home.)  1. Let’s talk pants. How casual is too casual for business casual? Can I wear sweats or jeans?  You already know this: The office is no place for sweatpants. But don’t start sighing. “Easy pants” are here. These indulge us with drawstrings or elastic waists but otherwise pass as regular pants. At his e-store No Man Walks Alone, Greg Lellouche sells sharp styles from brands like Japan’s Fujito that, he said, “won’t raise eyebrows” in the office. Dan Riley, who works in economic development in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., has eased back into office life in a tailored brown-corduroy version by Japan’s Camoshita. Mr. Riley, 43, values their comfort but conceals the stretchy waistband with a sweater lest anyone see he’s forgone a belt. Other style notes: Five-pocket pants are a slightly slouchier alternative to staid chinos, and denim is “totally acceptable in the office now,” said Mr. Dahdah. But, he cautioned, choose well-fitting, dark, unravaged jeans. Rips remain taboo. 
     S2. I’ve worn comfy Crocs every day while WFH. They’re basically part of me. Are they OK for the office?  Are you a surgeon or chef? Crocs are a hard no in almost all other professional contexts. Fortunately, fashion now offers many unstuffy alternatives to stiff Oxfords. Sneakers can work well; Mark Cho, co-founder of the Armoury, a men’s tailor with stores in New York and Hong Kong, likes the quiet designs from Sweden’s CQP, whose uppers are a similar—if not the same—shade as the soles, whether white, gray or navy, “so it doesn’t feel like you’re wearing Air Jordans to work.” If you’ve lost the will to tie laces, fear not. Loafers are hot. The Armoury makes models with oiled-leather soles that are extra soft and flexible, while Mr. Lellouche recommends Brooklyn brand Blackstock & Weber. Stacked on a thick lug sole, its loafers (in horsebit, penny and tassel styles) are “more like a Range Rover than a Jaguar,” he said. Whatever shoe you choose, chunky soles feel current because they match “the step down in formality,” he added.  3. Do I need to pull my sport coats out of storage? Despite the advent of easy pants, some evidence suggests men are newly smitten with sport coats. The Armoury is selling more sport coats “than ever,” said Mr. Cho. His clients, many of whom work in the corporate, art and tech worlds, are trying nonstandard shades such as pale blue, burgundy and olive; textured brown styles, too, are “having a moment.”  Other folks are pushing the envelope on what an office-appropriate outer layer can be. Michael Ollinger, 37, who works in commercial real estate in Washington, D.C., has swapped his sport coat for a Valstar bomber jacket, while Mr. Riley favors an industrial-orange L.L. Bean x Todd Snyder wool overshirt, even if “it looks like I should be out hunting deer,” he said. Ravi Khanna, 36, who leads brand marketing for a fintech startup in New York, has embraced the kimono. He rotates four denim versions from brands including Universal Works and Snow Peak. He considers a kimono—which ties, not buttons, closed—a fun way to combine a “laid-back feeling with some of the structure of a sport coat.”  4. Are suits too stuffy for the workplace now?  If you want to signal that you consider a meeting important, few outfits rival a razor-sharp suit. Mr. Cho said that his C-suite clients are still buying new suits for board meetings. Nonetheless, the ranks of men suiting up daily is clearly lower now than pre-pandemic, said Mr. Dahdah. He used to be a suit-and-tie-every-day type of guy; now there’s “more flex” in his wardrobe. Another benefit of suits? They eliminate the tricky task of assembling a coordinating outfit. But so do the new casual sets Mr. Lellouche sells, such as a chore coat with matching pants from Paris’s De Bonne Facture. If you prefer separates, adopt a no-brainer, tone-on-tone styling strategy: “If you have a bunch of brown sport coats, get a bunch of beige chinos,” advised Mr. Cho. Reluctant to retire your two-piece? Try dressing it down by pairing it with a T-shirt and smart sneakers instead of a button-down and shiny shoes.  5. Wait…do I have to start ironing again?  Not if you follow Mr. Riley’s lead. He’s handy with an iron thanks to his time in the Marine Corps, but he hasn’t picked one up in the last two years and plans to avoid pressing issues going forward. He sports Oxford-cloth button-downs, wide-wale J. Press cords and sturdy, military-style chinos from RRL that “look fine without a crease.” Mr. Lellouche, meanwhile, has noticed more customers swapping dress shirts for knitted polos or merino-wool crew necks that bring a “softness” to ensembles. Men can “wear the same knit multiple times and just fold it and put it back on the shelf,” he said. “They don’t have to constantly have it cleaned and pressed.” 

  9. Congratulations JB! I worked for Ann Richards in 1990, and I’d say you’re only a couple cans of hairspray away from matching her hair in altitude (I write this with all the insincerity I can muster).

    It does what it does man. – JB

  10. Henry Contestwinner | February 10, 2022 at 8:18 pm |

    “Denim” as the five-pocket pants, not the fabric? While I hate it, similar metonymic things have happened:
    Foulard originally referred to the fabric, not the regular repeating small pattern.
    Cordovan originally meant the leather, not the color.
    Repp originally referred to the fabric, not the striped pattern.

    This is a great point. – JB

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