Last year may not have been the best in recent memory (to put it lightly), but there were a few moments worth remembering. And while the fashion world may seem more trivial than ever in the wake of recent events, you still have to get dressed every morning. So, while we all think about how we’re outfitting ourselves in 2017 and beyond, let’s take a flashback of last year. Here’s a round-up of the shake-ups that mattered, the trends and labels that defined 2016, and the one color that every man seemed to have in his closet.
THE JACKET OF THE YEAR
If you’re anything like the vast majority of men, chances are you’re covering your back in a sleek bomber jacket. The military-inspired silhouette has become a must-have item in every guy’s closet, hitting critical mass in 2016. It’s so popular, in fact, that it dominated Google’s most-searched-for list of men’s items this year. And for good reason: The versatile style can be dressed up with a cashmere sweater and collared shirt as easily as it complements your favorite hoodie and slim jeans. From oversized versions by brands like Vetements (more on them later) to standard-issue iterations from Alpha Industries and hyped-up label Supreme releasing a quilted one with a sequin logo on the back, 2016 was definitely the year of the bomber.
THE RUSSIAN SPORTSWEAR REVOLUTION
Designer Gosha Rubchinskiy made waves for mixing youthful skate culture with references to growing up in the Eastern Bloc. His Cyrillic-heavy graphics rendered on hoodies, tees, and sweatpants became the most unlikely uniform for kids used to lining up for red box-logo hoodies. Under the wing of Comme Des Garçons’ Adrian Joffe, Rubchinskiy took his fledgling label all the way to menswear’s most prominent tradeshow, Pitti Uomo, where he was a featured designer along with the legendary Raf Simons—a guy who also made his name through mixing clothing with subculture.
THE BRAND WHOSE NAME IS LITERALLY “CLOTHES”
Meanwhile, Georgian-born designer Demna Gvasalia ushered in a new era for extremely oversized sportswear and exaggerated silhouettes with his label Vetements. The name is simply French for “clothes,” but the collections are anything but simple. Shredding Levi’s 501 jeans, Champion hoodies, and The North Face parkas and remaking them into wabi-sabi, near-art pieces, the expensive label became one of the year’s most in-demand brands. This is, after all, the “design collective” that sold people an extremely expensive tee with a DHL graphic on it, and debuted a collection made up entirely of collaborations with everyone from Juicy Couture to Brioni, Levi’s, and Schott.
Gvasalia’s buzz got him on the radar of luxury conglomerate LVMH, which installed him as Alexander Wang’s replacement at fashion house Balenciaga, where his trademark anti-fit silhouettes have gone onto distort double-breasted suits and trucker jackets. (There’s also the unaffiliated copycat brand called Vetememes.) But who actually wears this stuff? Mostly fashion-hungry men and women who work at gigs with super lax dress codes, and probably spend more time in a first-class pod than at home. It’s sort of become the de facto uniform of monied jetsetters—and that includes Celine Dion, who in a meta twist, was spotted wearing Vetements’ Titanic-inspired oversized hoodie.
AMERICA’S COZY STYLE FUTURE
The whole “Americana” aesthetic is in flux. In a world where French terry John Elliott hoodies and Nike Tech Fleece sweats are status symbols as much as a pinstriped suit, brands that traffic in the classic American aesthetic of suits, ties, and chinos are having a rough go. Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, and J. Crew are in the midst of figuring out how to dress a more casual consumer, and even re-launches of trad-inspired labels like Band of Outsiders have faltered.
In their place, slim sweatpants, minimal hoodies, and Champion knitwear are becoming the default gear for stylish men the world over. Toeing the line between gym-ready sportswear and effortless off-duty gear, these eminently comfortable menswear staples may have started out as what you change into in the locker room, but now they’re the standard to wear out in the streets.
THE NEW WORK UNIFORM: CASUAL EVERYDAY
Workplaces like J.P. Morgan are getting more casual, allowing crisp chinos and crewneck cashmere sweaters to take the place of power suits and Gordon Gekko three-pieces. Titans of tech like Mark Zuckerberg are seen in tees and jeans during big meetings and flagship events more often than custom-tailored duds—and the start-up dress code is being adopted across boardrooms everywhere.
No, a more casual dress code isn’t carte blanche to dress sloppily, it just means taking your tailored pieces and wearing them in new ways—like pairing trousers with a leather bomber jacket, or a blazer with a pair of jeans, a toned-down plaid shirt, and box-fresh Common Projects sneakers. Just because the boss says it’s OK to dress down in the office doesn’t mean your sense of style has to suffer.
OLD HOLLYWOOD STYLE
On the red carpet, today’s leading men are taking more cues from Hollywood’s heyday, channeling greats like Cary Grant and Brock Hudson in shawl collar tuxedos, cream dinner jackets, and even velvet looks. That classic Hollywood opulence is also seeping onto the runway, with fashion designer-turned-filmmaker Tom Ford infusing rich, bold-patterned velvet jackets into his recent collection.
First came the Rose Gold iPhone, and now washed pinks have become the unlikely color of 2016. From bomber jackets to sweatshirts, the dusty pastel has become a hot item for venerable brands like Stone Island and street-informed stalwarts like Supreme. Maybe it has to do with the continued blurring of gender lines between menswear and womenswear, or maybe it has to do with this particular shade being so popular among the digitally savvy set—everyone from labels like Acne Studios to Drake’s “Hotline Bling” merchandise and promo art has dipped into the hue at some point; it’s sort of a full circle for the blush tone. Originally meant for younger men as it conveyed a less bold shade of red, it wasn’t until the 1950s that pink was marketed specifically towards women. You can thank former First Lady Mamie Eisenhower’s predilection for the color for that. But we happen to think the color complements men just as well as it did her.
HEDI SLIMANE LEAVES SAINT LAURENT—THEN SUES
Fashion designer Hedi Slimane—the man who helped introduce a super-skinny aesthetic of shrunken suits and tight jeans to the masses—ushered in a new era of relevance for Yves Saint Laurent. First rebranding its ready-to-wear offerings as Saint Laurent Paris, Slimane mined ’90s grunge and rock-and-roll style to make wearable menswear offerings that commanded a luxury price tag.
Shredded skinny jeans and minimal varsity jackets became modern staples—he even made basketball sneakers that resembled the classic Air Jordan 1 (if it were filtered through a Ferrari factory). His designs are sleek but unmistakably opulent, and his departure from the house in April 2016 is an absence that will likely be felt for some time—especially considering the fact that his successor Anthony Vaccarello received a lukewarm reception for his debut show. As if that weren’t enough, Slimane took Saint Laurent’s parent company, Kering, to court over a contract dispute—and won a cool $13 million.
UNDER ARMOUR GOES UPSCALE
Baltimore-based sportswear company Under Armour may be one of the best things to come out of Charm City since The Wire. Making its name off of high-performance base layers before branching out into a full-fledged line of athletic gear, this year the company stepped up its game by bringing on designer Tim Coppens as a creative director.
Coppens’ collection, UAS (short for Under Armour Sportswear), offers up the designer’s signature mix of technical fabrics and easy-wearing silhouettes. There’s a slew of quilted camouflage jackets, sleek jogger pants, and even a suit with moisture-wicking fabrics and taped-seam pockets. Priced higher than Under Armour’s other offerings, UAS could be the product that elevates Under Armour to the same hype-inducing level as its competitors.
WORKWEAR GETS LITERAL
In the early aughts, workwear brands like Carhartt and Filson were experiencing a sort of revival. Guys wanted hard-wearing duds meant to last a lifetime, but they wanted them to fit like they were designed for the 2000s, not the 1900s. Now, looser fits and more authentic cuts are taking precedence over fashion-forward versions of staples like double-knee work pants, chore coats, and front-pocket work shirts.
Kanye West affiliate Heron Preston recently collaborated with New York’s Department of Sanitation on a series of re-purposed uniforms. Jerry Peel, a model/skater-turned clothing maker, started his brand Peels with personalized, embroidered work shirts that happily don the logo of his father’s Florida painting company. And some of the most popular graphic tees on the backs of cool kids are inspired by the DayGlo yellow and orange ones worn by construction workers on work sites everywhere.