As we saw in Break Media’s extensive Acumen study, fashion has become one of the growth areas for the Modern Mensch. As masculinity moves away from being defined by more traditional methods like benching 350 lbs. or drinking two forties, men have become a bit more thoughtful about wardrobe and grooming. Recently, we sat down with Chris Yoon, Director of Design for Calvin Klein menswear, to ask him about current attitudes toward fashion, and how he designs for today’s man.
In a way, Yoon fell into fashion design by accident: as a DJ looking to be a record producer, he began doing graphic design for album art before transitioning into t-shirt graphics for urban labels and making the rounds through the urban clothing industry. Today, Yoon guides designers within the clean aesthetics that Calvin Klein is known for, always with an eye toward the latest trends.
What those trends are, according to Yoon, can be increasingly difficult to pin down. “Current style trends come from a lot of different places,” Yoon tells us. “It’s free game today. You think about the Sixties and an image pops up in your head for what that decade embodied. It’s hard to pinpoint now. There are so many sub-genres today; it’s like there’s no identity. Look back at 2000 to 2010: it’s a lost identity. Anything goes. There’s so much information out there; it’s really about what attracts the individual.”
The traditional trendsetters are still very much in play, however. “Younger guys are very influenced by music and what [musicians] are wearing; today it may be Usher wearing drop crotch pants or LMFAO wearing zebra stripes.” Even television shows such as Madmen have created their own micro fashion trend, evidenced by Banana Republic’s recent Madmen line of clothing. But if the traditional sources are still in play, the Internet has blown the space wide open with a wealth of hemlines, palettes, and ways to accessorize waiting to be studied and adopted by men.
“Information is so easily accessible, and coming from so many different sources,” says Yoon, “it’s not just about the big cities dictating trends anymore. Trends are becoming more universal, from Tokyo to Europe to Little Rock. And the Internet facilitates that.” Street bloggers (like thesartorialist.com) who take pictures of people on the street, and sites like Lookbook.nu (where people from all over the world upload pictures of what they’re wearing) flood men with an informal fashion education, and even heighten the obsession by continually providing a new fix with each refresh.
Yoon characterizes style today as schizophrenic. “There’s so many choices, but everybody wants all the choices at the same time.” Still, he points toward one common thread that describes what’s in style today: authenticity. “It’s got to feel genuine…there has to be a basis for where it’s coming from: either a classic (like Ray-Ban Wayfarers), or a new twist on a classic. People identify with that. You may exaggerate the lapel a little bit, but the root of the style needs to be identifiable to the consumer.”
This focus on authenticity applies far beyond the fashion world; as one of the key themes to emerge from our conversations with men, we discovered that the Modern Mensch looks for authenticity in everything from the mac ‘n cheese he eats to the way he shaves. Today, that link to something classic – whether a harkening back to the past, or a new take on an old theme – is a vital attribute for marketers and brands to highlight in the products and services they provide.