Addressing #Menswear’s Existential Crisis

#Menswear blogging is dying. It's being crushed underneath the weight of its own ego and is selling out. It is throwing its double monks out the window and buying Jordans. It is trading an unstructured Boglioli sportcoat for a Rick Owens shawl. It is removing thoughtful commentary on how dudes dress themselves and replacing it with clickbait-y lists meant to drive traffic and make sure we can continue getting the $40 haircuts at Blind Barber that we get for free.

Except it’s not. It’s just 100 times easier to look at the evolution of a subculture, throw up your hands and say “things just ain’t what they used to be” rather than adapt to inevitable change, and find new ways to tell stories. #Menswear ain’t what it used to be. Whatever. It’s been around since maybe 2008. The country was in a recession and out of fear men started to believe they could “buy less, but buy better,” and so the reigning aesthetic of the time was stuff like raw denim, oxford cloth button downs and Aldens.

Three or so years later, and things are a little different. No one gives a shit about desert boots and v-neck sweaters are waaaay uncool. Here’s how we arrived to our current quandary: We tried to fool ourselves into building the wardrobes of a lifetime, when really we were letting our wardrobes slowly become our lives. When you take up clothing as a hobby, and champion “style” over “fashion,” at some point the style becomes the fashion. While we were all so busy accruing supposed timeless goods, we were hoodwinked into going along with trends.

You keep pushing the clothing envelope, chasing that 'new new' and the admittedly insufferable desire to be up on something before everyone else.

Sure, for every guy who wants to step up his game, there are sites like TSB and Valet—solid sources for #menswear beginners. You can go there and learn how to tie a bow tie or when exactly to wear a khaki suit. That guy will always exist. But what about the #menswear reader who’s already savvy, who pre-ordered the English translation of Take Ivy and owns a dog-eared copy of Fuck Yeah Menswear? How do we keep him in the fold?

He could simply stop buying clothes, but in the words of Panta owner Ed Morel: “Saying you are done buying clothes is like saying you are done receiving blow jobs.” Face it dude, you’re in too deep. You’re on your suit and tie shit or whatever. “Shit's so sick, got a hit and picked up a habit,” as the lyric goes.

One way is to help define his lifestyle. You’ve already told him what clothes he wears, so now what food does he eat? Where does he stay when he travels? What kind of alcohol does he drink? More importantly, you tell him what duds were cool a week ago and what duds are cool now? He is tired of Flyknits. He is over Patrik Ervell. So, like A$AP Rocky says, clothes get weirder. And more obscure. Maybe he’s feeling Blue Blue Japan. Maybe he’s down to rock a poncho. You keep pushing the clothing envelope, chasing that “new new” and the admittedly insufferable desire to be up on something before everyone else.

If #menswear is to survive, it needs to be able to adapt with the platforms and business practices that currently dictate modern media.

There’s also the other route: You begin to poke fun of the very culture you represent. Self-awareness does wonders, and lists breed controversy—hardcore nerds are a competitive lot. Before Fuck Yeah Menswear was ever conceived, there was ego trip, the hip-hop magazine from which ego trip’s Big Book of Rap Lists was born. Go into any comic book shop and listen for the stereotypical conversations about whether or not Iron Man could beat Batman in a fight (probably) or which member of The Justice League had the illest powers (The Flash). Any subculture’s diehards live and breathe for it, and when you challenge and quantify their own beliefs and tastes you give them something to fight for.

When I wrote The 10 Types of Men’s Style Bloggers on Complex two years ago, I had to fight for it with my editor, who felt it was way too niche. Yes, it was a list, but at the same time, it addressed what was happening in the world of men’s style. Tribes were forming, guys were gravitating towards different clothes and I believed that giving it all the snark of a Gawker piece put a spin on the #menswear world that a lot of people were taking way too seriously. And you know what? It wasn’t about the pageviews. It was about taking something that was dear to me and dragging it through a hall of mirrors.

If #menswear is to survive, it needs to be able to adapt with the platforms and business practices that currently dictate modern media. It’s up to the writers to make the format work for them. Today’s writing market hardly has room for Luddites, but ample space for creative thinkers. As someone who literally writes lists for a living, I can assure you that it is hard as shit. Am I 100% proud of everything I’ve written? I honestly don’t know. I mean, I’m typing this missive after having written two lists and editing another. And that's just today. What I am sure of is that if I wasn’t one of the people making these countless #menswear lists, I would definitely be one of the most frequent commenters.

But do you know what #Menswear blogging needs most? More voice, less reblogs.

That’s why Amy Odell’s work at Buzzfeed is awesome, because even if it’s in list format, her hilarious approach to womenswear remains intact. In fact, I’d argue it’s a format that breaks down an often-intimidating topic like fashion. Not everything has to be long, drawn out and expounded on, like the very piece you are reading now. In the slow-moving world of menswear, sometimes you just want to look at street style shots rather than think about how French photographer Sarah Moon inspired Robert Geller’s latest collection.

Where does that leave the people who slave away on longform? Those who toil on work that the author of this very Tumblr rant admits he “may not read it myself [but] it’s good to see that there is someone doing it.” Perfect. Let the future menswear writers of America be the mythical Cassandra, often on-point, but always ignored. That isn’t saying there isn’t good longform writing in the fashion world—Business of Fashion is an essential read for anyone who cares about the state of the industry, while Wilbert Cooper’s work at Vice can make even a streetwear brand like Mishka seem compelling.

But do you know what #Menswear blogging needs most? More voice, less reblogs. Look at what’s out there and don’t be afraid to say, “Fuck that noise, I know what’s cool!” Be inspired to do your own thing. Above all: Work on a craft, don’t just gun for a job. Having been fortunate enough to write about menswear for about five years, I didn’t actually start getting paid for it until year three. If you’re trying to be a writer, then for the love of god, read. Read. Read. Read. Read until you come across something that at the very least inspires enough feeling in you, good or bad, to write a response, instead of simply rehashing.

  • Alex

    this comes from a guy that has “BLOG LIFE” tattooed on his hands lol. give it a rest.

    • Jian

      Yes I have “BLOG LIFE” on my hands. Yes I have bad tattoos. Yes I have psoriasis. And yet, in the HISTORY OF ALL LOGIC, ad hominem arguments have never, ever had anything to do with the ability to prove a point.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHE0wmgljco

  • http://blcklistd.com/ blcklistd

    true dat!!!

  • Shane

    Damn, did that Tumblr rant really shook y’all?

    • Mitchell Goldstein

      That was kind of the point, open up dialogue and get people thinking.

  • http://twitter.com/NoahZagor Noah Zagor

    Honestly, this was thoughtful and well written. I’ve been in this “industry” since before the invention of blogs and the one thing that never changes is that the only people who make a difference are the one’s who follow their gut.

  • http://twitter.com/kangalex Alex Kang

    i mean when people say im not #menswear cuz i dont wear spreadcollars and floppy hats, i just give them a funny gif and tell them to sit down.
    why do we need to keep that kind of industry alive? let it die. u wrote about how tumblr was killing personal style, so lets let it die and just enjoy our selfies on our own.

  • Michael

    lol

  • http://www.frankgordon.co.uk/ frank gordon

    This was a well written and an eloquent response to someone who didn’t deserve one. That kid is a nobody. No one cares about his opinion. That’s why he has a tumblr.

    • Mitchell Goldstein

      This is the internet, everyone’s opinion is valid.

  • jablow

    intranet is serious biz

  • http://www.thirdlooks.com/ Third Looks

    Perhaps the reason for the existential crisis in the first place is the compulsive need for #menswear to constantly define and categorize everything. I think it shows a lack of creative thinking and intuition, when everything has to defined as #menswear or not. I like to think that men who strive to improve their style should be left to make their own decisions and not lead to only buying what’s ‘approved’ or ‘on-trend’.

    I appreciate that #menswear is a real community of dudes who met on the internet and it took me meeting some of the people in the scene to get an understanding of that. I think the community will last and continue to grow but I hope that there will be more independent thought and content in the future.

  • Brad

    There are a lot of excellent points in here Jian, but I think it’s unfair to chide anyone for feeling frustrated or off-put by how #menswear blogs have evolved.

    I, like many other guys, was initially drawn to #menswear because it championed “style” over “fashion.” It was thrilling to find a community of people who valued dressing well, but who were also quick to acknowledge how utterly ridiculous and overpriced most designer clothing was (and still is). Up until that point, there wasn’t a place for guys like me (not counting the forums, of course).

    While I totally agree that the Heritage / Americana thing became a trend just like any other, I still think striving for timelessness is a worthy goal. Unfortunately, words like “timeless” and “classic” have become so cliche that even I winced while typing it. Regardless, there are those of us that still like wearing selvedge denim and Aldens. Unfortunately, it feels less and less like we have a place in the community these days. Many of the bloggers we once looked to are now championing the same impossibly priced and ludicrous looking runway pieces they once mocked. And what’s worse, is that they’ve also taken to referring to those of us that haven’t followed in suit (pun intended) as being dinosaurs or out of touch.

    The same guys who once advised us to “buy less, but buy better” are now getting street styled in skirts. How can we not feel betrayed by that?

    It’s ironic. While #menswear’s reach is greater than it’s ever been, the number of people who seem to be sitting at the top, deciding what’s cool, has dwindled remarkably. In that sense, I definitely agree with your call for “more voice, less reblogs.” However, after so many years of being told that the same 15 dudes in New York are the only ones worth listening to about style, it’s understandable for bloggers both young and old to feel trepidation about going against the grain. As much as some new voices are needed, I can’t help but doubt that the community would embrace them at this point.

    • Jian

      Brad, there is always going to be a place for dudes with an appreciation for classic style. I think one of the reasons “Americana” has stuck around so long is because it helps just about any guy establish a solid uniform. It’s good to have a niche, and niche blogs are great, because not everyone is going to go into the same details about double monks like Die, Workwear!, Argue over what constitutes a Repp Stripe like Ivy Style, or nerd out over African-made sneakers and slim-fitting selvedge denim like Well-Spent.

      But sites with a more generalist tone towards menswear like Hypebeast, Four Pins, Cool Hunting, Inquiring Mind, and what have you–sites like these strive to find the next big thing. And with that, the onus is on us to look at what’s out there, determine what’s ahead of the curve, and report on that. I’d argue that timelessness is objective. Is a well-made Japanese piece from Visvim or The Soloist any more or less trend-resistant than a denim peacoat from Schott?

      And I think Lawrence has done a good job of finding new voices in the menswear world. James Tirado was found after a hilarious Tumblr rant, Jake Woolf’s informed fanboy approach to menswear and streetwear caught Lawrence’s eye as well. I think the key point I’m trying to drive home is that you’re not going to develop an original voice unless you find other resources of information and inspiration that aren’t on Tumblr.

  • http://twitter.com/eyefivestyle Angelo

    This piece reaffirmed the notion that I am the best. Thank you.

  • Matt

    Kill Your Idols.

  • http://twitter.com/anthonyandmore Anteneh Gebre

    last paragraph is inspiring & thank you for shitting on Mishka.

  • sartre

    menswear isn’t worthy of an “existential” crisis

  • http://www.facebook.com/CamilleOlivier Camille F. Olivier

    Oh man, the last paragraph is so on point. Bravo!

  • http://twitter.com/superdanger alexander maier

    but y not martian manhunter?

  • http://www.facebook.com/SALVALENTINE Sal Valentine

    Denim, oxfords and Aldens still make my downstairs tingle. Just sayin’

  • http://twitter.com/erwinism erwin m

    Jian,

    This post is inspiring and thanks for the last paragraph. Still struggling with being a writer.

  • http://twitter.com/JackTINN ☹ J∀CK ☹

    Great post. I’ve been watching the whole scene grow from the early pre blog forum days and its been rewarding to see things mature in the way that they have. What was once so small and felt insignificant is now making waves that are felt in the mainstream. Although things have moves closer to that spotlight, I feel like there is still so much room for #menswear to grow. I don’t feel like its begun to destroy itself just yet in the same way that other subcultures or communities do once they get exposed and exploited. I’m excited to see what we have left, but I wouldn’t call the death of #menswear just yet. Great way to open up dialogue though. Thanks for this. (Typed via cellphone, sorry for terrible grammar etc).

  • Ariel

    Amazing read. I think your most valuable argument here is your “More voice, less reblogs” rant. If more people can focus on their craft(s) for the sake of growth instead of short-lived statistics [likes, notes, reblogs, etc.], maybe then can there be more successful diversity in the #menswear community.

  • Dressedtoill

    I see your point when you say that #menswear should be more writing and less reblogging. On this note, I completely agree. Reposting a lookbook doesn’t make you a blogger. Rather I fail to grasp what a reblogger actually is. In no other time in the history of journalism has something of that ilk been tolerated. And maybe taking pictures of your outfit isn’t journalism. But the popularity of these postings are proof positive that there is something here. Something that GQ doesn’t have and the kid with a Nikon and a WordPress does. The medium is changing as we speak.

  • amy

    Also…lets examine why #menswear got so big as of late. Well, blogging-but then there’s this little thing called casual wear (what us in our 30′s and 40s and even 50′s (gen x) want to actually wear that isn’t a Tommy Bahama shirt and khaki shorts). Its gotten big.
    20 years ago there wasn’t so many options, and the gap between casual wear and business was pretty big. You were defined by what you wore. You wore a suit, you had a job. You wore jeans and a tee-you’re either in college or homeless. But there were the subcultures that were underground, and accidentally fashion-based. Skateboarding, punks, goths all have footing in fashion today (and are pissed about it). Well that vault has opened and those older skateboarders, punks, etc can now dress well, without associating themselves with “fashion”, without going to #menswarehouse and can still relate to the subculture he was part of. The options are endless-you can. Skate brands look like Japanese brands, Streetwear looks like high-fashion, JCREW looks like a surfbrand, Supreme looks like s#*t…All the brands are blending into one (its what happened in womenswear but there’s no #womenswear is there) but what #menswear has is special, new, fresh and not so big that its out of control (as womens fashion is).

  • flyingadolescent
  • Dave Hahn

    Good article and true. I’ve been following menswear blogs for the last two years or so and the scene is abysmal mostly. Pointless product worship with little real opinions floating around. Oh yeah, and NO FUCKING WAY Iron Man is gonna take Batman in a fight. On paper, it seems obvious Iron Man would win cause he’s in a badass robot suit and Batman has a utility belt and a fancy car. They’re both billionaires so that’s equal but Batman relies far more on his cunning than Iron Man. Take away his suit and Tony Stark ain’t shit and you know Batman would figure a way to knock out the suit – that’s Batman’s M.O. Batman has repeatedly whupped on Superman with his sneaky tricks, no reason he wouldn’t do the same with Iron Man. ;)

  • Will

    What’s with the Kekule’s dream graphic at the top of the article? A little non-sequitur