So your mother was right all along: “Don’t throw it away because it will come back in fashion, eventually.” Thanks for the prescient advice, mum. Like a broken clock is correct twice a day, you could be waiting a long time for those flared tracksuit bottoms to become ‘sought-after’ once again, but that said, there are a number of nerdy garments that seem to get revived every other season.
To be honest, the 10 items below never really go out of fashion for anyone other than trend hounds. They have their fashion moments thanks to a certain show or photoshoot, and then pow, they’re back in the industry’s consciousness for another season.
The preppy aesthetic is rooted in the collegiate dress of the 1950s, so it’s easy to call it ‘geeky’, but really it’s a sportswear-influenced amalgamation of casualwear and relaxed tailoring – an equation that has defined menswear throughout the ages.
So with that said, let’s look at the pieces that we’re nerding out over right now…
The Sweater Vest
Credit where credit is due, we can thank the world’s womenswear designers for resurrecting this bookish classic over the last few years, injecting a healthy concoction of nostalgia and creativity into today’s iterations.
From bright and bold Argyle vests reminiscent of 1970s golfers, to Fair Isle V-neck styles via contemporary roll necks, the sweater vest has taken up its position as a knitted statement maker. With crochet-knit styles courtesy of Acne Studios to cashmere and wool blends at Gucci, the sweater vest strikes the perfect tone of wool worship and geek chic.
Best worn over a tee (over a shirt is too literal a 1970s reference and thus best avoided) for a modern take, it’s a great way to add texture and pattern to an otherwise minimalist outfit of, say, chinos, tee and sneakers.
The Letterman Jacket
Letterman jackets, aka varsity jackets, were once the preserve of collegiate jocks, but today the iconic preppy jackets have been appropriated by just about every major fashion house we can think of.
This season, they were very much front and centre on the runways at Louis Vuitton, Palm Angels, Off-White, Supreme and Gucci, and street style blogs have been full of them.
What’s not to like? The classic bomber silhouette suits everyone, and the block colours, contrast sleeves and preppy badges bring a tonne of colour to your look. They’re super easy to style with jeans and sneakers, or with a more vintage preppy fit with chinos, tee and the aforementioned sweater vest.
The V-Neck Sweater
Like a cold caller only without the hard sell, the once maligned V-neck sweater has returned from fashion’s frozen tundras in a new and hardly recognisable form – that of the deep plunge. Gone are the classic V-neck sweaters your dad wore over his shirts, and in their place comes a much more fashion-forward version with a V that redraws the neckline apex somewhere below the clavicle.
From preppy oversized cricket jumpers to slinky silk styles designed to wear beneath a dinner jacket, the V-neck has become the new motif for masculinity. And the best thing is you don’t even have to bench, bro.
It’s fair to say that whatever pejorative assumptions have been made about the cardigan, they are so old that Gen Zers don’t even register them. They stopped being nerdy or anachronistic in the 1970s, and ever since then have cycled through various iterations, some more stylish than others.
Today’s cardigans must be close to the apex of their evolution – from clean cut preppy styles to chunky shawl collar iterations via lightweight, oversized and grungy designs, there is a species of cardigan for everyone.
The Roll Neck Jumper
The roll neck was once the jumper of the man’s man, epitomised by Steve McQueen in the 1968 flick Bullitt. Functional and smart yet cosy at the same time, it somehow hooked up with cinematic masculinity, not least on the shoulders of James Bond, who took even the slightest drop in the mercury as an excuse to dig out a merino version.
Chunky styles took a back seat in the 2000s as lightweight fine-gauge versions took over, worn as an alternative to a shirt and tie beneath a suit. From oversized silhouettes with big loose necks, to torso-hugging cashmere styles, what’s not to love?
The appreciation of heritage crafts got lost somewhere in the 1990s as synthetic fabrics and technical treatments led to a whole new genre of functional outerwear that fed into the rise of streetwear.
Things like Fair Isle jumpers, Donegal weaves and cable knits fell out of favour, but more recently we’ve had something of love-in with these age-old weaving techniques. The increasing impetus and importance of slow fashion has seen a much greater demand for knitwear constructed by the hands of artisans using techniques that have been around for hundreds of years, as evidenced by brands such as Inis Meáin.
What’s more, they’re a great and simple way to add texture and tactility to your casual fits, not to mention being supremely warm.
No, we didn’t think we’d be saying the C-word either, but clogs appear to have burrowed their way through a multiplanar wormhole and emerged on the feet of discerning fashion types. From rubber clogs at Bottega Veneta and Fear of God to the New Age hippiedom of those at Gucci, not to mention the so-called ‘Diorquake’ clogs at Dior, it’s going to take a brave man to be able to pull the clog trend off.
Easier-to-wear versions come in the form of Croc-esque styles (keep an eye out for avant-garde Crocs collaborations actually).
Once the preserve of geography teachers, librarians, and uber-nerds, corduroy is rightly living up to its nominal origins – cord du roi, meaning cord of the king. From big wide wales (the ridges that define this awesome cotton fabric) to barely perceptible microwales, corduroy comes in many different styles, all of which the current batch of fashion designers are using to great effect.
With a handle like velvet but woven much like a cotton twill, it’s hardwearing, textural and elegant all at once. We’re fans of the corduroy carrot pants at AMI Paris this season, as well as the micro wale corduroy shirts over at Oliver Spencer, but in truth you’ll find a tonne of great options across the board, from baseball caps to trousers and outerwear.
Putting words into your mouth from the 1960s, slogan T-shirts have always been rebellious real estate for those with something to say. Bombastic, puerile, funny, rude or merely advertising a brand slogan, these tees fizzled out after the 1980s, but social media seems to have given the slogan tee some renewed confidence to speak its mind.
Our advice is to come at this trend with tongue firmly lodged in cheek, and seek out vintage tees or those with a retro aesthetic. Irony and humour go a long way. Reducing entire political statements to a three-word slogan, not so much.
The Rugby Shirt
Once the preserve of middle-aged men who couldn’t let go of their halcyon days at public school, the rugby shirt has become this season’s surprise trend. Well, not all that much of a surprise, given the rise of the modern preppy aesthetic over the past few years, catalysed by brands such as Aimé Leon Dore, Noah, and Rowing Blazers.
This contemporary brand of collegiate cool has seen the block-panelled rugby blazer front and centre, layered below bombers, blazers and wool overcoats, or the popped white collars peeping out from crew neck sweaters.
Team them with relaxed denim jeans and retro kicks and you’ve got an instant classic outfit.