We’re living, of course, in strange times. In a way, this almost archetypal normality makes sense. While fashion ostensibly thrives on newness, a bit of the familiar can help ground us during these unstable times. In their most recent collections, many designers tried to soldier on in the face of the pandemic, and that’s swell—but most of the results felt utterly disconnected from a downright scary reality. In the face of all this uncertainty, the most successful collections offered the essentials: a really big fluffy sweater, a billowing button-up shirt, and some roomy khakis. These are pieces we understand on a visceral level—and that are, crucially, comforting in both a tactile and emotional sense. They look like the physical embodiment of the big hug we all need right about now.
It’s no accident that this look is emerging now, right as menswear giants Brooks Brothers and, yes, J.Crew have fallen. Those brands trafficked in a lost American ideal, the datedness of which is especially apparent as our country grapples with its own dark legacy. What these modern brands are propositioning is a way forward inspired by those traditional forbearers, but decidedly different: business-casual, workaday classics reworked in ways that feel intentional without being flashy. Pants, for instance, aren’t droopy, but draped in a suave, elegant way. The shirting has a gently sculpted shape. The actual garments are recognizable, but the emphasis
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