What you need to know about the new 'Style Rules' for men and women

Style is about much more than following trends. But there have been seismic changes in the fashion world and you need to know the new rules, writes Annmarie O’Connor.

Style rules. Some love to follow them; others beg to break them. 

Allegiances aside, their making facilitates a degree of cognitive freedom. On days that entail a school run and running late for work, the fixity of wardrobe staples is reassuring.

A bit of bad news: Things are changing. Our accelerated 4G lifestyle has sought planning permission for a new comfort zone. Those blazers, ballet flats, and skinny jeans that once gave welcome reprieve have been cast to the back of the sartorial queue. The irony? It’s all our doing. Look around you. 

Wider legs, flatter shoes, and looser tops have been infiltrating our closet space with a blurring boundary between day and evening wear; work and play. What’s more, much of these patterns are replicating themselves across the gender divide creating a more unisex attitude.

Senior trend forecaster Louise Stuart-Trainor explains: “The athleisure trend is dominating and given the hectic pace of modern life, it’s in our interest to ensure that clothing, and in particular, footwear can seamlessly transition from the office to the gym, to the cocktail bar.”

She’s right. The high heel — once a bona fide fashion staple — has experienced a considerable speed wobble and the rubber-soled interlopers, runners, have infiltrated the ‘must-have’ ranks. 

Editor of interactive fashion, beauty, and lifestyle magazine maven46.com, Tanya Grimson, sums up their ascent: “When trainers came back again, just like skinnies, there was a general perception that they wouldn’t stick, that for some they were still only a recreational add-on; but as street style influencers continued to wear them at shows with dresses, it became apparent, this was another way of dressing — a style staple we can’t live without.”

What’s most interesting is how homogeneous the marketplace has become. Jaden Smith, son of Will, bagged a lucrative deal as the face of Louis Vuitton womenswear; while model and self-styled ‘gender capitalist’ Dove Rain has walked both male and female fashion shows. 

A sample of curated wardrobe ‘go-to’ lists from the web delivers duplicates for men and women from bomber jackets, to white sneakers and polo necks. Spanish chain Zara just announced its unisex Ungendered line; Swedish brand COS is introducing a genderless trainer range.

Similarly, populist style scions like J Crew’s creative director Jenna Lyons continuously push boundaries by flouting convention: A denim jacket with black tie skirt; a tux with skater pumps; a white shirt and full-length feather skirt. Playing with the edges of taste creates new pockets of possibility — evolution at its best.

Stylist Colm Corrigan offers some practical tips. “My advice is to shop wisely, take a look at what’s working for you in your wardrobe already and what’s not. Is there something that you repeatedly buy — like the same top in different colours? Then this is something you know works for you and your body. It’s perfect to continue to invest in these items, as not every trend will suit you when wanting to look current. The most fashionable people are the ones who don’t follow fashion rules and always look super chic.”

Need guidance? The handy cheat sheet to the right should help. Movements keep moving; best keep moving with it.

Eight pieces that will update your wardrobe instantly

WOMEN

* Cropped flare or straight leg jean: It’s not that skinny jeans are dead. They’ve just got serious competition. No longer the prettiest girl in school, the (up)tight super stretch denim now has to share air space with a cooler counterpart whose more relaxed demeanour is winning legions of fans. Dyed-in-the-twill skinny adherents needn’t hang up their jeans just yet. Think: What would Kate Moss do? Hack off the hems and wear them with ankle boots most likely. Follow suit for best results.

* Flat and blocky shoes: Levelling the fashion playing field starts with the feet. You can thank Karl Lagerfeld who got the ball rolling in 2010 by pairing sneakers with couture and Celine’s Phoebe Philo who made the box fresh Stan Smith part of the style vernacular. As for heels? Swap those stilettos for granny heels — square- or almond-toed with a chunky 2in heel. Now, doesn’t that feel better? You’re welcome.

* Polo necks: Mary Robinson is having the last laugh on this one. For a few seasons none of us really had the neck to be that reserved, until the polo neck revealed itself to be the ultimate sartorial shapeshifter. Worn with seventies brio — think high-waisted flares and a suede jacket beneath 40s teadresses, 90s slips, and — most importantly — part of the ultimate slap dash hair hack: Tucked into a bob. In essence, its permutations are limitless; its presence is here to stay.

* Bomber jackets: The renaissance of the bomber jacket is rooted in our unshakeable love for athleisure. Slouchy shapes and less restrictive silhouettes prove that comfort is king. To gussy things up, expect intricate embroidery, soft silks and vibrant colourways. Drape over a summer dress, a skirt and sweater, or straight up with a t-shirt and straight leg jean. Easy.

INSIDER TIP: “I think everyone should invest in a good leather jacket, they are the definitive wardrobe staple that instantly adds an edge and elegance to any look and can dramatically perk up an otherwise dull outfit. I also think sunglasses are a fantastic way of creating personal style in a flash, opt for something a little eye-catching, whether it is through shape or colour and again it can transform your look.” Tanya Grimson, editor of maven46.com.

MEN

* Skinny or straight leg chino: Brace yourselves bootleggers! If the popular Instagram account @menwithclass (2.9m followers) is to believed, then the chino rules supreme. Think cropped or rolled, worn bare ankled or with notice-me socks nestled into a natty loafer. Supermodel David Gandy’s got the goods on this one, as does The Clooney.

* Polo necks: As divisive as it is dapper, the polo neck has swiftly reinstated itself as a menswear mainstay. The appeal? A very pedestrian warm and comfortable. It also eclipses the fussiness of a shirt and tie, so factor lazy snaps into that too. Oh, and lest we forget: Steve McQueen, Daniel Craig, and Michael Fassbender all roll deep with this look. Seal of approval achieved.

* Bomber jackets: No introduction needed here. Over the past five years, the bomber has done serious damage to the sanctity of dress codes. Blurring the lines of casual and smart with its sloped shoulders and rounded collar, wearing shirts and ties suddenly got a lot more interesting. It’s semi-formalwear Jim — just not as we know it.

* White sneakers: These fellas have fought their way quietly to the front of the fashion queue. Proving discretion is the better part of valour, their low-key nous makes them perfect for anything and everything from a suit and t-shirt to jeans and a cashmere sweater. Wear them like an Outkast jam — so fresh, so clean.

INSIDER TIP: “For guys I would say a casual navy suit (COS), a simple white t-shirt (COS), teamed with a pair of white, non-branded trainers (Common Project @ Nowhere Man). Three pieces that will carry you into this summer without having to over think things.”


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