TEXT OF INTERVIEW
Kai Ryssdal: Shopping for clothes is not anywhere on my list of favorite things to do. In my defense, I will say that the fashion trends of the past half decade or so haven’t really been, me. More suited to a younger, skinnier, hipster type — narrow cut shirts and sweaters. Skinny jeans, anyone?
But I’m relieved to say that some of the clothes out there now are something that regular men can — quite literally — get into. We’ve called Kate Betts to talk about the turn in men’s fashion. She’s a contributor to Time and the Daily Beast.
Kate, good to talk to you again.
Kate Betts: Thank you for having me.
Ryssdal: So I have the J. Crew catalog up on the computer here in the studio, flipping through it a little bit and I did a little research last night before we talked.
Betts: Doing some shopping?
Ryssdal: Well, no actually, I’m not a big shopper. But we can talk about that later. But I can’t help but notice it’s a little more, how should I say, manly, I suppose. You’ve got flannel, you’ve got leather jackets, you’ve got big boots. What’s going on?
Betts: Well there are a few things going on here, and J. Crew is certainly spearheading this whole movement. But there is a kind of more rugged man coming back into fashion. You see it in what they call the “new heritage” brands that retailers like J. Crew are partnering with. And you even see it on the runways of Milan and, you know, runways like Gucci and Jil Sander are showing these chunky fisherman sweaters. Even the models are much more beefy and kind of American-looking, as opposed to this sexual ambiguity we’ve seen in the past few seasons of these very young, skinny models.
Ryssdal: You said “new heritage,” expand on that a little bit, what does that mean?
Betts: It’s funny, they’re all these great American brands that are coming back, like Stetson, Pendleton, Levi’s, Alden shoes. L.L. Bean is even doing a special line with this young trendy designer based in Portland, Maine.
Ryssdal: O.K. those are two words you’ve never heard together before: L.L. Bean and young and trendy?
Betts: Right, exactly.
Ryssdal: So I had somebody actually, for the first time in my life, call me a metrosexual yesterday. I forget what was going on, but if you know me, you know I’m about the farthest you can get from that. But that whole metrosexual concept, is that sort of dead now with the rugged man being back?
Betts: I actually think it is. I think the metrosexual was much more of an urban idea, and this is probably less of an urban idea. Maybe it’s just the fantasy of escaping the whole, you know, nervous job market that sort of paralyzes urban centers.
Ryssdal: Or maybe I have actually become a metrosexual, and I don’t even know it.
Betts: Yeah, and you’re just a little bit behind on the trend.
Ryssdal: Yeah I’m a little bit late. Lovely, thank you for that. So there’s a meta aspect to this whole thing too, which is that the shift to the rugged male and rugged fashion is taking place in the context of a down economy. Are those two linked, do you think?
Betts: I think they are linked. I think that also a very strong aspect of this is people wanting to buy American brands, and buy things that are made in America. I think a lot of people feel a little bit alienated by all this talk about, you know, work forces bring outsourced and everything being made in China, and people want to make things again, and make the economy work. So I think that’s also in the back of the mind when people are talking about American brands and this whole “new heritage” idea. I also think it’s a reaction to the overspending because a lot of this stuff is not that expensive.
Ryssdal: How long is this trend going to last, do you think? Can I buy my wardrobe now and have it last for 10 years, or am I going to have to change something out in like 18 months?
Betts: Well I think all trends — it’s all cyclical. But I do think there is a classical kind of look that you can keep for a long time. So it’s pretty safe to say that you can invest in this look.
Ryssdal: I will do that. Kate Betts, she contributes to Time and the Daily Beast. Kate, thanks a lot.
Betts: Thank you.
Ryssdal: You can get a taste of the trends in men’s fashion and see what I might wear — if shopping were my thing. Producers made me do it.
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