Men’s velvet is by no means a new trend; it has been a fabric of choice for the most fashion forward gents for some time now. And yet so many still opt for the wool suit, or sports coat, over the velvet one. To their detriment. Wool, no matter the thread count, remains the safe option. Velvet is the sexualised one.
So here’s the challenge for the autumn / fall 2012 fashion season: don the velvet. Invest in it. Wear it with confidence. Stand out.
If it’s standing out and dressing to impress that you want to do, then velvet is your fabric of choice for 2012 / 2013. And it has to be velvet of some proportion. While the velvet bow tie (featured below) is on trend, the coming seasons are about making velvet one of your key statement pieces.
But don’t for a minute interpret ‘velvet of some proportion’ to mean that you can get away with wearing anything made of velvet. Don velvet socks and I’ll be the first in line to tell you to take them off, and those standing behind me waiting to do the same thing are likely to be the very people you’re looking to attract or impress. Instead look to invest in two key takes on the trend: a velvet sports jacket / velvet sportcoat and, for those with the confidence to pull it off, a velvet suit.
Piped velvet suit and velvet sport jacket from Paul Smith and Tom Ford, respectively
How you interpret these two statement pieces depends on your attitude to life. For those with a penchant for the young-classics or school boy attitude there are those velvet looks below, while those who lean towards confidence of a more masculine or sexual kind will find the top looks, both from Tom Ford, more to their liking.
As for the colour, you’ll notice that so far I’ve only featured a sole black velvet jacket, think dark shades. It’s likely to be in the autumn / winter evenings that you wear velvet and dark hues will always sit best. But don’t feel that dark has to equal black. From navy to plum, the right colours will ooze confidence.
That said, the fall 2012 menswear runways did offer up some daring bursts of colour in the form of velvet jackets and pants. The most popular colour spectrum for this was vibrant, rich reds. A blood red velvet suit doesn’t have to be over-the-top flamboyant, however – think of it more as the menswear equivalent to the women’s Gothic fashion trend. The colour may be bright, but it lends itself to something thematically dark. Ironically, a sombre, mysterious mood fits this colour best.
Red velvet suit at Diesel A / W ’12
If full velvet suits and jackets aren’t for you then, fear not, there is a alternative: velvet lapels. Though an understated take on the suit and jacket element of the velvet trend, they can be as equally as eye catching as the full velvet look. Provided, of course, that they’re worn with the right lapel.
And that part is simple: avoid a velvet lapel that is cut into a shawl or notched lapels (unless it’s piped, as the Paul Smith piece above is) and invest in a jacket that sports peaked velvet lapels. You’re looking for a dominant, eye catching peak, moreover, a peak that is firmly cut and finished. One that says alpha-male.
Velvet lapels from Dolce & Gabbana A / W ’12
Men’s velvet overcoat
If you’re after velvet outerwear, such as a men’s velvet overcoat, then you’re in luck: the cooler months of 2012 are definitely suited to the style.
Firstly, if you’re after something that plays it safe but still creates a point of differentiation, then consider using velvet as a fabric that adds flair to a wool or cashmere overcoat. An obvious, though eternally refined, detail will be a velvet collar. When we last saw velvet as a major trend several years ago it was all about an overcoat that married the velvet collar detail with a Regency-cum-military cut.
Velvet coat from Burberry A / W ’09
Because men’s trends move in slower cycles, and because it’s such a classic style, that type of overcoat remains a safe investment and ongoing on-trend piece.
Nevertheless, men’s fashion has since upped the ante and gotten a little bolder. So for autumn / winter 2012 and beyond don’t be too afraid to go for a full velvet overcoat if your confidence allows. A word of caution on the full velvet coat; an overcoat made entirely of velvet, particularly one with a a high sheen, can be hard to pull off. It’s better to be subtle and confident, than standout and be shy. So if you do wish to invest in a fully velvet overcoat and think confidence might be an issue, aim for something with a low sheen and in a dark hue, like black, midnight blue, deep burgundy or forest green.
Velvet coats from Etro and Dries Van Noten A / W ’12
Whilst velvet pieces can be liberally spread throughout a chap’s wardrobe in 2012/13, the appropriate cuts aren’t as wide ranging. Pick a cut too lose or a lapel too soft and you’ll end up looking like you’ve borrowed your father’s vintage velvet; yes, your father may have been cool, but it’s your job to be cooler. There’s a bigger risk of course: velvet now is, in part, about sexual confidence. Thus you’re looking for your velvet to convey more trim masculinity and less foppish dandyism.
So when it comes to the cut I’d recommend also reading our men’s suit trends guide, which goes into the depth that you need and doesn’t need repeating. Most of the tailoring cuts are suited to men’s velvet, though I’d personally recommend avoiding the neo-double breasted cut. I’d also be wary of a three piece velvet suit; velvet is not a thin fabric, and the dual layers of a velvet waistcoat and a velvet jacket may add too much bulk to even the most worked of figures. The velvet suit, below, from Dolce & Gabbana illustrates the point, with the trousers particularly highlighting why your velvet needs to be a trim, masculine cut.
Three piece velvet suit from Dolce & Gabbana A / W ’10
In contrast, have a look at the shape created by Canali’s slim-cut velvet suit with matching waistcoat:
Three piece velvet suit from Canali A / W ’12
Partly the shape comes down to the body underneath, a reality simply worth baring in mind – but it’s also about a slimmer pant cut and more nipped-in waist to prevent the whole silhouette from looking bulky.
If you’d rather a velvet overcoat then many of the fashionable suit cuts will still apply, though my preference would lean towards a double breasted overcoat as a means of conveying a trimmer silhouette. I’d also lean towards a velvet coat that is cut well above the knee, preferably around the mid-thigh level.
Eddie Redmayne dons velvety Burberry (7 Dec 2012)
Other velvet pieces
To some they’re at once ostentatious and impractical, to others they’re elegance and luxury personified. Our own opinion sits with the latter. Though the first does have merit (quality, handmade velvet slippers aren’t practical to every environment), it’s undeniable that velvet slippers are at once louche and desirable. They also sit as the most predominant fashionable velvet that isn’t an article of clothing. Velvet loafers are another option in the same vein, though seldom carry the same visual impact.
If velvet slippers do take your fancy, and they should, look to the likes of Barker Black, Ralph Lauren, Shipton & Heneage, Stubbs & Wootton or Tom Ford for a pair. Opt for a pair without embroidery if the pair that follows strike you as gaudy.
Embroidered velvet slippers
Just as velvet can provide that much coveted extra detail on an overcoat, so too can it be used as bit of flair on an overall outfit. Admittedly, for chaps, velvet accessories are few and far between; so much so that the only one that springs easily to mind is the velvet bow tie.
The velvet bow tie has evolved over recent years. A little over twelve months ago velvet bow ties were attention-seeking pieces; not so much by way of their colour, but their size. They were large, overly so, and were best worn with a Windsor knot. Refinement and understatement have won out however, and with them have returned the subtle velvet bow tie. In 2012, the velvet bow tie is still a standout piece, but it should now standout for its rarity, the refinement it takes to wear one, and just how well the colour of the bow tie is suited to the rest of the ensemble; take the subtle hue of the Tom Ford velvet bow tie in the following picture as a key illustration of such colour cohesion.
Velvet bow tie from Tom Ford
You’re a fashioniser, so undoubtedly you’re after quality velvet that will last you more than a season. And if you’re not planning a season ahead, you should be: this is a men’s trend that’s going to stick around for some time to come. As such avoid a velvet made from synthetic fabrics, such as those produced in polyester and nylon – they’ll be better suited to potential water exposure, but their poorer quality will be obvious to the trained eye. Instead look for a velvet produced from silk or cotton. It’s the latter that’s the most common, and both will give you the best potential quality nap (the raised part of the finish).