In Book Review Mens Clothing Mens Fashion Mens Issues Mens Spring/Summer 2014 Review Thames and Hudson The Fashion Resource Book

How His Wardrobe Unfolds: The Fashion Resource Book - Men Book Review

When I was in high school the must have jacket for a downtown high school guy was a military field jacket.  Ask any cocky 'world-owning' New York teenage boy at that time and he may have told you that the style was hot as fire again due to its somewhat classic army appeal, but really due to the fact that he was wearing it.  When in fact the style, like much in mens fashion, was one of the many remade, repurposed and settled upon styles that got its birth as military-issue apparel.  This style then trickled down over the years into the high and low mens fashion arena.  However, what's interesting to examine is, whether as surplus made into fashion or as remixed fashion, how and why the essential design of the jacket hasn't changed drastically since the original model in 1943.
Things like this are discussed in The Fashion Resource Book Men by Robert Leach (Thames & Hudson).  Inside I discovered how my beloved field jacket was not only also referred to as the M65 jacket but had gone through a series of 'M' models, twists and turns before it ended up on the rack at that little Korean shop in the north Bronx in 1992.  Some people may scoff and say well "who cares, it is what it is now?" However, given the cadence of menswear, there is just cause to care.  Menswear styles don't rapidly change by the minute like womenswear.  It's the recognition and familiarity of these styles that have given menswear the rigidity and more classic edge it has retained over women's clothing.  'It is what it is' now and what that is remains a well-preserved well-paced paradigm that pulls its history with it just as our brains pull from the past to form a future. 
The Fashion Resource Book Men is a delightfully good read.  It's organized to capture visually, relate and inform textually but not garrulously bore.  Think of it as a melange of styles like textbook, thriller and coffee table tome condensed into a relevant literary romp for any eager to learn menswear enthusiast.  Rather than blathering on and on like a textbook, you can read a quick interesting history of how the Fair Isle sweater came to be. There are brow-raising moments to be had like the history and influence Savile Row had on everything from military apparel to rockstar fashion.  Then, just when you need photo references to serve as visual aids to accompany the interesting summations, Leach provides current and vintage photos surrounding the style in question.
The importance of research in the furtherance of Mens fashion is really hit home within The Fashion Resource Book MenDiscussed are where designers like Nigel Cabourn and Thom Browne find inspiration for their homage-paying and forward fashions.  Ten designers' research processes are discussed with accompanying photos. This segment of the book lent itself perfectly into an assessment of areas of menswear like heritage, workwear and uniform flanked with profiles of how brands like Carhartt WIP and Gieves & Hawke gained the notoriety they posses today.  Throughout this section it was also interesting how Leach provided brief case studies from menswear students at several of Europe's top fashion universities.  It provided ample proof and a nice perspective into how the new designer uses research to fuel modern ideas and aspects of menswear like color, print , silhouette and function.  
The final segment of the book breaks down the origins of the clothes we live in and offer insight into the many adaptations that we fashion wearers neglect or just maybe weren't aware of.   Adaptations like, for example, how much or how little our pea coats, trench coats, varsity jackets have changed and how long our duffel coats, motorcycles jackets and field jackets have been around.  You come away from the book realizing the World Wars influence in mens clothing and that much of mens fashion, like my prized field jacket, was at one time (and still is) praised military issue apparel .  Tweaks and tucks were very slight over the course of the 20th century, but that is possibly why menswear has retained the cache it has today.  The relevancy to how men live, function in and utilize clothing go hand in hand with fashion and always has.  

The Fashion Resource Book Men 
by Robert Leach 
$29.95 paper
208 pages
Available May 13, 2014.

*The Fashion Resource Book: Men, by Robert Leach.  Photos courtesy of Thames & Hudson.

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