Fall's Strong Suit

Dressing up is back in style for men, with coats and ties in fashion after a casual retreat

September 08, 2002|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,Sun Staff

Say goodbye to the relaxed look. There's a new formality in men's clothes this fall, both for office wear and for evenings out. It means wearing one of the new patterned shirts and a coordinated tie instead of a golf shirt. Layering with a leather or suede sports coat to dress up khakis. And, yes, investing in a suit.

Texture and pattern are big this fall, so that suit might be a pinstripe or tweed instead of gray flannel. The new suit has a Savile Row feel, but a leaner and sexier Italian-influenced silhouette -- fashionistas are labeling the look "Britalia."

Suits are an important part of the fall fashion story, but only a part. After all, what's happening nationally may not work for Baltimore. Here's what local retailers say is new in their stores this season:

Cohen's Clothiers, Yorktowne Plaza, Cockeysville

It's a return to common sense dressing, says owner Gilbert Cohen. "The mood is more somber; apparel has gotten a little more corporate and a little dressier." Fall's shirts and ties are less monochromatic than they have been. Although winters have been mild recently, he feels this may be a bad one and has been investing in more cold-weather apparel.

The one must-have piece of clothing for this fall? A new suit. "With the overly casual look of the past few years, it's the one item 'he' hasn't been buying," Cohen says.

Hecht's, area locations

Hecht's is showing a lot of leather for fall, says Diane Daly, director of fashion and communications. Sweaters of all kinds are key: V-necks, hooded, ones with zipper details. In pants, corduroy is hot, and men are starting to buy low-rise denims. Active wear like track pants and hooded pullovers in fleece is coming on strong.

Must have? A pair of Go Khakis with Stain Defender by Dockers

Macy's, area locations

"Think in outfits if not suits," says Joseph Denofrio, senior vice president for fashion for Macy's East. "We're revisiting the dress shirt, but it's not a white shirt." Patterned shirts look new, and there's a great mix of colors out there.

If he had to pick one color for fall, it would be brown. If he had to pick one material, suede.

There's a demand in every age group for urban designer names like Fubu and Sean John, so you'll be seeing lots of them -- including the return of the velour jogging suit.

Must have? A patterned sweater. Argyle looks great under a suede jacket.

Nordstrom, area locations

Three-piece dressing is important again, and the double-breasted suit is emerging. Solid knit vests work well with sportswear.

Plaid is almost a trend story in itself, says Gregg Andrews, fashion director of Nordstrom-Eastern Regions. Traditional plaids are being updated with color, especially in ties: blue and chocolate brown, for instance, might have a stripe of acid green.

Must have? A suede shirt jacket. "It's the evolution of leather," says Andrews. "A way to get out of the khaki and golf shirt thing."

George Howard Ltd., Village of Cross Keys, Baltimore

Owner Howard Shapiro likes layering for fall. "It's an English kind of look."

Fabrics have loft and are no longer flat. Suits, sports coats and sweaters can be found in camel hair, alpaca and cashmere. Look for earth tones in sportswear: rust, pumpkin, brown with golden hues and logan green. "Even in slacks," he says. "I'm surprised at how quickly men are adapting to it. It's a little bit of dandyism -- 'Hey, look at me.'"

Must have? A three-quarter length coat in wool or cashmere. "It goes with sportswear or dress wear," Shapiro says.

Hyatt & Co., area locations

Co-owner Edward Hyatt agrees that the suit is back, and with lots of variations. The three-button is dominating, but there's a little bit of the two-button and double-breasted, he says. The new suit can be worn with "tie-less options": a dressy shirt and no tie, a mock turtleneck, a silk T-shirt, a banded collar. Leather should have a big season, especially a leather and suede reversible jacket. For weekend wear, Hyatt expects Tommy Bahama silk jackets and long-sleeved polos to do well.

Must have? An Italian mock neck in charcoal or black for dressing up or dressing down. "It's so functional you can't have too many of them."

J.S. Edwards, Festival at Woodholme, Pikesville

J.S. Edwards is showing more suits this fall, says manager Stan Gleiman. "They're sexier, trimming down a little, driven by casual silhouettes."

Pattern is the word for this season: The newest shirts are patterned in window panes, tattersall and checks. Stripes are back, as are glen plaids, often with a stripe of red or rust. Ties come in detailed geometrics. (Woven ties are hot as well.)

Must have? A patterned dress shirt. "We need a little oomph," says Gleiman.

South Moon Under, area locations

Denim is the biggest trend that menswear buyer Charlie Groom is seeing for customers aged 18 to 45. It's in a variety of fits with lots of different washes. Corduroy is also making a comeback in the younger market. Sweaters are big this fall, and athletic wear like Puma is going mainstream. But this season even at South Moon Under, which originated as a surf shop, "fashion is toned down," says Groom. "There's a sense of going back to the classical and traditional since 9 / 11 and with the economy."

Must have? Denim jeans in one of the new washes. "It's what you're building your wardrobe around," says Groom. "It's the Americana look."

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