* Men more aware of fashion, a trend to stay
* Men's fashion for spring 2012 has more color
By Phil Wahba
NEW YORK, Sept 13 Men's fashion is getting more
colorful and classic designs are being refreshed with unusual
fabrics as people look to their clothes to help them stand out
in a tough economy, top buyers said during Fashion Week.
Spring fashions will focus less on mainstays, such as gray
suits and silk ties, and more on fabrics such as linen and
patterns such as plaid.
Men are ready to have fun again after years of sartorial
austerity, buyers said. They want their clothes to give them a
boost in a competitive job market. And that means moving beyond
the same old, same old, experts said.
"What he doesn't want to do is buy things that look like
what he already has," Durand Guion, Macy's Inc (M.N) vice
president of men's fashion, told Reuters.
Menswear has long been a relatively small business for
retailers. Indeed, last year, women's clothing sales at luxury
chain Saks Inc SKS.N were more than twice as big as men's.
But retailers said the cultural shift that has made men
more aware of fashion is permanent and can be a major source of
growth. Neiman Marcus Group [NMRCUS.UL] singled out men's as a
strong category on its quarterly earnings call on Tuesday.
"Men are willing to take more risks, they're willing to
experiment more," said Chris Cox, vice president of design and
creative at Nautica, a unit of VF Corp (VFC.N).
The theme at Nautica's spring 2012 men's collection was a
California road trip, featuring indigo suits made of linen,
which the buyers agreed would be a popular fabric in spring.
Saks' men's fashion director Eric Jennings said most men
don't wear suits to work anymore, making mastering business
casual all the more important.
One of the biggest trends in men's fashions in the coming
months will be a "British invasion" with tartan patterns,
tweeds and "dapper" British dressing, Jennings said.
Men's fashions will have bolder colors, he said, with camel
replacing gray as a foundation color.
Designers have also blended different, seemingly
incongruous styles together. Guion said military motifs, such
as the color olive green and metal buttons, will influence some
classics like the cardigan.
Bloomingdale's Kevin Harter, men's fashion director, said
men are embracing more accessories like pocket squares and
scarves. And the sports coat is back in fashion.
"Nightlife is back," said Harter. "It's chic to dress up to
go out to dinner again."
When men do buy new suits, they can expect slimmer fitting
tailoring and colors beyond gray and navy blue.
Macy's Guion said shoppers can expect more patterns such as
plaid in suits and wool blended ties.
With men more confident in their fashion sense, they want
to have some fun, buyers said. "Men are not shy anymore," said
Geoffrey Henning, a vice president at J.C. Penney Co Inc
(JCP.N). "I think they want something that makes them happy."
(Editing by Mark Egan and Cynthia Osterman)