Menswear in 2016 believes wholeheartedly that men care about fashion. Long before menswear graduated into a $460 billion industry, “fashion” often served as a poor synonym for “women’s wear,” leaving men to fend hopelessly for themselves in the world of “ready-to-wear” style.
Now, tailoring, silhouettes, and Instagram-famous Shiba Inus are just a few of the norms on the menswear market. They serve as markers of a new era of men’s fashion that caters exclusive to the man who color blocks, accessorizes, and thinks critically about the way he looks. Gone are the days where shopping was left to one’s mother or wife. Now, men actively shape their style and tastes within a market that has learned to chase “yummies” (that is, young urban males) and their endless supply of disposable income.
How and when did the fashion industry begin to take “men’s style” seriously? There are plenty of factors contributing to the rise of the menswear market, but none more apparent than sneaker culture.
Once limited to the bounds of hip-hop, sneaker culture has since permeated the menswear market implicitly by advocating for the young urban male’s expense account. Sneakers have been around since the 1890s, of course, but it took another 80 years for them to become the extremely profitable consumable it is today. With the release of the first signature shoe — to coincide with the superstar talent of NBA favorite Kareem Abdul Jabbar — Adidas unwittingly launched the culture that would drive over $340 million dollar in sales just last year.
Sneaker culture precedes menswear — specifically, the “ready to wear” component that now churns out “fits” (outfits) and style concepts to young urban males routinely. Before the ’80s, it was as unnatural to have a style budget as it was to have a personal style. Sneaker culture, then, not only spoke to young urban male’s income, but also the athletes, musicians, and values he considered important. To a larger extent, it encouraged a healthy pursuit of his own representation — and the sneakers, accessories, and trends he’d curate to make his vision a reality.