No Normal Clothes: The Men’s Fall 2021 Collections Prize Ingenuity and Independence

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Watch television, read the front pages of newspapers, or scan your social media feeds and you’ll find headlines and imagery dominated by men. New presidents, doctors, scientists, thought leaders… men, men, men. But, hey, I’m just here to talk about those men’s outfits—or rather the lack of them on the fall 2021 men’s runways

The clothing shown during the mostly digital fall 2021 season is not for front-page news guys, with the exception of Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, who can probably relate to the themes of male aggression in Rick Owens's collection. Among the other 200-plus collections we covered on Vogue Runway there was nary a presidential suit nor a news anchor blazer in sight. There was also a surprising lack of bro-clothes—“brothes?” When Virgil Abloh declared in late 2019 that “streetwear is dead” he was really onto something. 

This rejection of mainstream male dress is fueled by creativity. Never before has a menswear season felt as surprising in silhouette or as innovative as this one. Comfort dressing and optimism dominated in the broadest strokes, but their interpretations ranged from the bodysuits at Prada and duvet puffers at Fendi to irreverent, colorful separates at Hermès and joyous new volumes at Loewe. What does this say about our fashion world? Maybe that it’s staking its independence from pop culture, just a bit. No more did the outfits on the runways look like those already worn by sports stars, TikTokers, or musicians. Sure, the TikTok superstar Noah Beck was in the digital front row at Louis Vuitton, but he donned a sensual camel knit for the occasion instead of his usual hoodie.

In total, the fall 2021 collections are asking men to consider their clothing the way women do: How do you express your self through clothing? There’s no more fitting in, no more doing it because another other dude is. Imagine re-emerging into the world in fall 2021 to see a group of guys who aren’t dressed exactly the same in a bar, at a baseball game, in the park. It can definitely happen—just check out the range of personal style among the GQ staff.

Men will certainly have plenty of options for expressing themselves come fall, from JW Anderson’s trapezoidal trousers and Louis Vuitton’s monogram kilts to Dries Van Noten’s serene trenches and ruched turtlenecks. What’s more, a thrilling new generation of stars are embodying the season’s message of thoughtful independence: See the brainy elegance of Grace Wales Bonner, the ingenious proportions of Botter, and the ultra-louche irony of Casablanca. The headline of fall 2021: No more normal clothes. You do you, beautifully.

Body Gloves

The knit bodysuits at Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons’s joint menswear debut were the talk of the town during Milan’s digital shows. “We were looking for something that could be… a symbolic piece for all these kinds of feelings that we feel right now,” Simons told Vogue. Second-skin suits were also seen at Rick Owens, ERL, and Casablanca. They’re certainly more subversive than sweats. The question is: Will men wear them? 

The New Eccentrics

From the vermilion at Ermenegildo Zegna to the grass green at Louis Vuitton, the colors of the fall 2021 collections felt more in line with springtime optimism than wintry doldrums. It’s a hard look to argue against, especially once you’ve seen the resplendent palette of the Dior Men collection Kim Jones made in collaboration with the Scotch artist Peter Doig. Even the more muted suits and trenches came with assured drapes and folds—not standard fare. Why not dress with the sprezzatura of a work of art? 

The Upside Down

The cropped, bubble puffa was surely the coat of the fall 2020 shows, but if this season’s digital runways count for anything fall 2021 will be dominated by stranger silhouettes. From Fendi to Louis Vuitton to Comme des Garçons Homme Plus, duvet coats and padded shorts offered a more surreal take on warmth and protection. 

Tough Fluff

A comfortwear option for those averse to down padding are the season’s many wild shearlings and furs, both real and faux. Ragged, oversized, and in unnatural hues, these fluffy pieces are unlike the bombers and vests of yesteryear.

The Big Short

If summer 2020 was all about Patagonia’s nylon short-shorts, the story this winter will be big, ballooning shorts. Loewe and Yohji Yamamoto offer bell shaped options, while longer baggies also appeared at Etro and MSGM.

Fashion of the Absurd

Living, as we do, in absurd times, many designers referenced the strangeness of trying to apply logic to our illogical moment. But maybe we should all just have a laugh instead. “I like this idea of humor in clothing. Squashes on jeans. A peach in the middle of a sweater. Something that makes you grin. Because fashion is meant to make you think, or dream,” said Jonathan Anderson.