NEW YORK — If the menswear collections coming down the runways at the recently wrapped New York Fashion Week are any indication, fall 2014 will be filled with laid-back luxe unconstructed, blanket-like outerwear, chunky novel knitwear and a quilted one of everything.
But the biggest trend coming off the runway and what might really be a game-changing look for the American male of nine months hence is the upscale take on the lowly sweatpant.
Sure, there were plenty of sharp tailored suits to go around, as well as softer versions of traditional menswear suiting in fabrics including Glen plaids, herringbone and houndstooth. (One standout version of the latter was menswear designer Todd Snyders barracks jacket with the pattern printed on buttery soft shearling.)
But you couldnt have tossed a kettle ball last week without hitting a new take on the old-school athletic silhouette that hasnt changed much since you last laced up for gym class: loose-fitting, super-soft, drawstring waistband and elasticized ankles.
Snyder, whose entry in the sweatpant parade was a gray wool double-knit number with a black tuxedo side stripe (shown paired with a black jacquard dinner jacket that made it the perfect formalwear choice for something like, say, the ESPY Awards gala) said upscale athleticwear is part of a changing mindset.
Thats the sensibility, he said. Kids these days, theyre all active. I think (were past the) the times of being either a jock or a nerd or an intellectual. Those lines are blurred.
Band of Outsiders Scott Sternberg can also attest to the growing appetite for an athletic take on trousers. His fall and winter 2014 mens Death of the Newspaper collection (inspired by a visit to the L.A. Times building) includes versions in comfy-cool black-and-white-striped cotton terry, gray boiled wool with red-and-blue-striped elasticized cuffs and a brushed wool herringbone with cargo pockets.
We have a lot of sweatpants in this collection, Sternberg said, and I was just talking to sales and they wanted more. And these arent just typical sweatpants, by the way. Were doing them in cashmere suiting fabrics, were doing chino sweatpants, were doing all kinds of versions of it.
Activewear in demand
Unlike trends that trickle down from the runway, this seems to be a case of trickle-up response to demand at the Agenda action sports trade show in Long Beach last month, brands said retailer demand for the sweatpant style, which had been gathering steam for several seasons, showed no signs of slowing. The retailers want anything and everything in that silhouette, Ryan Rush, founder and president of action sports brand Valor Collective, said at the time.
And, according to NPD Groups chief industry analyst Marshal Cohen, the activewear market grew 9 percent in dollars for the 12 months ending December 2013, compared with 2 percent growth of the overall apparel market in the same period.
Consumers have inspired their own fashion trend, and many manufacturers and retailers are just now catching up, Cohen wrote in a recent report. Activewear has been around for a long time, but not since the 90s-inspired Juicy Couture Warmup suits have we seen so much attention to the activewear market.
Given that the humble zip-front hooded sweat shirt has crossed over to haute hoodie status, theres a logical argument to be made that theres room in the American luxury customers wardrobe for an upscale version of its downstairs neighbor.
Sure, the notion of wearing tuxedo-side-striped sweatpants at a high society soiree may sound faintly ludicrous now, but there was a time when the five-pocket blue jean was the province of miners and cowpokes. Sweatpants might not sprint to denim-level ubiquity, but they gained some serious momentum with the fall and winter 2014 collections.