Male style tribes: As lines blur, do they still exist?

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In post-war Britain mods, rockers, skinheads and teddy boys would happily engage in casual violence to defend the honor of their dress sense. In America meanwhile, bikers would beat up hippies in parking lots just for having marginally wider jeans -- "like trousers, like brain" as The Clash's singer Joe Strummer put it.

Fashion divided and united. In the 1980s London's clubbing Blitz Kids or New York's Club Kids (who ruled the city's dance clubs until the early 1990s) found solace in numbers by sticking out rather than fitting in. From Congolese Sapeurs to "Madchester" pill-heads, clothes helped men bond, express themselves, and break away from parochial attitudes and cultural traditions.


In the 1989 coffee table classic "Jocks and Nerds," Richard Martin and Harold Koda categorized the last century of menswear into 12 consistent male identities: The eponymous high school archetypes sitting alongside the worker, rebel, cowboy, military man, businessman, Joe College, sportsman, man-about-town and dandy.

By today's standards these categories sound almost Victorian. But have they been replaced with distinct modern styles or have they simply mutated? Is today's Vetements victim yesterday's sportsman in a garish colored windbreaker jacket? Is the bearded urban lumberjack just the bastard offspring of the cowboy and the nerd?


Have the distinct style tribes of the past overlapped and coagulated until merging into one? When I see my dad in a windbreaker that wouldn't be out of place on Drake's Instagram, or a TV chef in a JW Anderson x Uniqlo scarf, I worry that we're edging ever closer to a sartorial lowest common denominator. "Hypernormcore-alization," if you will.


Lastly, capitalism has accelerated fashion to the point where our icons change their dress sense with every album, film or season. The proliferation of low-cost disposable clothes means that anyone with an online account at a high street shop can keep up, regardless of the impact on the environment.

The internet makes every look available in real time, meaning Zara can rip off Balenciaga before the campaign's even been printed in Vogue. And social media meanwhile weakens the desire to gather in real life to feel appreciated (or indeed alienated).

Debates around manhood and masculinity are evolving while gender-specific subcultures are dying out. Revolutions in equality slowly dismantle boundaries, blurring old lines and throwing up new conversations. In these politically fraught but socially progressive times, what can we learn from modern menswear designers? And where does it leave our disparate style tribes?

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