Is the Way Men Talk About Fashion About to Undergo Another Sea Change?

James Harris and Lawrence Schlossman are slouched across from each other at a trestle table, microphones raised, talking about a photograph of Ronald Reagan taken aboard Air Force One. They’re interested in Reagan’s outfit, which foreshadows the Zoom era: He has on a neatly pressed French-cuff shirt and conservative tie, complete with tie pin, but it’s all tucked into the elasticated waist of plain gray sweatpants that run down to a pair of heeled black loafers. “This is an iconic zood,” Schlossman says, using one of the duo’s many neologisms to describe this accidental fashion statement. By the end of the clip, the two are cracking jokes about another Air Force One picture, in which Reagan points a scoped rifle at a seated woman.

Both images are perfect for Harris and Schlossman’s podcast, “Throwing Fits” — ideal mixtures of the cultural ephemera that social-media-addicted millennials find hilarious and opportunities to quip about what someone is wearing. “Ronald Reagan’s 31 most YOLO moments on a plane,” Harris deadpans, before adding: “But the fit is fire.” Schlossman winds from a crass joke about Reagan’s midsection to notes on the juxtaposition of the ur-functional sweatpants with the esoteric footwear below.

Harris and Schlossman, better known as Jimmy and Larry, have hosted various shows together for years, starting at Complex Media, where their fratty in-office ribbing of each other’s style was turned into a series called “Fashion Bros.” “Throwing Fits” is loosely centered on men’s fashion, though the hosts gleefully riff on whatever — instant ramen, whether you should tuck in your shirt, beefs between fashion insiders — in a style not so different from the debates seen on sports-talk shows. “Zood”-wise, they have also developed an entire “Throwing Fits” lexicon, to the extent that I sometimes have no idea what they are talking about.

Over the near-decade since “Fashion Bros” began, Schlossman and Harris have joined a group that may be changing, once again, the way men think about clothing. The journalist Avery Trufelman, who has appeared as a guest on “Throwing Fits,” is another member: Her podcast, “Articles of Interest,” spends hours digging into topics like the complex history of Ivy Style. There’s also Derek Guy, who shares his encyclopedic knowledge of tailoring on X, where he’s better known by the slightly disparaging nickname “the men’s wear guy.” (He’s also a fan of Reagan’s fashion choices, though not his politics.) This ecosystem expands well beyond journalists: Designers like Aimé Leon Dore’s Teddy Santis and Noah’s Brendon Babenzien, who share something of an aesthetic philosophy, have become minor celebrities and have lately started to put their hands on the wheels of heritage brands, Santis with New Balance and Babenzien for J. Crew’s men’s wear.

This is far from the first time the conversation around men’s clothing has been in flux. The last great wave of men’s wear discourse — led, a little over a decade ago, by dapper elder statesmen like Michael Williams and Nickelson Wooster — was a more precious one: People waited eagerly for blogs like Scott Schuman’s “The Sartorialist” to document the nattily dressed Adonises of Pitti Uomo, and message boards like StyleForum and Ask Andy About Clothes were full of fussy debates over pant breaks and suit shoulders. For the first time in a while, it felt, average young guys were coming to covet “nice” clothing, fueling a run on J. Crew’s ubiquitous Ludlow Suit and drawers full of pocket squares. But even that moment operated within the ambient homophobia that has long plagued men’s fashion — the same dynamics that gave us the word “metrosexual” and shows like “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” with their suggestion that thinking about your appearance was mostly the province of women and gay men. The dressed-up era yielded to an obsession with rugged work clothes and utilitarian streetwear — a development that, if you’ll excuse the Freudian analysis, felt rooted in some level of gender anxiety.

That comparatively unkempt characters like Harris and Schlossman — they describe themselves as “grown dirtbags” — are now vital parts of men’s fashion feels like a departure from the preciousness of the last boom. “Throwing Fits” does not position fashion as an aspirational topic. Even episodes that feature fashion luminaries quickly descend into vibes-heavy bull sessions. This guyish spitballing has made the podcast party to the emergence of a fascinating ethos: men dressing for other men. In the “Throwing Fits” universe, “getting a fit off for the fellas” is a high virtue, and liking one another’s fit-check photos on Instagram is an act of fraternal love. (There is an echo here of Leandra Medine’s now-sullied blog “Man Repeller,” which encouraged millennial women to find confidence in dressing for themselves and one another.) This is a vision of fashion in which guys aren’t just comfortable caring about what they wear but are also newly comfortable clocking and complimenting one another’s outfits.

A certain comfort can also be seen in the clothing being produced by the designers they obsess over. The last few years have seen a shift toward loosely draped garments: boxy button-downs from Our Legacy, loose-knit sweaters from Lemaire, oversize topcoats in sumptuous fabrics. The clothing is almost old-fashioned, the kind of thing a stylish grandfather might wear. Aimé Leon Dore, the most influential brand of the last few years, showcases a cozy, tailored androgyny, using both male and female models in its lookbooks. A growing population of otherwise bro-y men seems at ease wearing lace-accented shorts or floral-embroidered shirts. Emily Bode’s line of $2,200 patchwork jackets and $730 beaded trousers is so highly regarded that she won back-to-back American Menswear Designer of the Year awards from the Council of Fashion Designers of America.

And if all of this sounds like the sartorial bubble of a narrow selection of coastal hipsters, consider that this world — the intersection of frat-guy takes and high-minded ideas about fashion — is slowly starting to influence mass-market mall brands as well. You could now find baggy floral-printed pants and lacework shirts at Abercrombie & Fitch, and J. Crew’s lavish “giant fit” chinos (courtesy of Babenzien) briefly became an internet sensation. Retailers seem to be betting that some consumers may once again be ready to think afresh about what they wear.

If Schlossman and Harris’s for-the-fellas sensibility is any indication, that bet could pay off. We are seeing a turn toward a more expansive definition of what it means to look good; it just happens that this change is coming, in part, from sources many people would not have expected. It turns out that making men rethink how they look isn’t nearly as difficult as imagined — especially when you talk to them in a language they understand.

Source photographs for illustration above: GK Hart/Getty Images; Miroslav Boskov/Getty Images; Bettmann Archive/Getty Images; Djordje Boskovic/Getty Images; Pakin Songmor/Getty Images.

Back to top button