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Reimagining hype : Post-Covid-19 menswear mindsets

Opinion

Published by:

5 May 2020

Author: Rachel Wilson

Image: Unauthorized, Denmark

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Covid-19 is driving menswear aficionados to re-evaluate their relationship with luxury and clout, teasing at a future of high-quality minimalism.

In the wake of the global financial crisis in 2008, menswear turned to traditional silhouettes and looks as the cultural excesses of logo-mania in the early noughties became quickly distasteful. Amid the current pandemic, consumers are equally re-evaluating their relationship to luxury and clout. As we look to the future of menswear, three crucial mindsets are already emerging.

: Fashion as first responder

Consumers have welcomed actions by large luxury brands like LMVH and Burberry in responding to the Covid-19 crisis. But instead of this action being seen as ‘heroic’, it is somewhat expected. Proactive philanthropic action is what consumers expect their favourite brands to do, while added value comes from being able to take part in that action themselves.

In a recent Twitter survey, 77% of respondents agreed they feel more positively about brands making an effort to support society during the pandemic, while 82% said brands should look to support frontline health staff, where possible. Consider Palace Skateboards launching a limited-edition iconic tri-logo collection, branded with ‘National Health Service’, in an NHS-appropriate blue, with all proceeds going to NHS charities. The collection sold out in under five minutes, showing consumers’ keen engagement to do their bit through brands that already mean something to them.

: Contempt for clout

With clout and hype solidified as key drivers in menswear over the last decade, there has been a natural falling away from hype and ownership during this pandemic. Audiences are watching the devastating financial effects of the coronavirus, and suddenly accumulating belongings seems pointless in a world where consumers can’t leave their houses.

Yet seasoned shoppers report to still value connoisseurship and quality. Instead of turning away from consumerism altogether, we anticipate a renegotiation of its value. Consumers will distinguish their wants from their needs and seek to streamline their spending as the pandemic evolves. A recent Liganova whitepaper speculates on this minimalist future: ‘Isolation has taught society renunciation and thus had a lasting effect on consumer behaviour, from the consumer society to conscious minimalism. [In future] shopping and window shopping are no longer a pastime. On the contrary, every new acquisition is rationally examined for its sense and necessity.’

Tri-Donator by Palace for the NHS
'Instead of turning away from consumerism altogether, we anticipate a renegotiation of its value as consumers distinguish their wants from needs'

: Minimalism 3.0

As part of the larger movement towards Uneasy Affluence, consumers in the luxury space – from streetwear to traditional brands – pride themselves more on their cultural capital than overtly illustrating their purchasing power. At odds with hype culture, which has somewhat enshrined large logos and monograms, the pandemic is ushering in more inconspicuous consumption.

whitepaper by Highsnobiety reveals that 54% of its readers report feeling a sudden aversion to large logo placements, while 33% now find chunky sneaker silhouettes less attractive now than before Covid-19. They are looking instead for seasonless streetwear over monogram-mania. Sustainability also rates highly (43%) as something Highsnobiety's discerning audience finds more attractive since the pandemic broke out.

So, what does this mean for the future of menswear design, marketing and retail? Tellingly, in the same survey, 99% of readers expressed an optimistic outlook for the post-Covid world. Rather than ushering in a return to the traditional styles revived after the 2008 crash, instead coronavirus seems to represent a reboot. In Western culture at least, mindsets that were already departing – ostentatious consumption, for example – will be accelerated, while attitudes that are growing – considered consumption and demand for transparency – will be galvanised.

Learn more on the impacts of the lockdown on the Retail sector in our latest Retail Futures 2020 report collection and Virtual Event on 21 May. 

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