Addressing #Menswear’s Existential Crisis

#Menswear blogging is dying. It's being crushed underneath the weight of its own ego and is selling out. It is throwing its double monks out the window and buying Jordans. It is trading an unstructured Boglioli sportcoat for a Rick Owens shawl. It is removing thoughtful commentary on how dudes dress themselves and replacing it with clickbait-y lists meant to drive traffic and make sure we can continue getting the $40 haircuts at Blind Barber that we get for free.

Except it’s not. It’s just 100 times easier to look at the evolution of a subculture, throw up your hands and say “things just ain’t what they used to be” rather than adapt to inevitable change, and find new ways to tell stories. #Menswear ain’t what it used to be. Whatever. It’s been around since maybe 2008. The country was in a recession and out of fear men started to believe they could “buy less, but buy better,” and so the reigning aesthetic of the time was stuff like raw denim, oxford cloth button downs and Aldens.

Three or so years later, and things are a little different. No one gives a shit about desert boots and v-neck sweaters are waaaay uncool. Here’s how we arrived to our current quandary: We tried to fool ourselves into building the wardrobes of a lifetime, when really we were letting our wardrobes slowly become our lives. When you take up clothing as a hobby, and champion “style” over “fashion,” at some point the style becomes the fashion. While we were all so busy accruing supposed timeless goods, we were hoodwinked into going along with trends.

You keep pushing the clothing envelope, chasing that 'new new' and the admittedly insufferable desire to be up on something before everyone else.

Sure, for every guy who wants to step up his game, there are sites like TSB and Valet—solid sources for #menswear beginners. You can go there and learn how to tie a bow tie or when exactly to wear a khaki suit. That guy will always exist. But what about the #menswear reader who’s already savvy, who pre-ordered the English translation of Take Ivy and owns a dog-eared copy of Fuck Yeah Menswear? How do we keep him in the fold?

He could simply stop buying clothes, but in the words of Panta owner Ed Morel: “Saying you are done buying clothes is like saying you are done receiving blow jobs.” Face it dude, you’re in too deep. You’re on your suit and tie shit or whatever. “Shit's so sick, got a hit and picked up a habit,” as the lyric goes.

One way is to help define his lifestyle. You’ve already told him what clothes he wears, so now what food does he eat? Where does he stay when he travels? What kind of alcohol does he drink? More importantly, you tell him what duds were cool a week ago and what duds are cool now? He is tired of Flyknits. He is over Patrik Ervell. So, like A$AP Rocky says, clothes get weirder. And more obscure. Maybe he’s feeling Blue Blue Japan. Maybe he’s down to rock a poncho. You keep pushing the clothing envelope, chasing that “new new” and the admittedly insufferable desire to be up on something before everyone else.

If #menswear is to survive, it needs to be able to adapt with the platforms and business practices that currently dictate modern media.

There’s also the other route: You begin to poke fun of the very culture you represent. Self-awareness does wonders, and lists breed controversy—hardcore nerds are a competitive lot. Before Fuck Yeah Menswear was ever conceived, there was ego trip, the hip-hop magazine from which ego trip’s Big Book of Rap Lists was born. Go into any comic book shop and listen for the stereotypical conversations about whether or not Iron Man could beat Batman in a fight (probably) or which member of The Justice League had the illest powers (The Flash). Any subculture’s diehards live and breathe for it, and when you challenge and quantify their own beliefs and tastes you give them something to fight for.

When I wrote The 10 Types of Men’s Style Bloggers on Complex two years ago, I had to fight for it with my editor, who felt it was way too niche. Yes, it was a list, but at the same time, it addressed what was happening in the world of men’s style. Tribes were forming, guys were gravitating towards different clothes and I believed that giving it all the snark of a Gawker piece put a spin on the #menswear world that a lot of people were taking way too seriously. And you know what? It wasn’t about the pageviews. It was about taking something that was dear to me and dragging it through a hall of mirrors.

If #menswear is to survive, it needs to be able to adapt with the platforms and business practices that currently dictate modern media. It’s up to the writers to make the format work for them. Today’s writing market hardly has room for Luddites, but ample space for creative thinkers. As someone who literally writes lists for a living, I can assure you that it is hard as shit. Am I 100% proud of everything I’ve written? I honestly don’t know. I mean, I’m typing this missive after having written two lists and editing another. And that's just today. What I am sure of is that if I wasn’t one of the people making these countless #menswear lists, I would definitely be one of the most frequent commenters.

But do you know what #Menswear blogging needs most? More voice, less reblogs.

That’s why Amy Odell’s work at Buzzfeed is awesome, because even if it’s in list format, her hilarious approach to womenswear remains intact. In fact, I’d argue it’s a format that breaks down an often-intimidating topic like fashion. Not everything has to be long, drawn out and expounded on, like the very piece you are reading now. In the slow-moving world of menswear, sometimes you just want to look at street style shots rather than think about how French photographer Sarah Moon inspired Robert Geller’s latest collection.

Where does that leave the people who slave away on longform? Those who toil on work that the author of this very Tumblr rant admits he “may not read it myself [but] it’s good to see that there is someone doing it.” Perfect. Let the future menswear writers of America be the mythical Cassandra, often on-point, but always ignored. That isn’t saying there isn’t good longform writing in the fashion world—Business of Fashion is an essential read for anyone who cares about the state of the industry, while Wilbert Cooper’s work at Vice can make even a streetwear brand like Mishka seem compelling.

But do you know what #Menswear blogging needs most? More voice, less reblogs. Look at what’s out there and don’t be afraid to say, “Fuck that noise, I know what’s cool!” Be inspired to do your own thing. Above all: Work on a craft, don’t just gun for a job. Having been fortunate enough to write about menswear for about five years, I didn’t actually start getting paid for it until year three. If you’re trying to be a writer, then for the love of god, read. Read. Read. Read. Read until you come across something that at the very least inspires enough feeling in you, good or bad, to write a response, instead of simply rehashing.