It's not easy being sartorially inclined in London.
You may have the world's best shopping options – from Savile Row to Selfridges – at your fingertips. The fashion hubs of Paris, Milan and New York are each a short flight away.
But no matter how well you dress in the British capital, there's always someone looking fresher than you, and doing it effortlessly. This is the London man's curse.
So it was when I lived in East London for a couple of years in my mid 20s. And so it remained when I returned to London this week for a short visit.
Hitting the town to shake off my jetlag, I suddenly felt self-conscious. The outfits I'd thrown into my bag in Sydney now seemed inadequate. The parade of stylish gents I passed along Shoreditch High Street made me feel under-prepared.
But these guys weren't wearing artfully tailored suits or even the slouchy athleisure from this season's runway shows. Instead, London's best dressed were repping youthful, '90s-inspired streetwear looks defined by block colours and an oversized silhouette that could best be described as 'comfy'.
Of course, the '90s has been coming back for a while now. Thankfully, Londoners seem to have shaken off some of the era's more dubious elements – cargo pants, anyone? – and opted instead for signifiers of the grunge movement.
Jeans are now almost exclusively wide-legged (I could count on one hand the number of pairs of skinny jeans I saw) and cropped at the ankle. What's great about this look is that you can just as easily find a pair at a vintage store as you can on SSENSE. Notable high-fashion examples this season include Rick Owens and Balmain.
Trousers cut the same way are also becoming popular, particularly with younger Londoners, who not so long ago avoided anything vaguely resembling grandpa-wear. Baggy cropped trousers by the likes of paa strike a pleasing balance between looks and practicality.
Brightly-coloured sneakers are now ubiquitous, although the hyper-grotesque luxury sneakers that multiple houses were releasing in 2018 seem to have given way to slightly less nauseating colourways at all price points. At the same time, shirts and jumpers are popping up in lively block colours, making a statement that's bold without being aggressive.
In fact, there's a real softness to London men's street style this year that's wonderfully refreshing. Britain has a slightly less feverish concept of masculinity that other parts of the Western world, and it's shining through on the streets. Jewellery is a prime example: everywhere I went, I saw guys wearing bracelets, from simple braided numbers to statement-making pieces by McQueen and Bottega Venetta.
At Dover Street Market, a longtime fashion mecca in the city, customers were paying particular attention to jewellery by The Vampire's Wife, the line founded by former model Susie Cave and inspired in part by her husband, Australian rock icon Nick Cave. The pieces have a talismanic quality and, judging by the number of eyeballs on them at DSM, are quickly becoming sought after.
Dover Street Market is a reliably fun place to visit and soak up some of the city's more outlandish street style. This month, slim-fitting waistcoats seemed to be particularly in vogue with the store's sales staff, although I could see none on the racks. It was one of the few nods to formalwear in a shop where the avant-garde rules.
London calling Dan F Stapleton
For me, the brand that best sums up the current mood of young London is Phug. Founded by a collective of teenagers, the label only sells its clothes online (and each drop sells out almost instantly). Phug's over-sized jeans and sweaters feature hand embroidery and create a vibe that's both contemporary and nostalgic.
Not everyone will be able to make Phug's youthful pieces work for them, but if you're looking for a casual distillation of the aesthetic that London men are currently embracing, it's a good place to start.
Check out the gallery above to see what the lads of London are wearing now.
Dan's writing on style, travel and more has appeared in The New York Times, the Australian Financial Review, Condé Nast Traveller and others. He is based in Sydney.
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