All Aboard! Neo-Nautical Menswear Is Setting Sail For Next Summer

Why this err towards the ocean occurred is a hard exigency to zero in on, but look at the fineries of the 2023 menswear season you’ll be hard pressed to find garbs that don’t lilt towards the wet, wild and wonderful. Just a brief gloss over masculine fashion history reveals an abundance of pinstripes and coastal decor, so much so that its mere mention summons the abrasive tones of Popeye and the dauntlessness of WWII soldiers. 

Out of the depths, menswear is once again making space for the billowing poetic blouses and the sailor collars – distinct by their wide lapels and square posterior panel – that have consumed the preppy aesthetic for decades. Ocean-going looks now, though, are less future-forward and more nostalgic: a reach for retrofuturism in this, an age of eternal revivals. Add to this an earnest and increasing concern for Mother Nature and perhaps this genesis of Poseidon-suited style is a lot less surprising.

All aboard boys! It’s time to hit the high seas, because neo-nautical swank is having a moment and we’re prepared to toe the line. While sailor-style pieces have been knocking around in the fashion world for yonks, the spring/summer 2023 menswear shows have rendered the trend seemingly and entirely inescapable. Across London, Paris, and Milan, a leading towards maritime references among designers was pervasive. Yup! The nautical rag trade is back, baby! But this time, the threads are a bit less fancy dress than Princess Diana in the 1980s and a lot more nuanced, eschewing dry-land garbs for our tired little eyes. 

Emerging in newfangled juxtapositions with out-dated ideas revamped and revitalised for the present, maritime fashion delivers kitsch and class in equal measure. But what is it, exactly, that makes drifting into the deep blue, dressed to the nines, so damn irresistible? Well, for one thing it’s timeless – part-passé, part-futuristic, with a heady mix of functionality and streamlined cool above all. 

It wouldn’t be apt to begin proceedings without name-checking Jean Paul Gaultier, a man who has celebrated the sailor in all his buff, campy glory throughout his career in fashion. For his guest couture collection for the house, Olivier Rousteing opened the show with a procession of Breton striped menswear looks, mining the house’s archives for inspiration.

Elsewhere, as with all things good, weird and madcap, Thom Browne navigated international waters following a two-year hiatus from Paris and did so with all the panache of a seafaring chap. Ah the sea – a vis vitae older than the earth itself: this was the waterborne treatment that had Browne’s boys whipped-up in frayed French tweed, tri-colour jockstraps, marinières, bullion appliqués, codpieces, rope-belts and bikinis, each with all-American red, white and blue anchors across bits and bobs. In many ways, the collection divorced the coastal aesthetic from its expected connotations giving a more Tom of Finland-like feel.

Showing on the final day of Paris Fashion Week Men’s, Nigo displayed a bonafide appetite for plain sailing with his sophomore collection at Kenzo. There were tactical navy fishermen’s vests, square collars, striated skirts and a mariner’s quintessential white stripes, which riffed on another nautical trope: the leatherneck, in all his orderly and stiff-postured glory. The look quickly spawned into slouchy denim sets, varsity knits and elementary silhouettes, but while it played with the school boy aesthetic, square-sailor collars and Dixie-cup caps with the Kenzo Paris logo embroidered across the upturned brim were enduring. 

Though the leitmotifs of a seaman are not always visible, they are most certainly alluded to in the hues and badge appliqués that traversed the SS23 menswear shows. Perhaps this resuscitation is an evolution of the aesthetic in hopes that the fashion world can cash-in on nautical nostalgia?

Over-portside, while Casablanca is classically for those infected with wanderlust, its SS23 menswear collection created an extraordinary world of escapism and unbridled beauty with the high seas treatment appearing only in meagre amounts. But don’t abandon ship just yet because while the edit was in actuality a trip to the Wild Wild West, we had to get there somehow, and it would seem that we wended our way by boat. Macho men, clad in tailored cropped jackets with high-voltage uniform elements and a whole slew of sailor hats gallivanted across the catwalk. 

Joining the fleet, Louis Vuitton offered all hands on deck for its showcase at the Louvre. While the chapeaux lexicon here felt a bit more military and a bit less wet weather ready, there was netting, tie neck collars and neckerchiefs, cinched waists and peaked captain caps throughout.

In the wake, Material man Monsieur Armani used navy shades at his Giorgio summer show. Penetrating tailoring and t-shirts, the natatorial attributions were decidedly subtle.  Elsewhere, scalloped nautical stripes permeated knits and hotpants, and added slouchy silk neckerchiefs for a touch of sartorial pizazz. While it wasn’t as blatantly seafaring as its counterpart’s collections, there was an undeniable air of ocean luxe. 

As we salivate over the pseudo-thalassic styles, we simultaneously learn of novel and historic lifestyles, absorbing grievances braved and soon sailing beyond the horizon and into the fata morgana in search of new terrain and design ideas. It seems it’s time for nautical fashion to set sail on main-stream – bon voyage!

For all our coverage from the SS23 menswear shows, click here. 


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