Fashion historian on the current state of menswear — after exploring 600 years of it
Ingrid Giertz-Mårtenson hopes that her new book will be the beginning of a serious discussion about men’s fashion and about masculinity and clothing.
By JOHAN MAGNUSSON
November 07, 2022
During her career in the Swedish and international fashion sector, Giertz-Mårtenson has been active in French haute couture, CEO of the Swedish Fashion Council for many years and worked as an advisor and fashion exhibition curator. She also initiated the establishment of fashion as an academic discipline at Stockholm University in 2006 and is now the initiator and main editor of the book Men’s Fashion – An Untold Story (Bokförlaget Langenskiöld), aiming to highlight the status of fashion as a cultural expression.
— The idea of fashion has generally been associated with women’s fashion: books around fashion history often deal up to 90% with the history of women´s fashion. But 50% of the world’s population are men! And there is a — not very well known — history behind the way men have dressed since the 16th century. It’s that story that we try to look into and explain — what has influenced men’s way of dressing from 1500 to 2022? Generally, one can say that the way society has looked at masculinity, and how that can — and may — be expressed, has been a starting point for the changes in men’s fashion through the centuries.
”Women have been much more influenced by the way men dress than the other way around”
What’s the current state of menswear?
— I believe it is in very good shape. Modern men have found a way to dress that combines a comfortable, functional look, using sportswear, outdoor garments, and so forth, with new interpretations of a more traditional look, when needed. An interesting comment to this is that, through the last fifty years, women have been much more influenced by the way men dress than the other way around. And men’s fashion has through the centuries been much more sustainable than women’s fashion.
— Menswear has, during the last 200 years, been less about fashion changes and more about function, comfort, and durability, which has made it more sustainable.
Are we in the Nordics so progressive as we like to think when it comes to menswear, compared to other regions and markets?
— Several well-known brands of menswear have come from the Nordic countries. Designers have been very successful in combining a relaxed, sporty look with wearable and a bit more classic shapes. This is to a large extent due to the influence of the lifestyle and ideas of a modern society that we find in Scandinavia. And the way we today relate to topical issues like gender norms and climate change.
When you look into the future, what do you see? How will menswear develop onwards?
— We live in a digital society where new influences become more and more important. This will also affect the future of how we create, buy, and experience fashion. The whole world of AI and the technical developments in the meta world are just a few examples of this, says Giertz-Mårtenson. She adds:
— Fashion in general is always influenced by society and the way we live. That will undoubtedly continue. So I believe that the trends towards a basic similarity in looks between women and men will continue — always based on general influences like function, sustainability and respect for personal integrity. What I hope above all is that this book will be the beginning of a serious discussion about men’s fashion and about masculinity and clothing; that other books will be written on the subject, that the media will pay attention to it, and that the subject will be discussed in a serious and forward-looking way.
And you mention that meta-fashion and AI will influence menswear onwards. How?
— In the AI and meta-world, creativity sometimes becomes a process of something outside of the human brain. We do not yet know how this will influence the way we create, experience, buy, and wear fashion — but I believe it is undoubtedly going to play a major role.