Ali Ahmed likes to call himself a man of fashion. For this student of art, style is a simple matter: Mix and match with abandon, innovate, experiment and create an identity. Like most of his friends, he finds conventional ‘boring’ and takes pleasure in creating his own personal statements. ‘There’s no fun sporting traditional looks. But putting together our own style is creative, fun and extremely satisfying,’ says the 22-year-old. And his friends agree.
Let’s face it: Not too long ago, a peek into a man’s wardrobe would invariably reveal faded jeans, a couple of white Tees, a button-down jacket and a hoodie, with a formal shoe and a worn out sandal completing the collection. But today, ‘dude fashion’, particularly in the UAE, is all about bold personal statements and experimentation, underscored by a growing awareness of niche global trends, respect for culture and a desire to stand out from the crowd.
Prada and Givenchy fearlessly rub shoulders with feisty street side jeans, colourful, retro neck scarves and sequinned jackets, even as sneakers, pompadours, funky backpacks, mismatched prints and minimalism lend their own unique voice to the entire male persona. Bigger, bolder and better seems to be the mantra here, in this riot of colour, creativity and innovation.
‘Style is all about personality and personal preferences, it’s what you feel comfortable in,’ says Gary Sweeney, brand and style director at Ascots & Chapels. ‘When you feel comfortable in what you are wearing you will look good.’
That is a sentiment millennials seem to echo. ‘I wear whatever I feel good in, I don’t care what other people think,’ says Rami Abbas, Ali’s friend. ‘When I feel good, I end up having a good day and everything goes well.’
So, what’s hot this season? With regard to suit trends, says Gary, ‘a pastel colour palette and a looser silhouette in terms of tailoring than what we have seen in the seasons past, is trendy.’
Yes, tailoring is back, and elegant suits with bare chests are now a thing.
Shorts are hot
Shorts are still around, guys, and you’ll be surprised at the variety of prints, shades and designs available. ‘With the summer heat here, another trend I am loving is shorts for men. And the good news is that it is available in varied options in amazing prints and pastel colours,’ says Rajan.
We think short shorts and ultra-short shorts are all the rage. Pair it with a solid coloured T-shirt and jacket of the same colour, and you’re set to ramp up the fashion quotient.
Styles may come and go, but there is one fabric that everyone loves – a perennial, all-weather favourite. Give it up for the denim, people.
‘Denim is our choice, for both formal and casual,’ says Raphael Rodriguez, 24, a Dubai-based golfer and party animal. ‘Denim is comfortable, versatile and trendy, good for all seasons.’
Sandhya Rajan, CEO and founder of SASH Fashion, Dubai, agrees. ‘Denim is your evergreen classic,’ he says. ‘Trend wise, I love the bigger is better look of denim.’
Indeed, bigger is better this year, as skinny jeans becomes passé, and the Double Denim (yes!), the Nineties Denim, the Distressed Denim and the Dad Denim rock the man’s world. Pair this with a loose blue denim jacket and a dark, tight-fitting top, and you have the coolest trend in town.
As Canella Hostal of Canella Hostal Couture, says: ‘Pairing designer denims with a high street tee, and pairing your breguet with your sports jacket and denims is now acceptable and looks good.’ But no, the boot cut isn’t making a comeback.
Mix 'n' match
Not everyone is a fan of the iconic denim, though. Siddharth Singh, a Dubai-based marketing professional, prefers to steer clear of the denim and mix nylon and satin formals with smart casuals and contrasting colours and styles. ‘My favourite would have to be a canary yellow blazer with a grey T-shirt and formal grey trousers,’ he says. ‘Bright, vibrant colours are such mood-lifters.’
Haroon Tahir, fashion content creator and an avid fashion blogger, concurs. ‘Bold prints and colours are certainly back in style and it’s the perfect season to get out of your comfort zone and experiment.
‘The two big colours of the season are sage and canary yellow. Neutral tones like beige, ivory and grey are also very much in style,’ he says. ‘Printed suits and pin stripes are a great trend too and I love the windowpane and plaid prints as they really help differentiate your suit. Rich-coloured suits are also popular.’
However, one needs to be a tad cautious when opting for the ‘mismatch’ look. One piece of advice: Take it easy, because unless you know exactly what goes and how, you might end up looking like an episode of ‘Art Attack’.
For those looking for something a bit offbeat, cropped trousers with a long-sleeved jersey shirt is an absolute stunner and very ‘now’. With a good physique, we reckon the male of the species could pull this off with style and panache.
‘This is a very popular look and trend and can look well, when done right,’ says Gary, of Ascots & Chapels. ‘But the trouser hem should fall right at the ankle and no shorter, or you may look like you are preparing for a flood. Pair these ankle grazers with a fresh pair of trainers for a modern smart casual look.’
Another upcoming trend, that of combining the vintage with the modern, is something that Canella Hostal would vouch for.
‘Pairing clothes that are modern with a vintage twist has always been in the loop and is currently all the rage,’ she says. ‘A combination of the modern and the vintage is what makes your look different. The best is when your look has a story to tell, especially if your belt or your watch [is an antique piece] and belonged to your great grand-father.’
She is also of the opinion that suits with long, oversized shoulders are ‘in’ this year. ‘We are back in the ’80s with a bit of exaggeration: the bigger the better, like Kenzo.’
In the midst of all of this, the one thing everyone’s mum about – the leather jacket. ‘That’s a tricky one to wear,’ says Rami Abbas. ‘I’d rather not wear it; it is neither formal nor casual, and spoils the look.’
Men’s fashion, of course, doesn’t end there. Dudes love their accessories as much as they love their clothes. There are few men out there who wouldn’t want the perfect accessory to add that extra ‘oomph’ to their style quotient. ‘I want to be perfectly dressed when I step out,’ admits Siddharth Singh, a marketing professional. ‘And accessories are such a big part of who I am. If my clothes are stylish and my accessories cheap, that’s something I wouldn’t even want to think of.’
So what is everyone’s favourite fashion accessory? There is, it would seem, only one winner: Shoes. And why shoes? ‘Shoes are visible and are a huge part of grooming. They make a distinct statement and have their own identity,’ says Amro Bastin, a young entrepreneur based in the UAE.
When on footwear, Steve Madden has a lot to offer.
‘Versatility is the favourite word to describe this season’s shoe trend,’ notes Satish Patil, senior brand manager of Steve Madden. ‘White sneakers are the essential summer footwear that can pull off any look – be it smart casual or effortlessly classy. From tassels and horsebit to penny loafers, suede and laceless loafers, these are some of the biggest shoe trends this season in men’s footwear.’
That’s not to say the Brogue, the suede or the sturdy leather boots have gone out of style. ‘Suede is my all-time favourite,’ says Ali Ahmed. ‘These are classy and speak a lot about who I am-refined, elegant and very fashion forward,’ he adds.
Sporting the latest shades and cuts are all fine, but to complete the look, you need to be perfectly groomed, to boot.
Haircuts seem to be getting bolder and more ‘out there’. Jun Ausa of Brusko Barbers, who calls the place the ‘true gentleman’s barber shop’ in Dubai’s JLT, says guys these days pop by wanting ‘something different’.
Going by what’s most in demand, he feels skin fade haircuts and undercut with long top are – and will – still be popular all year. ‘Pompadours with high fade, disconnected undercut, short sides with long textured top and for those who like it short, GI crew-cut, high fade with spiky hair and Caesar cuts are also very much sought-after,’ says Jun.
Claude Hachache, co-partner and director of Powered by Claude has a slightly different take on grooming. ‘Men’s hair trends to look out for in 2019 could swing two ways – textured and messy or military styles. Actually, a lot would depend on the person’s personality and how bold or settled he would like his hair to be.
‘In the UAE, men’s haircut is slightly different due to culture boundaries. We see most men opting for clean cuts with short sides and back, while some favour keeping the top long and sleek especially for work. A few others prefer textured and messy.’
As for hair colour, subtle tones are ‘in’, with platinum, copper brown, and ash grey being the preferred shades of choice.
To add some oomph to your face, nothing like dressing it up with a pair of classy shades. Aviators are still much sought after despite the many newer designs and colours in the market, say those with an eye for style.
As for arm candy, vintage watches are still standing the test of time.
To add some extra pizazz, dress up your finger with a vintage ring. Yes, they too are making a comeback, for their discreet, timeless appeal.
What’s hot, what’s not
Hot: bold colours, mix 'n' match
Not: boot cut trousers, leather jackets
• Bold haircuts
• Vintage watches and rings