Bright ideas

From the links to the boardroom, menswear dials up the color and slims down the fit.

Men's fashion is fitted and bursting with color this summer. From seersucker sports jackets to Madras plaid shorts and polos in jelly-bean shades, punchy brights are making a manly statement.

"It's the Ivy League look on drugs," said Les Richards, owner of Les Richards Menswear in the Shops at Liberty Place.

The pop of color in men's fashion is quite refreshing - especially on the golf course, where basic tans and stripes have ruled for so long. But men can give color a chance in the boardroom, too: This might just be the summer to pair a fruit-punch shirt and a contrasting tie in pale pink with tiny orange polka dots.

The look also is about novelty. Staid khaki Bermudas have become a tad shorter and feature embroidered kites, sailboats, and - our favorite - martini glasses. Seersucker suits don't feel so 1920s anymore, even with spectator shoes. Want to try seersucker with plaid? Go for it. And the fedora is not just for Justin Timberlake.

Of course Polo and LaCoste emblems continue to rule the men's casual-shirt world in bolder fire-engine reds, kelly greens, and Sunkist oranges, but designer Robert Godley's sherbet-shaded Psycho Bunny shirts are gaining fashion ground.

"Lime green, powder blue - these were brights we didn't see in menswear at all 10 years ago," said Ralph Yaffe, a co-owner of Boyds on Chestnut Street. "There is a renaissance in menswear."

And the renaissance doesn't stop with casual wear.

Suiting is showing a renewed interest in details, with more fitted jackets featuring visible stitching, wider lapels, and side vents.

Hacking pockets (set on an angle below the ribcage and rooted in equestrian wear) and ticket pockets (inside the right-hand waist pocket and once used to keep railroad and theater tickets safe) are morphing into modern elements.

"Even more interesting is we are seeing these details cross into casual wear," Richards added. Hybrid jackets merge the classic sportcoat silhouette with more relaxed details - exposed zippers, bigger buttons, even denim.

"Younger guys really aren't into wearing classic sports coats," Richards said.

It was five years ago when we first saw the newer colors and shapes. Rapper Jay-Z replaced the oversized sports jersey with a more tailored button-down, signifying to the masses that a mature look was in vogue.

In the years following, designer labels Paul Smith, Ben Sherman, and Thom Browne not only experimented with color, but also shrank the silhouette for shirts and sportcoats. And in pants, baggy pleats were replaced with streamlined flat fronts.

Now the fit - although harder to wear - is so much fresher.

"Guys you would never think would wear anything like this are experimenting with color and fit now," Yaffe said. "Attorneys, businessmen - it's what happens after people see it in Hollywood. They make the look their own."

 


Contact fashion writer Elizabeth Wellington at 215-854-2704 or ewellington@phillynews.com.