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Neutrals Are More Than a Starting Point in Men’s Fashion

A strange turn of events has made “basic” cool once again, especially in men’s fashion. While peacocking on social media in maximalist labels like Gucci had a time and place pre-COVID-19, recent data by retail data analytics company Edited shows that demand is shifting back to neutral foundational pieces in men’s wear.

With the future of quarantine unknown and many employers allowing their employees to work from home until the start of 2021 or until a proven vaccine becomes available, consumers are opting for “smarter apparel purchases” that suit their homebody lifestyles, Edited reported.

As a result, loungewear in neutral colorways is becoming an area of investment. Retailers are responding by bulking up their neutral comfort stories. T-shirts remain the top-stocked category, followed by shorts and hoodies. Tracksuits, buoyed by the revival of ’90s streetwear made famous by Michael Jordan, are also seeing a “heavy increase” in year-over-year arrivals, Edited reported.

The comeback of the tracksuit is a reflection of the greater overall demand for coordinating pieces in men’s wear. Here, Edited said, retailers have an opportunity to refresh their co-ords selection with “calming” neutrals that men can easily “pair back” with other items in their closets into this fall and next spring.

Beyond loungewear

Though garments in the beige and khaki color family are strong for summer, sage green, spiced orange and navy blue, Edited said, are safe colors to bet on for fall for loungewear and knits and tailored pieces for holiday. Tan suiting in technical or plush fabrics has a chance to pick up momentum, too, as it straddles both the demand for neutral colors and the ongoing ’70s revival in men’s wear.

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Edited shows that demand is shifting back to neutral foundational pieces in men’s wear.
Kayne West for Adidas AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews

The prevalence of neutrals in men’s fashion is also teeing up linen as a fabrication to watch.

Mentions of linen fabric grew 9 percent year over year across retail emails in Q2, Edited reported. The natural and lightweight fabric is a solution for dressed-up looks amid rising temperatures, which Edited noted is something retailers should keep in mind for Spring/Summer ’21.

Meanwhile, consumers’ growing appreciation for comfort and cozy apparel will likely carry into the fall with an emphasis on tactile knits and outerwear, Edited added.

Cargo drop

With utility and practicality at the forefront of consumers’ minds, neutral colors and cargo bottoms are shaping up to be a powerful combination in men’s wear. Google searches for cargo shorts have been strong since lockdown, but Edited expects to see the trend evolve into cargo joggers and vests this fall.

Cargos also have a seal of approval by Yeezy founder Kanye West, who will include cargo bottoms his hyped collaboration with Gap in 2021. In general, Edited noted that streetwear brands like Yeezy are well positioned to offer neutral garments with elements like pockets, zips, buckles and tech fabrics.

And with neutrals of all shades pairing well together, retailers have an opportunity this fall to merchandise cargo bottoms with other functional garments in muted tones. “Look to commercial winners like trench coats and shirt jackets to layer over T-shirts and polos to emphasize a utilitarian-inspired aesthetic,” Edited wrote.