Tan France: It's Time To Choose Your Next Move

13 September 2020
Fashion, Tan France, Post-pandemic style, Mental Health
Image: Illustration by Michael Hoeweler
Post-pandemic style is going to be electric. But first, says our style columnist, you need to select your tribe

Over the past few months, I’ve been asked more than a few times “What does style look like when life comes back: when we’re back at work, when we have a vaccine?”

There’s no simple answer. But I think there will be two radically different schools of thought.

The first will be ultra-decadence. If you go way, way back to the late ’40s, Dior ushered in a “New Look” era, dripping with elegance and polish. Post-war, it was more than just a new “look” – it was a new outlook, too. I wonder if we’ll find it all over again.

We’ve been deprived of making an effort with our style, deprived of social moments, of access to clothing, and many, many people have been deprived of income, too. So, I wonder whether a large portion of us will think, “Hey, I’m done being stifled. I want to dress up again. I want to show the world my creativity again.”

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The other camp? They’ll be so used to comfort and practicality that they’ll shed their desire for stuffy clothing altogether. Men of style everywhere have realised that comfort is paramount; they’ve gone so long without wearing an oxford or a brogue that, why yes, they do prefer the way their feet sit in a sneaker, or the way their necks feel without a tie or collar. To me, this attitude will be subversive and chic: embracing a full sweatsuit, trying the chunky sneaker, and changing-up the way we choose to present ourselves work – even if it’s only a little.

The Emmys are coming this month, and I’ve been pondering, as a nominee, what I’ll wear when I watch from home and potentially accept an award. And you know what? I think I’ll wear sweats. Just one time, I’d love to have the experience of going to the biggest event of the year in sweats. Glorious, cosy, easy-going sweats. What a way to stick it to the man and say, “Your regulations are archaic and unnecessary.” What does “black tie” even mean in this no-rules style era?

I must note that I’m not talking about streetwear, per se. I’m talking about sweats in particular. I’ve no doubt that you’ve noticed the many fashion brands that have fallen victim to the pandemic – they’re almost uniformly brands that are higher-end and work on trend-based collections. Peek the other side of the coin, and you’ll notice that brands like Scott Sternberg’s Entireworld have seen a huge uptick in sales.

Sternberg, you might remember, was famed for his skinny, tailored brand of rock and roll at Band of Outsiders. These days, he’d rather be wearing hoodies. And his hunch that everyone else would has paid off.

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So, these are your two soon-to-be-realised orbits of style: the new decadent and the super cosy. Those who want to make up for lost time, and those who refuse to let go of newfound sartorial freedom. And when they emerge, both parties will be feeling intensely that their style is a way of expressing that they are finally free.

Now, I’d love to say that I’m going to be the person who will double-down on sweats. But I cannot tell you how desperate I am to peacock. I think that people who work in my industry – and people that care about fashion in general – are ready to flash their best wares for even the most mundane activities.

The experience of this pandemic has reminded me how clothing can affect the way you feel about yourself. I’ve spoken – and written here, often – about how the way that we present ourselves can so directly impact our mental health. Those first few days of the pandemic, I thought the ordeal would be over in a matter of weeks. I didn’t think about what I was putting on. I didn’t think about putting myself together well. And, when I looked in the mirror, I looked miserable. I felt like I had let myself down. Yes, what we wear matters. I’ve learned that all over again these past few months.

Last week, I went out to brunch for the first time in five months – outdoors and with masks on, thank you. I won’t do it again anytime soon, but I must admit, I made the most of the moment.

It was 9am  on a Sunday. I wore a pair of high-waisted trousers and a beautiful silk button-up. I wore a jacket that was very extra (for Salt Lake City, in particular), and every piece of jewellery that I own. I wanted to feel nice again. It was more than my old self would ever have worn. But it was exactly what my current self needed. I just wanted to feel excited about clothes again. I’ve got a feeling that that will continue.