TORONTO - Menswear for the fall season is a study in style contrasts with apparel big on colour, prints and patterns but decidedly lean in look with a trimmer silhouette.
"There's certainly a return to tailored clothing in a big way," said Nancy Dennis, trend director for apparel and accessories for Sears Canada.
"It's not the suit that our dads wore — it's a much more modern, slim suit."
Melissa Austria, founder of Toronto menswear boutique Gotstyle, said double-breasted blazers and suits — a staple of 80s-era fashion — are also being modernized with a slimmer fit.
"We're seeing a lot more double-breasted jackets versus suits, and they're cut proportionately, so if you have them open, they still fall properly," she said. "But definitely, if you're sporting one of those, you're on-trend for the season."
Men needn't worry that looser-fitting garments are vanishing from the racks. Austria recalled when skinny jeans emerged several years ago and men with bigger legs couldn't wear them, manufacturers brought back the straight, relaxed cut as an alternative.
At present, she said menswear has a wealth of choice to suit differing sartorial tastes.
"There are two looks," said Austria. "It's either going to be that slim Euro narrow lapel — be it a peaked or notched lapel — with a smaller collar and a skinny tie. But at the same time, you still have that wider lapel, the Tom Ford influence, that's coming back again with the bigger collars and bigger ties.
"It's pretty much men are given the option to wear what works for them as opposed to being dictated to by the fashion people saying: `You've got to wear this.'"
Austria said there is a return to classic menswear fabrics but modernized in shape, with tweeds, herringbones and plaids being incorporated into contemporary apparel.
The sport coat is also being singled out as a fall wardrobe essential, a garment Dennis describes as a "transitional, transformational piece" that men can wear to the office as well as after-hours.
On the more casual side, polos are making way for updated incarnations of rugby shirts — trimmer, shorter, with a pop of colour in the stripe that can be teamed with a soft sport coat, Austria noted.
Austria and Dennis said paisley, plaids and checks are still prominent in shirts, but downsized in scale with micro prints and patterns.
Adding a dose of brightness to the fall men's wardrobe is the infusion of brighter shades in separates, part of a continuing colour trend from warmer weather fashions.
Dennis said coloured bottoms that have become de rigeur in womenswear are "totally commercial" on the men's side as well, citing red and cobalt blue among the top shades.
"If they didn't want to take the risk on colour, the shape would be the next thing," she said. "So if they wanted to stick to their traditional khaki chinos (in) sand colour or denim, they definitely can move more to a slimmer silhouette — and I think that's happening."
Austria said men gravitated towards colour in a big way particularly during the spring, embracing reds, bright blues and oranges among the array of shades.
"We're still seeing that into the fall, but richer and deeper; so wine colours, great greens, forest greens, deeper oranges, lots of brown," she said. "We're seeing brown start to happen in suits which we haven't seen for a while."
A "true blue" hue is also emerging in suits, an alternative to the traditional dark midnight navy that has had a presence, Austria noted. Hits of colour are even popping up on footwear with classic brogues, wingtips and cap toe shoes featuring coloured soles and shoelaces, she added.
After seven years in business and a background as a wholesaler selling to menswear stores, Austria has seen her share of changes in the industry. She said one notable shift she's observed is the awareness among men of all different age groups of the need to dress better.
"I think when we were in the 90s and early 2000s, the whole casual Friday, dress down was really predominant," she said. "And now it's gone back to business."