Skinny on men's clothes for spring Fashion: Sit up and take notice, boys. Poly, body-hugging, pleat- busting styles are suddenly in tight with the designers. Start working up your confidence.


NEW YORK -- It's a man's world in Manhattan's fashion district where designers are showing their menswear lines for spring of '97.

Nowhere else on earth this week will one find fashionably polished, barbered and tailored males turned out in such numbers. The unseasonably cool weather cooperated, and the stylish ones of the industry and media are turned out in all-over black.

You don't get this much guy glamour in the provinces where a totally fashionable male stands out like like a shiitake mushroom in the onion dip.

This was nowhere else as apparent as at Calvin Klein's show, where the Calvin claque wore his black statement. One imagines, however, they were true to his white undies. The female CK staffers who worked the seating were Calvinized in black, too, dressed in a boot-cut skinny pantsuit uniform looking like the quintessential usherettes.

It was a different story on his runway, where color was the breath of next spring. Nothing jolting, just neutrals like black, charcoal, ivory, sand and mustard with a kick of Wedgewood blues, greens and lavenders.

Klein says his clothes are "for the modern man -- confident, with a straightforward masculine sexiness." Right. The lineup of the best-looking models in the business looked like a gaggle of toothsome gas station attendants in their tight jeans, tight polos and work-shirt jackets. Cute. Hair was worked into pomaded little butch flips in front. Cuter.

Things got funkier with Wolfgang Joop, who knows how to run with an idea, whatever that is. His idea for next spring is upscale thrift shop, with inspiration by those awful poly leisure separates that your grandfather may still be wearing much to the family's embarrassment.

There were dubious plaid flat-front, slightly flared pants held up by wide and shiny lizard belts in turquoise, orange and canary yellow. There were nasty poly-color pink, baby blue and mint green leisure shirts. There were old-man, mismatched suit jackets and trousers. On studly and hip models it worked. Fashion amateurs shouldn't even think it.

Nicole Farhi presented updated clothes for the yacht club and cabana crowd, proof that trends can be translated for men of means. She had high-water, skinny white pants, bright and clean striped pullover shirts and ritzy windbreakers. They were clothes for folks with summer homes -- folks like David Lauren, who graced the front row. The son of Ralph and editor of Swing, the magazine for thinking Gen-Xers, was young, confident style personified in his pinstripe blazer, comfy khakis, scruffy tennies and a mop of great hair. You either have it or you don't.

So what will menswear manufacturers be selling next spring? There are common signals.

Lean cuts. Forget the relaxed and roomy old Italian line. Suits are close to the body in a boxy jacket and narrow, natural shoulder.

Flat-front pants. They are tapered to skinny to cuff or not. The newest have a tab-front closure and are not belted. Think of vintage Sansabelt numbers. Forget pleats.

Unforgiving knit tops. T-shirts and polos are shown muscle-shirt tight and tucked in. In silk and shimmery fibers they accent every rippling muscle. Less-than-perfect physiques may buy them a little roomier, but the oversize, hide-everything Tees are dead. They're great for polishing the Porsche.

Stretch. Men have discovered what women have known for years. Elastic fibers allow easier movement, so designers are building stretch into tailored clothing as well as workout wear.

The color purple. It's seen in dusty shades in tailored clothes, violent violet shimmer shirts and soft lilac jeans. It may even be the color of the next power tie.

Pinstripes. Chalked, doubled and even in silver in black, charcoal, navy and brown.

The color turquoise. It's the surprise jolt and takes getting used to.

Shiny fabric finishes. Glossy synthetics look natural in boat and rain wear, but shine is also being shown in lacquered jeans, glazed toppers and iridescent suit blends.

It is in the middle of the decade that fashion finds its definition. Menswear has settled into the '90s and it is lean.

Pub Date: 7/25/96

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