Something new, something blue Fashion: Men are taking to a shirt of intense blue as a striking alternative to the standard oxford blue.


Jolts and excitements in the men's fashion cycle are so few that when something actually happens men listen. They're now paying attention to shirts of a particular blue.

In nature that color is periwinkle. Inasmuch as periwinkle doesn't have a particularly manly ring, the hot new blue is being called French, cobalt, azure and other deeps. The color is strong, intense and handsome, and the idea that those color qualities may rub off on the wearer may account for some of its new popularity.

That shade first popped up in America two years ago at the men's designer collections. Some of the trendiest males attending the shows broke out in tone-on-tone blue shirts and solid ties. They looked sexy, they looked vigorous, they looked employed, they made the black-on-black pack look like slackers.

Although the color is generically known as French blue in the apparel industry, the Italians are responsible for its cachet. Milanese and Florentine industrialists have always been partial to strong blues, a preference that may be a reaction to white shirts which in Europe are the uniform of aspiring civil servants. In America the white shirt still rules the executive suite, but the color wheel is turning.

"We inaugurated that blue over two years ago and it met with such immediate success that we have now rolled it over in many variations in textures, patterns as well as broadcloth," says Michael Gorelick, vice president of product development for Phillips-Van Heusen, the dress shirt company that produces labels like Geoffrey Beene, Aigner, Bass and private stock for top retailers like Bloomingdale's.

At Brooks Brothers Clothiers there's the story that Sean Connery in a French blue shirt in "Just Cause" stirred up sales. Connery would certainly be a selling point with adult women who coach the way their men dress.

Julie Downs, manager of the Brooks Brothers store here, says deep blues are moving remarkably well and men are asking for the French blue spread collar and French cuff style.

Men pursuing a fashion? Definitely. Eddie Steinberg, owner of J.S. Edwards here, says he has the blue wave covered.

"We do it in a couple of different ways from textured twills to finished broadcloth. The Hugo Boss blue with a concealed button under the collar gets a lot of attention," he says. "Men are looking for that blue now that they've figured it out."

We are seeing that rare convergence of trendy and mainstream thinking. Warren Christopher, clothing and grooming editor of Men's Health magazine, has a practical nuts-and-bolts appraisal of the French blue phenomenon. "It's a power shirt as opposed to that washed-out oxford blue. It has pizazz and everybody looks good in it. A French blue shirt with French cuffs has powerful style."

Pub Date: 9/19/96

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