Menswear 2.0

There was a story on GQ.com today about the potential resurrection of #menswear. Cam Wolf wrote this piece about what we are likely to see following COVID-19 and the economic catastrophe that we are collectively navigating. We spoke on the phone earlier this week for the story and he kindly included me throughout. Cam told me that it was cool to see me dust off the WordPress and blog again. More precisely he said that I, “got my jersey down from the rafters.” It was nice to hear that from him, but it was also nice for me to have the actual inspiration to write something again.

It was interesting to think back to 2008/2009 when the world quasi-imploded and we all felt the effects of a recession. It was following this time that ACL came into its own. A lot of stuff that I was into at that moment happened to fit with the collective feeling and trends of the time. Things just took off. I was probably as surprised as anyone.

ACL became an unlikely force in the menswear revolution that was taking shape. I worked in PR and my inspiration was always the journalists across the aisle from magazines like GQ, Esquire, Details, The New York Times and many more that have since closed. I attempted to be positive in my stories (but obviously not the comments) and tried to be as fair and transparent as I could. ACL became a source of income for me eventually and it was commercial, but it was never my primary source of money. I wanted it to be real and wanted to cover brands and people who inspired me. It was never about advertisers or affiliate or press trips. Though I was pulled into all of that to one degree or another and some of it I regret participating in. I can’t blame people for wanting to take advantage of opportunities like press trips and free shit. It’s hard to go from being in debt from a recession to being offered a luxury trip and not just going for it. I suppose you live and you learn.

At a point later in 2014 I had contributors carrying the weight of the site. I think that I had spent long enough celebrating some product launch or looking for stories and I was just tired of doing it. The contributors were a good bridge but eventually I just decided to go on hiatus. The site felt like a job and that I had to post regardless if I was inspired or not. Things were happening in menswear that were either anti to my personal taste or just boring to me. None of those things helped me keep writing.

In 2016 I moved from New York to Los Angeles. My life had changed a lot which factored into the desire to get out of NYC. I was married, we wanted to have children and I was not interested in living in a New York suburb or raising a city kid. California seemed like a dream to me. I just felt like there’s a better lifestyle in the west. (Little did I know that California social distanced long before COVID.) New York had started to feel like an airline loyalty program. I could work hard to get status which would make my experience less painful, but there’s always going to be some degree of discomfort involved.

More and more I was just not inspired. Part of that was being in L.A. and being out of the mix. Part of it was what was happening on Instagram and in fashion in general. Pitti got fucking weird. Instagram makes me more depressed than happy. Streetwear is not it for me. Not participating was my form of protest.

Before social media the way people discovered things was slightly challenged. People needed help from editors and bloggers to filter and find things. Now people just use Instagram. It seems like now the only way people know anything is because they found it on Instagram. My favorite hotel in Ischia was straight-up ruined by Instagram (to which I am partially to blame). Tom Kalenderian from Barneys told me to go there and for the first 5 years I almost never met another American in Ischia. Now it’s blowing up Instagram every summer — filled with New Yorkers and now I can’t bear to go back. I recognize that I am part of the same problem I am complaining about. But the pace of these things is amplified by Instagram in a way that is just too much for me. By the way, Tom is a genius and I’m lucky to know him and have learned a lot from him. There aren’t many smarter or kinder in menswear than Tom.

While I strongly dislike streetwear and a lot of popular fashion now, I realize that everyone goes through a process of figuring out what their style really is. Me not liking it doesn’t really mean anything and shouldn’t. If something makes you happy then you should absolutely go for it. I’m a strong believer that people should wear and do what makes them happy and I don’t want to stand in the way of that. I feel like this pandemic is going to change all of that though — and that’s what Cam was saying too.

It’s been a lot to process exactly what is happening to the world, but priorities become clearer every day. I’m surrounded by a lot of my possessions — almost being strangled by them. They are inescapable for us at this point. Why do I have so much shit? So many shoes. So many bags. So many sets of golf clubs. Boredom probably? Or maybe it’s compulsion gone awry. If I’ve learned anything during COVID-19 its that I don’t need all of this shit. This isn’t me starring into a recession thinking I need to cut back on my shopping, this is more about feeling weighed down by all of this stuff. It barely made me happy when I acquired it and it’s making me unhappy now. It’s time to move on from consumption as I knew it.

I’m still inspired by small companies, by craftspeople and old things that have survived for a long time. When you confront a generational event like this pandemic, you start to better understand what it might have been like to live through WWII or the Great Depression. It’s hard for businesses to navigate these events and we should better appreciate the things that have. They deserve a sort of preferential treatment from us. That’s why it’s worth spending the money to buy a pair of Crockett & Jones shoes or support a small tailor like J. Meuser — who was also quoted in Cam’s story. Jake said something poignant in the story. “You can be spending the same amount on a bespoke suit—but it’s from a small tailor. It’s not just me, it’s any kind of independent brand where you just feel like, ‘Okay, this is like a place where I want my money to be.’’’

While I’m feeling a bit hoarders-adjacent as I shelter at home — Jake said it better. If you are going to buy something, why not support something you want to exist in the future? A small tailor, a restaurant you love or a brand you know could use the help. If there’s any silver lining in things maybe it will be that the re-mapping of our consumer brain will hopefully have an impact on the looming disaster of climate change.

Maybe it will also wake people up to the fact that while there are many amazing aspects of globalization, offshoring and consolidated manufacturing — it often comes at a high price.

In this moment of reflection it occurs to me that we can’t keep going down the road we have been. While I don’t think I will ever be pulled back into ACL in the same way that I once was, I’m invigorated with the idea that we are going to see a bit of a reset in fashion and in social media. I’m excited at the possibility for all of us to appreciate things in a different and real way.


Comments on “Menswear 2.0

    Shaun Barneveldon April 23, 2020 @ 7:32 PM:

    Michael, that was amazing to read. I know how you feel and I’m excited to see what is to happen. Keep up the good work in any way that makes you happy. Always nice to read your thoughts on ACL no matter how infrequent.

    Sally Hirston April 23, 2020 @ 8:26 PM:

    Yes, I’ve always tried to support small business, not global brands and I will try even harder in future.
    We must make a change, if we want the world to change. Thanks Michael.

    Joe pon April 23, 2020 @ 9:37 PM:

    He’s back. You’re the man, Michael.

    Kyle R.on April 23, 2020 @ 9:55 PM:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. They are relatable and sincere and I’m sure many others will be moved and inspired by them as I️ was.

    Tim T.on April 23, 2020 @ 11:42 PM:

    Inspired thinking and writing. Thank you.

    Joe Heneyon April 24, 2020 @ 12:11 AM:

    thanks Micheal, I enjoyed that article quite a bit. aloha

    David Yon April 24, 2020 @ 8:06 AM:

    Well said sir. Glad to have you back.

    Sam Jacobson April 24, 2020 @ 8:56 AM:

    Well said, Michael. I also like the Don Draper image – reminds me of the ACL posts of yore.

    BRYCE BLAIRon April 24, 2020 @ 9:17 AM:

    As I was puttering in the garage over the weekend, I kept saying to myself, why am I surrounded by so much stuff? I immediately started filling the trash can. Well said, Micheal – we all need a reset at times.

    SeanSkeon April 24, 2020 @ 9:32 AM:

    PXG is having a heckuva sale on 0211s today, if anyone’s interested in helping them stay afloat

    Paulon April 24, 2020 @ 11:07 AM:

    Always support small businesses it’s not an easy job. Thank you Michael for confirming what has been on my mind for 5 weeks or so

    bateman233on April 24, 2020 @ 11:27 AM:

    Thank you for this post. I completely agree with your sentiments on the destructive wake of Instagram. Everything that I once cherished feels ruined or extremely over saturated by Instagram. Especially menswear. Gone is that feeling you’ve discovered something organically or that a look or product is your own little slice of uniqueness in the world. Now anything that gets labeled unique or special, quickly gets the dollar store branding treatment. The valuable gets devalued overnight.

    Specifically to menswear, what’s the next paradigm shift in how we dress? Or are we going to keep the merry go round of menswear trends going.

    Patrick M.on April 24, 2020 @ 2:35 PM:

    Thank you, sir. By far the most civil I have ever witnessed the Comments

    Jakeon April 24, 2020 @ 7:53 PM:

    Thank you, Michael. Glad to see you’re back.

    Cobey Williamsonon April 25, 2020 @ 11:39 AM:

    Best post on ACL yet.

    Martyon April 25, 2020 @ 11:26 PM:

    Vitalised and essential. Really value this kind of writing.

    whiskeydenton April 27, 2020 @ 8:40 AM:

    Perhaps we are transitioning from a time in which we turned wants into needs to an era in which we accept that the latest thing might not be the most important thing. Do you need the black single monks to go with black doubles?

    Dick Carrollon April 30, 2020 @ 1:38 PM:

    Thanks for the inspired piece mate, a lot of complex and conflicting things here that I couldn’t agree more with.

    Ruslevon April 30, 2020 @ 2:48 PM:

    good to see you back-always a fun read

    David Fon April 30, 2020 @ 6:29 PM:

    Reset 2020!

    nice thougths Michael

    Rich Shadrinon May 1, 2020 @ 3:28 PM:

    The rise of micro-brands started by brave entrepreneurs is bringing craft back into style and style back into vogue. Just a walk through, what was once run down manufacturing space in Brooklyn, is filled with great artisans — and artists — conceiving and making everything from wristwatches, knives, chef tools, to pens, jeans, shoes, leather of all kinds, etc. It is not the borough in which I grew up in the 60’s. I look to sate my unquenchable thirst for all things well designed, finely and lovingly built. And the passion of owners and staff is so potent it comes across in emails, discussions, chats and during purchases. There’s great pride here and I own more from Brooklyn now then I did in the heyday of mass manufacturing

    Gedon May 1, 2020 @ 4:10 PM:

    Michael, welcome back. When Maslow’s bottom rung has been pulled from beneath us we seem to suddenly see clearly what is important. It is relationships, those special things close to us, the talents of those around us worth supporting and not the phoney global brand led “consume me if you want to be in my gang” mentality that has become the new normal. It is time for honesty, authenticity, community.

    TexOurTexon May 8, 2020 @ 5:22 PM:

    I read this as, “I’m sorry I helped create the FE Castelberrys of this world”

    Jasonon May 21, 2020 @ 11:05 PM:

    God I hope you are right MW. The summer of 2010 was one of the best of my life. And one of the things I remember the most fondly was getting up and looking for a post on ACL. Every so often I even go back through and read all the old posts from the archives.

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