A New Romantic revival at the SS18 global Fashion Week Men’s showcases marks the shift to a more carefree way of dressing

In an age of political, economic and even societal uncertainty, it seems fitting that this season’s menswear collections have adopted a rebellious boundary-breaking disposition. Drawing inspiration from the early 1980s club scene, the global Men’s Fashion Week’s SS18 offerings paid homage to the original rule breakers and style architects of 80s pop culture with a showcase that harked back to the emergence of the New Romantic fashion style.

With distinct ties to the New Wave music landscape that manifested itself in the renowned hedonistic clubs and bars of London and Manchester, New Romanticism was famously advocated by cult boy bands Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran - both of whom displayed flamboyant get ups that took their cues from historical dress. Who can forget Martin Kemp’s pillar box red military jacket?

Acting as an almost backlash against its predecessor, the riotous punk movement, the New Romantic style moved away from angst-ridden, politically charged dressing, and instead offered a sense of escapism. That’s not to say that the New Romantic style isn’t imbued with the insubordinate punk sensibility, but it’s less aggressive and is more about having fun, with a undeniable feel-good air.

Having gained popularity as a stylist through the 70’s punk era, Judy Blame ran away to London aged just 17 before eventually running the club night ‘Cha-Chas’ in London’s Heaven venue alongside hairdresser Scarlett Cannon.

During the mid-1980s, along with designers John Moore and Christopher Nemeth, Blame was part of a collective called ‘The House of Beauty and Culture’, Blame acting as consultant for the notoriously outspoken Boy George, helping concoct outlandish outfits for Culture Club’s tours. His anti-establishment outlook resulted in a homespun creation of oversized pieces of jewellery that became iconic to Boy George’s gender-bending aesthetic.

“The New Romantics sold fashion. Once the media clocked on to the column inches made possible by all these crazy kids dressing up, it realised it had found an audience of young people,” says Blame of the New Romantic movement. “In a sense it was their version of running away from home, the thing that helped them discover what they wanted,” he states.

Even in today’s contemporary music scene artists have jumped on the New Romantic style of dressing, in particular The 1975 frontman Matt Healy. Healy uses his clothing as a form of self expression on stage as the band tours the festival circuit, throwing together his trademark skinny jeans and an exaggerated undone shirt. often sporting billowing sleeves and subtle ruffle necks. He brings the look bang up to date with delicate layered jewellery, beaten up Chelsea boots and statement sunglasses often in retro shapes, all of which complete his nonchalant showman presence.

It’s this sense of insubordination that found its way onto the spring catwalks, which is quite timely considering the current political, economic and even societal incongruity that Brexit and Trump have manifested.

Ann Demeulemeester’s SS18 showcase presented genderfluid suits in dusky rose pink, complete with slick black Chelsea style boots and simple lengthy chain necklaces adorned with a single peacock feather – a concoction of eclectic pieces reminiscent of the New Romantic’s discombobulated ideology of reinvention.

‘The New Romantics sold fashion. It had found an audience of young people’

Over at Topman’s SS18 catwalk presentation models wore masculine V-shaped necklines and exaggerated outerwear that were artfully juxtaposed against glitzy purple and blue ‘look-at-me’ makeup, proving that its design DNA is isintrinsically linked with that of the New Romantic movement while still synonymous with the current androgynous zeitgeist. Topman’s modern take on the trend pared down the dauntless scarlet and cobalt colourways of 80s dressing, and instead, revamped with a minimalist palette of monochrome peppered with slate grey across a range of loose peg leg trousers, innovative scuba fabrics and metallic leather biker jackets. In perhaps a welcome move to the menswear landscape the sportswear and skater aesthetic that has dominated the catwalks for the past few seasons looks as though it is on the retreat in favour of a more hedonistic semblance.

John Lawrence Sullivan also echoed this sentiment – presenting an amalgamation of post-punk designs. His SS18 collection centered around sharp colouring of jet black and fiery red that acted as the backdrop for wide shouldered, almost angular, jackets as well as slouchy trousers, studded belts and stompy platform boots – each giving of an 80s (although decidedly futuristic) Ziggy Stardust vibe. Bowie-esque metallic accents were also a common motif throughout the menswear shows, from Faith Connexion’s rock ‘n’ roll silver trousers, to plum hued patent jackets at AMI Paris. Even French design powerhouse Givenchy got in on the act by adding shiny red collars to gilet-style biker jackets. All of these looks wouldn’t appear out of place in the world of the nocturnal 80s club scene.

Some may argue that the New Romantic resurgence is due to an innate desire for escapism in today’s tumultuous socio-economic and political landscape, while others may attribute it to the breaking down of barriers between masculine and feminine dress, and the stylistic allure of non-conformity and genderfluidity. Whatever the reason for its revival, we wholeheartedly welcome its world of fantasy.