Arts : A little flash for you button-down types 

Gentlemen, it’s time to retire the French blue dress shirt and khaki trouser ensemble you’ve been wearing for far too long. Believe it or not, there are trends in men’s fashion, and they’re not just for rock stars.

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Like Superman, now every guy can have a secret under his clothing.

Granted, everyday men’s clothes tend to be conservative, and the choices limited. There are truly only four (appropriate) suits in a man’s wardrobe: black, gray, dark blue, and a pinstripe — in black, gray, or dark blue. Do men dress plainly because they have so few options, or are men’s clothes so plain because men are afraid to be more daring? If the former, a recent trend trickling down from the runways speaks to your secret desire to be witty and unexpected, to set yourself apart.

Tweak Chic, like most of the ebb and flow of men’s fashion, is more influenced by industrial design, architecture, and gadgetry than anything on the women’s runways. Tweak Chic blurs lines, mixing high culture with low, formal with casual, slick with natural. It’s a chandelier made of desk lamps, porcelain dinnerware resembling Styrofoam take-out containers. On the cat walk, it’s a tuxedo made of denim, sweatshirts cut like Mr. Roger’s cardigan. And in your local stores, Tweak Chic throws the office dress code into a spin by adding secret linings, hidden style messages, to your usual uniform.

Designers like Modern Amusement and Ben Sherman are lining the cuffs (especially French cuffs) and collars of unassuming solid or lightly striped shirts with bold colors and paisley prints. Buttoned up, only you know it’s there. Unbuttoned, there’s a flash of color; suddenly you have that little something extra. That staid pinstripe suitcoat, when casually slung over your chair, reveals a lining printed with riotous tabloid journalism or punk Victorian dogs. These surprise flashes of fabric are the men’s equivalent of delicate lingerie under a woman’s hard-shouldered power suit.

Remember when Lucky brand jeans came out in the ’90s? You unzipped the fly, and the inner tab revealed the words “LUCKY YOU.” Lucky, indeed. Mid-century, the perky pin-up hidden in the silk lining made that corporate necktie feel a little less like a noose. But today’s hidden details aren’t wink-wink, nudge-nudge. Tweak Chic, at its everyday level, offers men the opportunity to change the most ubiquitous of clothing items into something deeply personal and unique. Tweaks like these preserve a professional, conservative exterior, but only you (and those you trust) know beneath it all beats a secret heart, a little wild, a little bit rebellious.

- Leigh Baldwin



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