A new vibe is blowing through the menswear scene this winter.
In the corporate world, execs are trading in classic, boxy suits for soft, tailored blazers and relaxed trousers in soft herringbones and funky windowpane prints.
Meanwhile, men with a more casual style have (thankfully) moved beyond the slim-yet-droopy-backside jean to the fitted jogger-and-custom-sweatshirt combo. How do they pull it all together? With a sports jacket and velvet high-tops.
In other words, fashionable guys spent most of 2016 building wardrobes to reflect the new fashion reality - the tailored in-between.
"Men are dressing down, but they are also dressing up," said Jian DeLeon, senior menswear editor for the global trend forecasting firm WGSN. "It's the choose-your-own-adventure era in menswear. He's trying to figure out which rules he wants to break, depending on what he's feeling like and where he is in life."
Corporate dandies - since J.P. Morgan Chase's decision in June to allow employees to wear silk-blend chinos and cashmere pullovers - are going more cazh. The new breed of CEOs (Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Tumblr's David Karp) don't need stiff, classic looks to communicate power.
"We have guys who are coming in ready to try something more interesting and comfortable," said Matt Brown, vice president and general manager of Saks Fifth Avenue in Bala Cynwyd.
This fall, Saks introduced its seven office essentials: the refined top (a dressier polo), the perfect (tailored) pant, the hybrid shoe, the sporty suit, the clean sneaker, the easy layer, and the leather bag.
"The idea is to mix a more casual look like a sneaker or a pullover into his wardrobe mix," Brown said.
At the same time, guys are using the tailored pant or sporty suit to take their existing look up a notch. Men also are going more custom, not only for the three-button-blazer-and-vest-suit combos, but for their athletic wear. After all, athleisure requires a better fit - even among Philly dudes.
"These guys have spent the last few years learning about custom," said Brian Lipstein, the designer behind Henry A. Davidsen. "Now they want the rest of their wardrobe to feel just as nice."
A retail landscape that's wooing the Y chromosome is paying off. According to the New York-based consumer tracking service the NPD Group, U.S. menswear sales continue to outpace women's, having increased 3 percent this year over last year, from $62.5 billion to $64.4 billion, with the fastest-growing categories being two-piece athletic sets and accessories.
Runway designers have taken note. In the last year, many of the most popular collections in Paris, Milan, and New York have opted to show menswear on their women's runways.
Last month, Calvin Klein's creative director, Raf Simons, announced his decision to show both collections on one runway, joining Gucci, Vivienne Westwood, Paul Smith, and Burberry in the practice.
Interest in men's fashion has come a long way since the days of the metrosexual - the original style-obsessed dude who, in the early 2000s, emerged from the ashes of the sloppy '90s wearing a very fitted suit and carrying an umbrella.
The typical guy - including the Philly gent - largely ignored this look. But it wasn't long before the ways of the hipster (favoring all things fitted while twirling his ponytail into a man bun) or the lumbersexual (choosing beards and plaid shirts) caught on. With each trendy dude reincarnation, men's fashion has blossomed on runways - and Instagram.
So as we stand at the cusp of 2017, it seems the old fashion fears are gone, whether we're talking about guys who suit up, tend toward the androgynous, don athletic attire, or - amazing as it may sound - like all three. His wardrobe can take him from day to night. Sound familiar, ladies?
"What finally happened is that guys in basketball like Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul began adopting these looks in their own way, and they became universal and aspirational," said Sabir Peele, a menswear brand consultant and founder of Men's Style Pro.
"Guys just started to understand, 'I can do all of this. I can be sporty or wear a suit like a corporate guy. I can create my own look.' "
With this new experimentation came an excess of new accessories this year: dotted pocket squares, solid knit ties, smart fedoras, jackets with custom linings. And the shoes - whether shined to dress up or clean sneakers to dress down - pull everything together.
Not only are men adopting the fashion, the shopping experience - a pastime historically treasured solely by women - has been embraced, as well. In Center City, MySuit, Bonobos, and Aston Marx joined Suit Supply, Henry A. Davidsen, and a newly renovated Blue Sole Shoes in offering men a heavy dose of customer service - as in, some whiskey with those measurements - with the big-ticket fashion items.
And in King of Prussia's new 155,000-square-foot wing, luxury boutiques such as Gucci, MCM Worldwide, Rag & Bone, and SuperDry are dedicating equal amounts of retail space to men and women.
Staff photographs by Jessica Griffin
Styling by Elizabeth Wellington