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The New Utility

Neil Barrett Utilitarian

Something of a firm fixture in menswear, whether all-out or via more nuanced details, utilitarian elements have taken on new narratives, bringing a contemporary edge to more functional fashion. Military-ish vibes abound; think borrowed-from lapels, epaulettes and colourways alongside the more dystopian 1984 vibes that have given rise to the resurgence of boiler suits and overalls. Add to the mix cargo pants, trench cuts, bomber jackets, XXL pockets and zips affixed in just about every direction, and you have a modern, sometimes subversive take on utility codes – anything but uniform.

  • Acne Utility
  • Loewe Utility

On the more retro end of the spectrum, while khaki parkas are nothing new – think Camden Town circa late '80s to '90s – complete with song lyric scribbles on the back in black marker, fashion’s acquisition of nostalgic, home-spun trends puts this proposition forward in a rather more refined way with Valentino, RAF Simons and Givenchy each emblazoning their statements on the canvas. Of course, you can get your parka sans commentary too, with Burberry or Canada Goose's more faithful adaptions, while Saint Laurent and Maison Margiela opt for super blown-out, directional iterations.

And on that bigger, boxier and stronger silhouette subject, as seen across the majority of menswear right now, it seems only fitting that that utilitarianist formula gets adopted into the fold, with oversized, exaggerated elements from super-sized shapes, through to über safari-esque lapels and pockets, ultra-inched-up hems and sweeping cross-body zips.

  • JW Anderson Utility
  • Margiela Utility

More traditional blue collar vibes come courtesy of all-in-one overalls, as seen at Givenchy, or done with double denim to give that jumpsuit effect – think denim shirt tucked into wide-leg jeans – either hemmed or cropped and frayed. And all teamed with super-tough, chunky soled, big-buckled worker boots for an even more authentic nod.

As with all sartorial blueprints too, cross-pollination is inevitable; as evidenced by the influx of street-inspired, athleisure looks, which, in turn, riff on utilitarian vibes, thanks in part to Vetements and Off-White. Look to the 'street-tailoring' aesthetic of Juun.J with longline bomber jackets or blazer-cum-hoodies, Rick Owen's utility-grunge hoodies, RAF Simons' coats-within-coats, camo-cargo joggers at Balmain and detachable layering at Neil Barrett for the ultra modernist approach. And, with designers marking out their utilitarian footprint, expect to see this functionalist revival evolving further in the seasons ahead.