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FALL MENSWEAR : The New West

Kevin Costner easily might have directed the look in men’s fashions for fall.

The actor/director’s “Dances With Wolves,” which has sparked renewed interest in Westerns, is setting a precedent in menswear.

Everything from Indian-printed wool melton stadium jackets to primitive-patterned shirts to richly textured sweaters reminiscent of a Montana landscape is leaving the prairie and settling in the big city.

Apparel makers corralled store buyers last weekend in Las Vegas, where the Men’s Apparel Guild in California (MAGIC) and the Mode Coast, a small group of New York designers, put on shows. The Nevada desert provided an appropriate backdrop.

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The new outpouring of Western garb, however, is a departure from cowboy and Indian novelty looks of the past.

The multicolored wool melton blazer--dressed up with wide-wale cords or dressed down with denim or canvas jeans--is the most versatile fall piece. It combines the soft construction found in many tailored sport coats with the rugged, utilitarian details of outerwear. Draw-cord waists, multifunction pockets and leather or suede collar details are standard features.

The blazer is as at home in the higher-priced designer collections of Robert Comstock, B. Free by M. Julian and Richard Mishaan as it is in the young men’s lines--Sahara Club, Union Bay, Cotler, Kad and Sonetti.

Rugged cloth coats, either in Indian prints or in solids with Western-print linings, are no longer confined to classic blouson styling. In fact, mid-thigh-length, sometimes-hooded car coats in heavy brushed canvas, wool and denim are being interpreted by such diverse outerwear makers as Pacific Trail, Pendleton and David Peyser as well as by sportswear labels Code Bleu, Zeppelin, Generra and Rifle. Many manufacturers also show scaled-down versions of the jackets for little boys.

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Although designers have reintroduced corduroy to casual fall pants, denim, in a variety of washes and overdyed colors--including deep earth shades of plum, gold and hunter green--remains the key fabric in the rugged-wear revival.

Many jeans companies--including Levi Strauss, Guess? and Girbaud--toy with such Westernisms as frayed seams and leather or printed fabric inserts. Denim silhouettes run the gamut, from five-pocket, boot-cut jeans to “anti-fit” baggies, relaxed-fit semi-baggies (the most popular) and overalls.

Even shirts, sweaters and sweat shirts mirror the theme.

Chambray shirts, bold and bright Indian-printed brushed cottons, soft rayons and fleece pullovers by Union Bay, Cotler, Tribes, Gooch and Shah Safari clearly illustrate the vast diversity of the Old West as inspiration.

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Utilizing wool and cotton, sweater makers such as Desert Designs by Bill Ditfort, Henry Grethel and Jed gamble with elaborate Aztec and and other American Indian blanket patterns, more versatile abstracts and even some tapestries.


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