I’m going to call 2011 the Year of Men.
It’s about time, right?
For years, women have had the benefit of shopping high and low and at every point in between, but the guys have been given short shrift in the clothing department, with options essentially limited to aloha shirts, camp shirts, polos and T-shirts.
» Subject: Taizo Braden, "Hawaii News Now Sunrise" and "Hawaii News Now at 5" traffic reporter
» Reason: At 31, his mom does all his aloha-shirt buying, resulting in old-banker’s syndrome
» Goal: A younger, more age-appropriate look that’s also presentable on television
» Clothes: 21Men and Noteworthy
So could we blame them for looking less dapper than they could be?
But over the past couple of years, inspired by well-dressed musicians and actors, the club scene and the rise of fashion, boutiques like Blue Buddha, Kazu Couture, Crooks & Castles and Noteworthy have popped up to cater to this long-ignored market. Local designers like Richie Miao of Lovelessizm, Roberta Oaks and Fighting Eel’s Tee Tee Bar have also begun to address the inequity with younger, street-smart styles.
It coincides with a time when the women’s market is saturated, and if designers are looking for growth opportunities, well, men have not yet begun to shop.
The locally driven push for more men’s fashion will get a big boost now that Forever21 has introduced its men’s line 21Men to the market. It occupies a fraction of the space at the brand’s new Royal Hawaiian Center store but, for the first time in Hawaii, introduces men to the fast-fashion phenomenon — all the latest trends at rock-bottom prices.
That means any fashion novice can come in and experiment without paying too high a cost. At 21Men, dress shirts are about $25, less than a third of the cost of many retailers. Granted, it doesn’t buy you the same quality, but for newbies the idea is to start with baby steps, learn and move on when you can appreciate the difference between a $25, $120 or $250 shirt.
To show how the new options can work for real guys, it was time for a couple of makeovers.
On the set of Hawaii News Now, traffic reporter Taizo Braden can’t escape the eyes of viewers who care more about what he’s wearing than roadblocks, accidents or the crawl of cars on H-1.
He’s tried aloha shirts, which some deem too loud, and he’s tried the more formal look of dress shirt and tie, deemed too starchy. Now, he’s after the right mix of casual, edgy and cool but admits, "I’m still trying to figure it out, to see what people like.
"The perfect attire would be something that I could wear as a reporter, come back to the studio and wear on air, and wear to meet my friends after work, without going home to change."
He doesn’t throw out his old aloha shirts that viewers have given a thumbs-down to in their calls to the station. While it’s fine for him to wear his favorite shirts on his off hours, Hawaii News Now probably would prefer that viewers tune in to see 2011 programming and not feel confused that they’ve awakened in 1970.
Part of the problem is that Braden rarely sets foot in a clothing store.
"My mom buys me more than a few of my aloha shirts," he said. "Every year I wait till Christmas, and she buys me 10 or 12. My dad gives me some, too. And really, that’s it. I don’t really go shopping. The idea this year is to step it up a bit. From now on it’s like a journey."
To allow Braden the chance to keep his uniforms "Sunrise" casual, yet experiment with different clothing, Hawaii News Now instituted Tie Tuesdays, which call for a dressier, edgier look, with or without a tie.
I added the drama of color to his look with a red shirt and Navy tie from 21Men that looks dressier than his usual look, even without a jacket, which could be an evening option. Go to staradvertiser.com to see how he could dress the look up further with a 21Men hooded gray vest ($22.90) and faux leather jacket ($39.90).
For casual weekend outings, just putting a flight jacket over a basic T-shirt gives him an edgier look that will turn more heads than his banker’s look.