The shirt has turned into the ideal garment for men who want to make a sartorial impact with a personal fashion statement. So, from a simple long sleeved one-pocket, 2-piece collar shirt this masculine garment has evolved into a fashionable stylish offering…
Men’s fashion has never been more adventurous in India than in the 21st century. Gone are the days when a white or blue shirt was needed to be on the best-dressed list. The shirt has turned into the ideal garment for men who want to make a sartorial impact with a personal fashion statement. So, from a simple long sleeved one-pocket, 2-piece collar shirt this masculine garment has evolved into a fashionable stylish oﬀering.
The New Colour Card
There was a time decades ago when the hottest selling shirt had to be pure white. Known as “The Great White Hope” the white shirt allowed the blue shade to just get into the fashion doorway. But with the advent of ‘Friday Dressing’ the complete corporate shirt image changed. Casual Friday is believed to have originated from the Hawaiian custom of Aloha Friday, which moved gradually to California and then the momentum pushed it around the globe when in the 1990’s it came to be known as Friday Dressing with brands like Allen Solly launched in India.
With the Silicon Valley movement gathering speed the young techies around the world threw fashion caution to the winds and soon the colour card for shirts was in all the hues of the rainbow. These colours along with the ‘Friday Dressing’ concept helped young executives to eﬀortlessly move from 9 to 9 without too many apparel changes.
The Base Choice
Shirtings have moved from just pure cotton to the best option, which is polyester blends, as well as linen, broad cloth, denim, flannel, wool or corduroy, which are the other options. Poplins are ideal for shirts under jackets and blazers and so is satin for eveningwear. The Dobby weave is a favourite with its textured pattern and so are the Twill, Herringbone and Houndstooth. Chambray along with Fil-a-Fil, which has been popular choice but at times designers favour jacquard that gives a creaseless look all day.
We did not have a shirt in ancient India. We were bare torso with at the most a wrap or shawl in cool weather. The kurta came to us from Central Asia and the chemise shirt from Europe. Which is why in 1991 when I designed my first men’s shirt I made a marriage between a kurta and a shirt
– Wendell Rodricks, Designer
There was time when the only shirt options were long or short sleeved and business or casual with a few collar changes. Then a slight evolution emerged with the cowboy, tuxedo, wing collar, safari, buttoned-down, bowling, Hawaiian, or Oxford, which then moved to sporty, resort, classic, tunic, experimental and athleisure with prints florals, abstract, multi-coloured, striped or checked.
Detailing & Silhouettes
The silhouettes have been fitted, tapered or comfort fit for several seasons with the hemline often moving from shirttail to short or knee length for the kurta shirt. The collar and cuﬀs are the two most prominent aspects of the shirt as both their lengths and sizes have to be in unison. Dominating shirt collars are spread, regular, buttoned-down Club/ Golf, cutaway, tab, pin, wing tip, band/mandarin, Cuban/Manila or round. The cuﬀs have a few options to like square, round, notched, arrow or French cuﬀs. The length of the collar and cuﬀ has varied from 3 to an imposing 8 centimetres over the years.
The Resort Look
With the new category of resort wear emerging for both men and women’s wear the resort/ holiday shirt has been the hottest selling for designers. Goan based designer Wendell Rodricks has been instrumental in pushing the relaxed, casual, beach look for men’s shirts. Wendell talks about the evolution of the shirts when he states, “We did not have a shirt in ancient India. We were bare torso with at the most a wrap or shawl in cool weather. The kurta came to us from Central Asia and the chemise shirt from Europe. Which is why in 1991 when I designed my first men’s shirt I made a marriage between a kurta and a shirt. No buttons, no placket, no cuﬀs. Minimal and magnificent for the beach zone.”
Since Wendell caters to the holiday and casual wear dresser he admits, “Near a beach, all you need are cottons and linens. So, we choose cottons, woven in coastal areas as they ‘breathe’ beautifully and linens as they are luxurious for our balmy humid weather.”
He further adds, “When it comes to buying shirts men are looking for Comfort, comfort, comfort and then at times they look to stand out at a party. Men are creatures of practicality. They also have a herd mentality to blend in. So if it gets compliments, they will buy half a dozen of the same style as they have found their comfort zone. But I must admit that Indian men are adventurous. Have you seen other nationalities wear a stole? Indian men can carry oﬀ a silk stole with more aplomb than most. The same with shirts, men will wear shirts that stand out fearlessly.” When it comes to the ease of selling men’s shirts, Wendell feels, “Men’s shirts are better, safer business than women’s wear. A white shirt is a white shirt that can be worn by a million men. But the same white shirt for women will have to be diﬀerent for each woman, because women don’t want what other women are wearing in the
The Indian customer also switches easily between both Western as well as Indian clothing, so he has a muchmore extensive repertoire compared to his Western counterpart
– David Abraham & Rakesh Thakore, Designer Duo
Classic & Minimal
Designer duo David Abraham and Rakesh Thakore for their label ‘Abraham & Thakore’ are known for the minimal classic designs for men and women. “Our interest in shirts is been focused on the use of natural fabrics. Good quality cotton fabrics, some handwoven ones as well as Khadi too. Our specialty is the introduction of subtle details that are both witty and decorative though discreet.”
Having been in the fashion business since 1992 when they started with their first collection at Bergdorf Goodman in New York, the pair has watched the evolution of the shirt. “Over the years the basic nature of the man’s shirt in terms of silhouette has remained much the same. Technology has contributed to most of the changes in the development of stretch fabrics, micro fibres, etc. The current emphasis on a more relaxed attitude with the advent of sportswear as an important influence, has also led to the shirt silhouette getting more relaxed.”
The ‘Abraham & Thakore’ shirts fall under the casual wear category and menswear at present is a small part of their oﬀering. This however is due to change soon as the pair is launching a full menswear collection early 2019, which will stand on its own since they feel Indian men are fairly experimental and adventurous in fashion. “The Indian customer also switches easily between both Western as well as Indian clothing, so he has a much more extensive repertoire compared to his Western counterpart,” they conclude.
The white shirt has been a constant favourite but now it’s colours like baby pink, lemon, pistachio that are important. A shirt is more than a shirt when accessorized with waistcoats, bundies, buttons, rivets, epaulets and studs. I use antique textiles, handlooms linens and lots of camouflage and denim
– Arjun Khanna, Designer
For Men Only
With the emphasis on men’s fashion growing rapidly Tanisha Rahimtoola Agarwal and Shibani Bhagat launched “Curato” in October 2018 to exclusively cater to the millennial male’s sartorial needs. Their highly curated collections spread over a 1500 sq. ft. store in Mumbai has 40 of India’s finest designers.
“Men are becoming more fashion conscious and global fashion awareness amongst the youth has made menswear extremely popular,” says Tanisha Rahimtoola Agarwal.
“Designers have become more experimental with men’s clothing, whilst still maintaining their classic styles. After intensive research, data has proved that there is an increase in retail shopping by men but at the same time, there are a lot of multi- designer stores that cater to either just women, or a mix of men and women; none of which are purely for menswear.”
“Curato” has an entire room dedicated to shirts and the stores shirts’ sale is 25-30 per cent with designers Noo Noo, Amen, Bloni, Abraham & Thakore, Rohit Gandhi and Rahul Khanna, Nimish Shift, Doodlage and Rajesh Pratap Singh creating only shirts. Men’s shirts have received a great response in the store. “Along with shirts from main stream designers we have designers doing special shirts with an edge. Rajesh Pratap Singh, Abraham and Thakore and Bloni have given us classic pin tucked, minimal embroidery and detailed shirts; while our millennial designers like Noo Noo and Amen have given us trendy shirts with sequins, thread embroidery and patch work. A shirt is the most versatile men’s item with huge scope for formal or casual occasions. It is the one piece of clothing that you can be very experimental or very conventional with. Innovation in men’s shirts has been in detailing of the embroidery vis-a-vis the actual cut and fit of the garments; however Khanijo has made a very interesting shirt jacket layover style, which has been relatively disruptive of a regular shirt,” reveals the duo.
Shirts are becoming the latest expression for men in the last couple of years. Today’s stylish men are experimenting like never before.
Multiple online and offline brand projects are specializing, focusing, only on shirts as a core category
– Pallav Ojha, Designer
The Path Breakers
Arjun Khanna trained at the American College of Fashion, London graduated in womenswear, but his first passion has always been men’s clothing, which he is I now devoted to. His men’s wear has a regal royal but funky stamp and his shirts are total showstoppers. “The white shirt has been a constant favourite but now it’s colours like baby pink, lemon, pistachio that are important. A shirt is more than a shirt when accessorized with waistcoats, bundies, buttons, rivets, epaulets and studs. I use antique textiles, handlooms linens and lots of camouflage and denim,” reveals Arjun who’s USP is the fit, cut, collar, drape and construction. “Men are very adventurous with prints, silks, checks, stripes and brocades for their shirts and like stylish detailing like double collars for party and casual wear,” adds Arjun who sells nearly 25 per cent shirts at his exclusive men’s’ store in Mumbai. Narendra Kumar is very experimental with shirts. “Men’s fashion has been cyclical with trends for collars/cuﬀs changing. Business shirts are big sellers; while casual shirts are in jacquards, Dobbies for Gen Next. We are doing a new line of digitally printed shirts in linen, cotton and satin. They are slim fit with fewer surface detailing in shades of grey, green, beige, blue. The men’s shirt market is very competitive in the price range, but we sell 20 percent in shirts, which fall in the semi-formal and formal categories,” reveals Narendra.
One of the path breakers in men’s fashion is Akshat Bansal award winning NIFT graduate who created a stir when his label “Bloni” for Lakmé Fashion Week Winter/Festive 2017 Gen Next show brought Agender clothes. “I make shirts which are gender neutral, A-gender and Neurosis keeping the silhouette easier and more boxy. I feel shirts are the closest to oneself after denims; hence keeping the fabrics rich in quality, implacably fine tailored with hand faggotting, seam details, which will last longer and is trans-seasonal. We are also doing shirts in regenerated fabrics like econyl-made from marine plastic waste. Keeping our sustainable DNA in mind our colours are whites, blacks and powder blues in mostly fine Egyptian Giza cotton.”
Fine tailoring and construction are Akshat’s USP with creative patterns and a high sale in men’s shirts, but he feels, “Indian men are still less experimental and are rigid in terms of designer clothing as compared to the West. Unfortunately Indian men anyway still prefer western brands for their everyday closet unless it’s Indian wear. Formal, resort, business shirts sell the best as consumers prefer to spend for occasion wear as more then 60 per cent Indian consumers are still shopping designer clothing to make a fashion statement.”
Designers have become more experimental with men’s clothing, whilst still maintaining their classic styles. After intensive research, data has proved that there is an increase in retail shopping by men
– Tanisha Rahimtoola Agarwal, Designer
An Expert Speaks
Trained NIFT designer Pallav Ojha now a top fashion retailer in Panjim Goa with his 2500 sq. ft. COMO Designers Collective store caters to the tourists and visitors to the holiday resort with 12 men’s wear designers – Amen, Ajay Kumar, Arjun Khanna, Manoviraj Khosla, Parul J Maurya, Mapxencars, Poorvi K, Sanjay Hingu, SNOB, The Natty Garb, Speranta and Canada Clothing Company.
Pallav shares his views; “Shirts are becoming the latest expression for men in the last couple of years. Today’s stylish men are experimenting like never before. Multiple online and oﬄine brand projects are specializing, focusing, only on shirts as a core category. We have seen mixed trends, from Colour Blocking of the Shirt Bodice to Placket detailing, basic shirt with an exciting collar detailing, sometimes the geometric thin patch along the borders, pin-tucks are favourites and printed patterns along a comfortable fabric. There are 5 per cent men who love to experiment.
Men in India are getting stylish. However, it’s currently limited to upper and upper middle-class men. Men want to make an impression and stand out. However, they lack serious knowledge on what would really make them stylish in terms of colours, fit, fabric and style. Many men are now perusing fitness to cut that extra bulge!” According to Pallav size is most important, “Our highest selling shirts are 42 and 44 sizes. Most Indian men have the midriﬀ bulge and are big in size. So size and comfort becomes the most important driver. However as COMO is a statement store, apart from the selling items, we also focus on statement pieces, which are cool, stylish and quirky to give that stylish edge to the brand.” Other important factors are shirts with specialized detailing that creates an identity for the men, who want to look sharp and standout from the rest. They don’t like to experiment too much yet want to wear something stylish to stand out from the crowd. “Men would be very happy with shirts customized for their size, but most men have little patience to shop and go through the entire process. They would be more than happy if they have a style consultant talking to them and delivering their shirts without putting too much eﬀort to shop every time! So it’s comfort, style, and easy shopping experience without going through the entire grind. In the men’s category, shirts constitute for over 80 per cent of sale. If you compare men’s and women’s wear at our store COMO Designers Collective, it’s 75 per cent Women vs. 25 per cent Men’s wear Sales.”