2020 was a test of faith for the entire menswear industry. COVID-19 forced us all to stay indoors, cancel our social events and work from our living rooms – in what was perhaps the worst-dressed year of all time. Naturally, for most of the year we lived in our “house clothes”; sweat pants, hoodies, pyjamas. Even the most stylish gentlemen traded in their tailored suits for a cozy sweater and maybe an oxford shirt for an important Zoom meeting. But that’s about it. We were anxious, scared and depressed. And we dressed the part. We all thought this would be short lived. We planned to stay home for a “few weeks”, which became a “few months”, which became a “few seasons”. Eventually we stopped predicting the end of the pandemic and started using the term “new normal” – a phrase that indicates how incredibly adaptive human beings are. At first, we absolutely hated the idea of being locked in our homes and stripped of the lifestyles we had built. Then we gradually got “used to it” and even started seeing some of the positive aspects. Life got more convenient. Every store began delivering, we no longer had to commute on crowded trains or be stuck in traffic, and we could spend more time with our families. As time went on, some of us actually started to prefer the lockdown lifestyle. News stories began circulating about how these widespread lifestyle changes would become permanent. Major tech companies – like Twitter and Facebook – told their employees they can work from home forever. So while dealing with the most challenging sales environment in modern history, menswear brands, designers and stores all over the world were all forced to reconsider their long-term positions in the market. Would this be the end of fashion as we know it? Will we stay in our “house clothes” forever? The answer, in my opinion, is No. It is not. And we will not. Sure, some of the aspects of pandemic life will stick around. Curbside pick-up, telehealth, remote working…these things save us time; the single most valuable commodity we have. We can, and should, expect these conveniences to continue to be offered in the post-pandemic world. Many of these digital innovations were coming our way anyway, the pandemic simply sped-up the timeline. But just because we have our groceries delivered and take more meetings via Zoom, doesn’t mean we will stay locked in our homes (or wearing sweatpants) “forever”. I find this to be a ridiculous overreaction. One that is not supported by our history. Human history tells us that periods of great pain, suffering and depression (such as war, disease and economic disaster) are often followed by periods of great joy, celebration and beauty. It’s a natural ebb and flow of human emotion and desire. We are social animals. We have an innate desire to be part of a group, to express ourselves and, yes, to dress up. Humans have been adorning their bodies since caveman times – and I would argue that we have never done this less than in the past 12 months. So with that said, I think we have reached peak pajamas, or the pinnacle of “athleisure”. We are tired of dressing for comfort and sitting at home. I can feel it. You can feel it. There is a real hunger to live the “good life” again. People want to dress up. People want to drink, dance, try that new restaurant, book that trip, etc. As soon as it is safe and responsible to do so, these activities will experience an explosion of demand. If anything, we will use our new “saved time” from all these new conveniences to fulfill a critical part of life that we have all been dearly missing; gathering and socializing. In other words: get ready to party. Similar to the “Roaring Twenties” that followed World War 1, I predict we will experience a kind of “Roaring Twenty Twenties” following the global pandemic of 2020. And if the level of laziness or sloppiness of the past few years is any indication of the level of elegance and opulence that will follow – it’s going to be a blast!
We’re certainly not out of the woods yet, but as we grind through the tail end of this pandemic – and pray for efficient and effective vaccine distribution – I can’t help but think of my fellow menswear entrepreneurs. It’s not lost on me that the past 5-10 years have seen an explosion of start-up brands in the menswear space. I am part of this group. Many of these new brands – who have fought to challenge the giant retailers of the past with better products and business models – are run by small teams, or even a single hardened entrepreneur. I’d like to take this moment to salute those in our industry who have not given up during this incredible test of faith. Shout-out to those who trimmed their expenses, applied for loans, increased their e-commerce presence and did everything they could to stay afloat, even if gripped with the emotional pain of being labeled “non essential” for the past 11 months. I’m here to say that there are brighter days ahead. Our customers will come out of the woodwork (ie. their homes) and they will do so with one hell of a “coming out party”. There will be plenty of demand for the brands left standing – and all the lessons we have learned will only make our businesses stronger. The time to wear sweatpants and hoodies 24/7 is coming to an end, and “cocktail attire” is soon to boom. After all, dressing well is a sign of hope and joy; and what do we need more in the coming decade than hope and joy? Consider this an early cheers to the good life. Get your champagne flutes and suit brushes ready. Yours in style, Dan Trepanier