It’s always hard to cold-bloodedly define your own style, but if pushed I would say that masculine elements always play a part in any outfit I wear – I like the contrast between a crisp tailored shirt or mannish brogues and a bright red lip or some other typically ‘feminine’ detail. It’s all about the dichotomy people! (I don’t really know what that means.)
I also have a great appreciation for the garconnes look on others – I spotted a girl on the tube yesterday who had the most amazing Eton crop, tweed turn-ups and duffle coat and the blog Tomboy Style is one of my daily reads.
But it was only when Rebecca told me how she only ever buys men’s pyjamas from M&S that I really started thinking about how much of my wardrobe now originates from the menswear* or boy’s departments in stores. And it’s a lot.
There’s something about the fit of men's clothing that’s innately more relaxed and elegant than womenswear - a looseness in the lines and a versatility in the way you can style it. It also seems more durable for some reason - is it because of the assumption that chaps are basically overgrown Just Williams who will wear things out more quickly (climbing trees?) so their clothes are all made to be sturdier?
And is it my imagination or is menswear generally a bit cheaper? I feel like because women’s fashion is so trend-focussed, it’s almost as if shops are dazzling our silly little heads (hmm...) with sequins and spangles and hope we won’t notice when stuff is a) lousy quality and b) a rip-off.
So for this edit I have picked pieces from our favourite menswear sources that are stylish, affordable and durable – the holy trinity of fashion.
Knitwear: M&S, Uniqlo
I inherit a lot of Uniqlo jumpers from my husband and brother which they’ve shrunk in the wash or grown tired of and I love the v-necks because they’re soft, sloppy and look great with jeans. Meanwhile, my pal Verity swears by the men’s cashmere round-neck jumpers from M&S and I have to admit, every time I see her in her tomato-red or navy versions, she looks damn fine. It’s a stretch buying cashmere (I’m soooo stingy) but she assures me this stuff doesn’t bobble and feels so lovely it's worth it.
T-shirts: H&M, Uniqlo
The short sleeves on men's t-shirts aren’t skimpy, but cover the upper arm properly (I loathe and despise 'cap' sleeves - what on earth is the point?) They’re also nice and long in the body so you can tuck them into waistbands and they won’t become infuriatingly untucked the next second.
Pyjamas M&S, John Lewis
What could be better than slipping into bed in a pair of crisp, cool, cotton pyjamas? Think Doris Day, or Coco Chanel, or Don Draper (oh yes!) resplendent in navy or white with contrast piping or wholesome stripes. Lovely.
Listen to me, my friends, NOTHING makes a better beach cover-up than an oversized men's shirt. Last September I wore a pale blue and white striped one over my bathing suit and felt all Gwyneth-in-The-Talented-Mr-Ripley, louche and effortlessly cool and a little bit preppy. Can a sequin-shedding sarong do that? No, I say, no. Like with men's t-shirts, men's shirts, both long and short sleeved just tuck so much better.
Rebecca assures me that men's watches (hers is Accurist) look more expensive and are more hard-wearing.
And finally, men's socks (small, obvs) feel more substantial and again, better value.
I'm also wondering if this extends to beauty/grooming? For example, many chic women prefer wearing men's fragrances (my ma favours the classic Acqua di Parma cologne).
Do you buy actual men's jeans rather than pretend 'boyfriend jeans' ? Tell me your favourite ingenious fashion solution for durability, comfort and/or style!
*also one of my favourite Britpop bands "Breathe deeper! Day-DREAMER!"