Splashy hues below the waist propelled menswear into the warm(ish) months this year as the fashion set traipsed through summer in cobalt blue and cherry red pants.
Now, as the season coils back into fall, the habit is to slip into a winter wardrobe with pants in gray, black and, for texture, the odd tweed. But a mounting tide of colorful trousers has been bucking the trend - and creating a new one.
Prepare, my brothers, to rethink those trusty brown cords this fall. Plum might just be your new favorite shade.
Taking a look around town, I noted the modish EC1 chinos at Ben Sherman (55 Stockton St.) in forest green, coral and red for $129; Isaia offered turquoise trou for $450 at Neiman Marcus (150 Stockton St.); H&M (150 Post St.) had kelly green jeans for a mere $29; Zegna sells a handsome pair of twill pants in mulberry for $295 at the Saks Fifth Avenue Men's Store (220 Post St.). Even the somewhat conservative Faconnable (253 Post St.) is getting in on things with plum and red chinos at $155 per. And no, these aren't summer holdovers. This is the look of fall 2011.
However, no brand is carrying the torch quite like the locals at Dockers.
"We offer the Alpha in a range of 12 colors," senior vice president of Dockers global design Doug Conklyn said of the company's newest salvo in its battery of khakis. The Alpha's shades include "mustard yellow, faded navy, terra cotta orange, a deep purple we call bayberry and Sahara red."
Why the emphasis on vibrant pants when fall favors darker shades and the weather may be as sour as economy?
"Our fall 2011 color palette is composed of rich, warm and rugged autumnal shades that address the color trend in a masculine way," Conklyn explained. "And for guys who haven't fully embraced colorful trousers, we offer the Alpha in a range of neutral and truly versatile khaki shades, olive green, navy, black and multiple shades of gray."
Like last year's D-1 khakis, the Alphas have a trimmer cut than the pleated, day-on-the-links chinos Dockers is famous for. But the inspiration for the fit comes from a source entirely close to home for the Levi's-owned company: blue jeans.
"The idea behind the Alpha was to take the best attributes of a jean - the lower rise, the slimmer fit and the way they soften and age with time, wear and love," said Conklyn, "and combine those features with the more classic details of a khaki."
Care to put a pair of Alphas through a beta test of your own? They're available online for $59 per pair and are also at Urban Outfitters, Macy's and Bloomingdale's.
Alphas, D-1's and a recent collaboration with East Coast casual design star Steven Alan aside, Dockers has been making real hay with its young, fashion-forward approach to chinos these days.
Ten years ago, menswear's bleeding edge wouldn't have been caught dead in a pair of Dad pants, but as of late, the creme de la creme of the design world has been turning out to work with the 25-year-old brand.
Earlier this year, GQ crowned onetime San Franciscan Alexander Wang its best new menswear designer for 2011. In addition to a $50,000 prize, Wang and the other nominees, including UC Berkeley grad Patrik Ervell, created a capsule collection of khaki trousers, shirts and jackets for Dockers to be sold at Bloomingdale's.
Wang's contribution to the line includes a pair of sleek, faded charcoal pants ($200) with geometric topstitching. He described them via e-mail as "a bit more worn in, and with the frame of a cargo pocket but without the bulk. It's the idea of a pocket that has been unstitched."
Heady stuff indeed for a brand that has found new vibrancy, chromatic and otherwise, by trading casual Friday for Fashion Week.
(spotlight image: chaosmag.blogspot.com)
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