Fashion is famously cyclical and, after a bit of Y2K revival, it’s only fitting that Cool Britannia — a term coined in the late ‘90s — make a return of its own. Every now and then, some places just have it. New York, Los Angeles, Paris, Italy, Bali; they’ve all had their moments of cultural significance, infusing everything from the clothes we wear to the food we eat.
Great Britain seems to be that place at the moment. Musically, Britpop is thriving, so too are British rappers like Stormzy, Dave and Central Cee, while even the most mainstream TV shows, like Netflix’s You, are making the trek across the pond. Nowhere is Britain’s influence more apparent than in the menswear realm, though, where high-end designer fashion, traditional menswear and streetwear are all being shaped by Britons in a way that might surpass both the Cool Britannia of the ‘90s and the Mod craze of the ‘50s and ‘60s.
A handful of British designers are among the most influential — and successful — in the luxury realm: Kim Jones at Dior, Jonathan Anderson at Loewe and J.W. Anderson, Grace Wales Bonner, Martine Rose and Craig Green at their eponymous labels. Daniel Lee, a celebrated English designer, is overseeing a renaissance at Burberry, one of the quintessentially British houses, whose check is inextricably linked to all things Britannia.
Tailoring, too, has looked towards Savile Row — arguably one of two suiting meccas, alongside Napoli. Upstart brands like Drake’s are growing in popularity, while revered names have been increasingly recognized outside Britain for their influence on menswear. When the legendary Savile Row tailor Edward Sexton passed away in July, it was notable how many tributes came from outside the traditional sphere of British tailoring.
If fashion is cyclical, it also tends to trickle down. Jones, Anderson, Rose, Bonner, Green and Lee have been at the forefront of designer menswear for a few years now — occupying some of the most coveted jobs in the industry or tipped to take over others. That influence has worked its way down the menswear funnel and even sneakers and streetwear have a British feel to them. Adidas’ Samba stands out as the sterling example of so-called blokecore (sorry), a trend inspired by the styles seen on the terraces of soccer stadia. Both Adidas and Puma have not shied away from leaning into heritage styles that have historically been embraced by soccer fans. The so-called terrace sneakers — low-cut silhouettes with rubber soles — are a far cry from the hyped sneakers seen a few years ago, but they speak to a shift towards more timeless, evergreen styles that can be worn on a daily basis season after season, without looking out of place.
That’s what makes the British invasion of menswear so fun and likely to actually make a noticeable impact: it’s not limited to one segment or price point. Britishness is influencing everything from luxury wares to everyday sneakers. Case in point? These must-have styles for later summer and early fall.
Adidas’ iconic Samba might get all the hype — it is seemingly the third year running where the Samba is the shoe of the summer — but there are plenty of other sneakers inspired by terrace favourites. Puma’s early fall offering is chock full of throwback styles that are drawn from football fandom, from the Club and the Super Team to the Colibri and the Palermom with a healthy dose of gum soles throughout. Puma isn’t a British company, nor are the brand’s sneakers make in the U.K., but the silhouettes in questions are undeniably linked to British culture through football’s casual movement. ($147 CAD)
Burberry Harrington Jacket
Few pieces of British menswear are more iconic than a Burberry trench. And while it’s always good to be prepared for a rainy day, we’re inclined to see things in a more optimistic light and prepare for a sunnier autumn. Enter Burberry’s take on the Harrington jacket, a timeless style popularized by silver screen icons like Steve McQueen and rendered in Burberry’s classic colour, with a checked lining to boot. While this might seem tame compared to Daniel Lee’s debut collection, sometimes that’s exactly what it takes to make the more daring designs stand out. Lee’s menswear collection reinvents Burberry’s check in a range of new colours and those pieces are likely best paired with something simple and classic, like this Harrington jacket. ($2,650)
Kim Jones-Designed Dior Wellies
Few Britons have had as much influence on fashion over the last twenty years as Kim Jones, who has touched everything across menswear and womenswear, from the most hyped products to the most hallowed, traditional pieces. Jones’ Fall-Winter 2023/2024 Dior menswear collection is heavily inspired by the sea, albeit in a moody, decidedly British way. Amidst a slew of British seafaring classics — slick anoraks and matching bucket hats! Three-quarter sleeves! — Jones’s ultra high-end take on the humble Wellington boot stands out as the most British of them all. It strikes a perfect balance between utility and luxury and, to boot (pardon the pun), it’s crafted using cutting-edge 3D-printing technology.
Wales Bonner City Polo
Grace Wales Bonner’s superpower, if one can call it that, is her ability to make pieces drawn from the past feel incredibly modern and avant-garde. For a few years now, Wales Bonner’s bread and butter has been an idealized, hyper-cool take on retro prep, drawing on Ivy League and British campuses, albeit reimagined in a more inclusive way. Wales Bonner’s Fall-Winter 2023/2024 collection features more of the same, with collegiate hoops — horizontal stripes — used throughout. The City Polo, which is, in reality, more of a rugby shirt than a polo, feels like the kind of piece one keeps for years and years. A classic that’s different enough to stand out, with hoops of different widths, done up in blue and burgundy, with a contrast collar and placket, and finished with what seems to be part daffodil, part sun, but entirely in Wales Bonner’s style. ($640 CAD)
Loewe Overdyed Jeans
What, you wonder, is the link between a pair of off-white jeans from a Spanish luxury label and Britishness? The obvious answer is Jonathan Anderson, the British creative director who, over the last decade, has revived the once-dormant Spanish luxury house. The less obvious answer is that a work day in London is punctuated not just with the smart tailoring worn by bankers, lawyers and politicians, but by what one might call workers’ whites — white workwear that, over time, has developed a beige, yellowish tint to it. And here’s the most British thing of all: Loewe has called this unique tint Tea Wash! Anyways, all of that to say: white pants can be daunting, especially as Labour Day creeps nearer, but these have a well-worn look to them that makes them easier to wear, no matter the time of year. ($1,200)