On the Search for the Austin Man's Style: Is This a City Without Trends?

November 12, 2018 / Spark Magazine

As the air of fall descends around me, I quickly realize that my wardrobe is vastly unprepared. I search frantically for sweaters to no avail. Trousers are nowhere to be seen. Logically, there is only one solution to my lack of seasonal garments: I’m going to have to go shopping. But, before I go shopping, I need to survey my options. Where better to begin my journey, than two of the stores with the most exciting stockists in the city of Austin?

With the changing of the seasons comes a particularly exciting time in a clothing retailer’s yearly schedule. Cooler winds blow in fresh collections and new trends that heat up inventory. Shorts be damned — men’s Fall/Winter 2018 collections have arrived, and I’m visiting ByGeorge and Neiman Marcus at the Domain to see what the trends are this season. Austin, being its unpredictable self, is uncharacteristically warm the fall morning I venture into ByGeorge’s North Lamar location. There, greeting me, are two massive panes of glass which house the store’s ever-impressive window displays. Being the stockist of brands that would make any fashion-aficionado drool, they proudly display a few of their offerings on their windows; Dries Van Noten, Maison Margiela and Loewe are emblazoned in bold font. I’m greeted again, this time inside, Jonathan. The highly-knowledgeable member of their sales team guides me through the store, gliding past racks of covetable pieces from brands like Visvim and Stone Island. The store is warmly appointed, with wood and leather furnishings next to burnished metal racks. I’m lead to a rack housing a collection of items by the Japanese label Camashita. “This is our most popular brand right now,” Jonathan says, “We’re one of the few stores in the nation that have them.” Their offering includes light pullover sweaters that Jonathan recommends as a seasonal go-to. Both he and another member of the sales team are wearing them.

From the Camashita lineup, it’s easy to see what the Austin man is looking for. The clothes are functional, with little in the way of frills or bright colors. I browse through the trousers, finding many with drawstrings and more relaxed cuts. My eyes are drawn to one of the few pieces of outerwear on the rack, a lone sport-jacket. Jonathan picks it up and describes that this piece is very representative of what their buyers seem to appreciate. “You can wear it so many different ways,” he explains while buttoning the top collar-adjacent button, transforming the sport-jacket into a workwear-esque chore coat. The aesthetic and design language of the jacket is echoed through much of their popular offerings. As I peruse the racks, following my guided tour, I find functional staples from brands like Brunello Cucinelli and The Elder Statesman with the odd Saint Laurent or Maison Margiela piece sprinkled in the racks. Jonathan peppers my visit with interesting pieces he sources from a number of places around the store. Each garment solidifies my understanding of the Austin man, a man who values mixing and matching to fit the occasion, leaving finer materials to cross-functional items like light sweaters. He is formal when needed and laid-back whenever possible. The Austin man wears chunky sneakers when he isn’t pairing his trousers with cap-toes, and he buys light jackets that he can use to layer when he travels to colder climates.

I depart for Neiman Marcus at the Domain, heading North on Mopac while wondering what the differences in stock could be. I’m refreshed to be met with a new list of designers on an equally impressive outdoor display. I make my way to the back of the first floor, where the men's section is located.

My first impression leads me to believe that the two stores are dressing different people altogether. Neiman Marcus stocks Brunello Cucinelli, Saint Laurent and Maison Margiela, similar to ByGeorge, yet the pieces they offer are quite different. The differences in trend slowly fade as I weave through the store. I’m greeted with brands like Theory, Burberry and Balenciaga, but I find the same seasonal trends to remain. Technical tailoring combines the utility of activewear with the formality of suiting, giving the Austin man another chance to escape stuffier, one-purpose suits. Chunky sneakers are a massive trend, with Neiman Marcus’s stock featuring the newest and hottest sneaker from Balenciaga, the Track Runners. One mannequin features track pants paired with a plaid shirt jacket, showcasing mixing and matching with utilitarian details. While the aesthetic of the stores is understandably different, the appeals to the Austin market are unified in approach.

I depart Neiman Marcus feeling as though I’d spent all day crafting a very cohesive idea of the Austin man’ s aesthetic, but when it came time to put my finger on the hottest trends, I kept drawing up blanks. The movement towards utility is not a trend in my eyes, it’s an expectation that grows year-by-year. It seems as though the Austin man is one who likes to mix and match in practical ways, not to peacock. Again, that’s not a trend. At the end of the day, practicality, comfort and versatility pervaded the offerings of both stores. Perhaps, we live in a city that transcends the trends that plague the fashion-obsessed cults of either coast. Maybe that laid-back nature is our “Austin trend.” Who’s to say? Either way, stay warm, comfortable, practical and versatile in this upcoming colder weather — ByGeorge and Neiman Marcus at the Domain will make sure of that. • 

By: Harrison Porter

Photography by: Alice Cheung

Harrison Porter is a sophomore finance major at the University of Texas. In the 7th grade, a pair of Jordan Retro Bred 4’s changed his life. While he no longer owns the sneakers, he is ever-grateful that they introduced him to the world of fashion via streetwear. Currently, his tastes fall more in line with designers such as Maison Margiela, Dries Van Noten, and Hiroki Nakamura.

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