Off-White, Balenciaga, and other big name fashion brands court the social media masses with bold logos, streetwear influences, and silhouettes that stale quickly. Meanwhile, there is a quiet wave of perfectly elegant and subtle style brands making their mark on the world’s true connoisseurs. These are the menswear brands to know in 2019.
It should come as no surprise that most of them hail from Italy, still the center of the universe when it comes to quality knits, leather, footwear, and other garment production.
While these brands may not be household names, they are carried in some of the world’s best retailers and independent menswear boutiques. Each offers excellent design, quality, and affordability. In other words, garments to cherish and care forâ€”future heirlooms.
I first encountered Eleventy in Milan, passing by its store. It wasn’t immediate love then, as its array of blazers and trousers felt no different from lots of other brands’ aesthetics.
Where was its point-of-view?
I still feel that way to some extent. Its pieces still feel very Brunello Cucinelli to me. Event its website has a BC vibe. Though, maybe it’s BC that has an Eleventy vibe going on? Â¯\_(ãƒ„)_/Â¯
But I have to give the brand credit for marketing an elegant product in classic neutral shades with the right amount of playfulness and casual flair. Like: a pair of summer shorts with a belt attached, or an entire selection of chains.
Now that’s unique and very Italian. The Eleventy point of view is getting stronger. Also: wabi-sabi 💛
If you compare the twoâ€”Eleventy and Brunello Cucinelliâ€”Eleventy is a significant value compared to BC. Think of it as (in all likelihood) very similar quality for half or a third of the price of Mr. Cucinelli’s wares. Or, you can just think of it as affordable Italian luxury.
Eleventy is carried at quite a few spots in the U.S., most notably at Arkansas menswear store Hubbard Clothing Co. It’s one of the few independent stores with a delineated Eleventy shop-in-shop.
I visited Hubbard back in June on a trip to Northwest Arkansas and was intrigued by its presence in the middle of nowhere Great Plains, USA. As I learned, the area is fertile with Walmart-adjacent executives with disposable income and cosmopolitan tastes.
Heard of Isaia Napoli? If you’re under the age of 50 and without a black Amex, you probably haven’t. [The brand has a new store in San Francisco in a Frank Lloyd Wright building. Swoon!]
Anyway, EIDOS is Isaia’s (slightly) more affordable brand and entry into a different sort of market. One of men insistent on quality without the tight conservatism of classical Italian tailoring. Though being from Naples, Isaia isn’t exactly stiff to begin with.
I have just one piece from EIDOS, a wide-neck cotton t-shirt, but I love wearing it. It’s clingy and loose in the right spots and feels just flowy enough.
I like that the brand isn’t afraid of colorâ€”I want this pink sweater which reminds me a bit of Bubble Yum gumâ€”or a bold tie-dye (seen at the header of this post). All while the branding is nonexistent and quality of construction on point.
To read more about EIDOS and its new designer Simon Spurr, visit Barneys The Window blog.
EIDOS is online at Barneys (in-store too) and at Moda Operandi.
Barena has been around longer than most of the others and been a favorite of mine for a while.
Whereas many Italian menswear brands feel very tailored, Barena feels purposefully rumpled and casual. Perhaps it’s the Venetian rootsâ€”gondola vibes and all.
The line uses linen quite a bit, as well as elastic waistbands and unstructured jackets, all of which I can appreciate.
I don’t like that Barena often uses fabric blends (e.g. wool with polyamide and polyester), but that’s also what makes its wares affordable.
I also only have a single Barena item, but it’s been in rotation for years: a fuzzy woolen vest. Better than a padded down vest and almost too insulating.
Barena is available in several spots online, and at Barneys in San Francisco.
This one is new to me, but it’s now partly owned by actor Patrick Dempsey, so it must be good!
But really, KA/NOA looks pretty cool. The brand is 100% made in Italy from end to end, despite being registered and with its only shops in Switzerland. Probably a tax thing.
I like the website and like what I see of the product, the images of which are big and high-def and gorgeous. Colors are all neutral and versatile. Prices not insane.
I’ll wait to pass true judgement until it shows up at a store locally or I end up in Crans-Montana, Lausanne, or Zurich.
I happened upon S.E.H Kelly digging into the IDEO company blog, doing research ahead of a networking meeting.[IDEO would be a dream company to work for, by the way, in case anyone has an in there.]
Anyway, S.E.H Kelly is London-based, and has all the British charm you might expect of a boutique menswear brand…sort of “off Savile Row” in the best possible way.
Akin to KA/NOA, S.E.H Kelly sources the components for all of its garments 100% in the U.K., as well as manufacturing domestically.
I’m not always one for the stark seriousness of British suits or shoes, but I love the James Bond-esque practicality and sturdiness of S.E.H Kelly’s knits and outerwear.
Its website is pretty elegant and unpretentious too. I can’t wait to go visit or see it in a store here. So far, only Japan stockists have picked up the line.
18 East isn’t Italian, but its designer and founder is Antonio Ciongoli, formerly of EIDOS. So it feels Italian in some ways, like being edited and wearable, and touching on the very zeitgeist of the industry, which I’ve always though the Italians do exceptionally well.
But its wares are more broadly influenced, with an emphasis on hand craft and sustainable practices from around the world. Namely, Nepal, India, and the U.S.
Its vibrancy of colors and patterns (paisley, embroidery, mÃ©lange yarns) set against an overarching feel of rustic functionality (fleece, thick knits, denim, corduroy) make it feel very earthy and native. Pieces my hippie aunt in the Appalachian mountains would adore.
Compared to the others listed here, it’s a departure for sure. But I like that it speaks to a growing consumer desire for clothing with a story, clothing made from upcycled and reused materials, and a general appreciation for the one-off.
18 East regularly drops new mini-collections (every two months according to GQ), through its own website and a small handful of independent retailers, one of which is Unionmade here in San Francisco. Once the supply is gone, it’s gone, much like the drop culture of streetwear and sneakers.
I’ve been regularly checking the 18 East website and stopping into Unionmade to see if I can’t check out the goods IRL. I’ll update you when I do.
By now, I find myself at an intersection of style. On one line, I appreciate classic looks and classic colors for their longevity and timelessness. White t-shirts, gray sweaters, navy trousers.
But I also like color, flair, and subtle touches of the unexpected.
I have historically added flair with elements like jewelry and sunglasses, but lately find that life may be too short to be so quiet and so subtle, when there are menswear brands to know like these.
As a group, they offer genuine perspectives on design and quality, with a basis in real, everyday style that is personal and wearable.
They aren’t loud or flashy. There are no logos. But there are influences and inspirations. And stories.
They all feel a lot more like style than anything I’ve seen lately, and that’s why they’re all menswear brands to know in 2019.