Denver is a city known for a smorgasbord of great attractions, including its incredible music scene, vibrant nightlife, triumphant professional sports teams, endless outdoor adventures in the national parks and mountains a stone’s throw away, and (of course) the legalization of everyone's favorite plant.
One thing it is not known for is its sense of fashion and style, especially for men. This aspect of the city is so unknown, in fact, that many of my classmates from fashion school left immediately upon graduation, headed for the big lights and glamour of New York City or the sunny and star-studded streets of Los Angeles.
The team at Spruce | Barber and Clothier, along with numerous local men’s boutiques around the city, are working to set the record straight and put Denver on the vogue map.
Our mode may not be as captivating as NYC nor as stellar as LA, but our blend of form and function, diversity, and mile high steez creates a unique style that should be recognized in the same bright light as everything else in Denver.
Before we begin our journey through Denver’s most popular neighborhoods to discover the streetwear styles of the city's best dressed, it is important to identify the key trends and pieces, colors, accessories, and hairstyles we will be on the lookout for.
Layered, Like Nachos
“If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes”
This is a saying anyone who’s lived in Colorado for a few months has heard. While the state boasts 300 days of sunshine a year, we also see a distinct change in seasons that bring on 100+ degree heat in the summer, enough snow to cover the Rocky Mountains in the winter, and a decent amount of rain in between. Needless to say, Denverites were layering their outfits based out of necessity long before it became trendy. The question is:
Do we own the look on a style-conscious level, as well as a functional one?
I’ll be looking for layered extended-length and regular tees, button-downs, vests, sweaters, and jacket combinations. Obviously, layering becomes more necessary with the Fall and Winter seasons, but I'm trying to find the bold men of Broncoville that make some sacrifices in comfort for the fashion statement.
Elevated Casual: Reaching Mile High Heights
Whether the reason behind it is the changing face of the modern workplace from the strict dress code of 'Mad Men' advertising agencies of the 1960s or young Millennials anxious to shed the office formality to enjoy the afternoon imbibing on a patio for happy hour after work, there is no doubt that men's business attire has found a healthy medium between casual and formal. The trick is looking perfectly at ease on that patio without changing out of your office attire.
"Elevated Casual is the effortless style of today's modern man."
The urban gentleman fluidly combines formal and casual; a clean pair of sneakers under pressed slacks or slim chinos, a T-shirt paired with a smart dinner jacket, or a pair of wingtips with quality raw denim jeans and a button-down shirt.
The men who can do that will be the focus of this trend watch.
Distressed Denim (SOS or right on target?)
Whether on ‘real cowboy' level or ‘Kanye with blown out knees’ level, a great fitting, worn pair of jeans has an appeal that will never fade like the denim themselves. There is nothing that says casual and relaxed like distressed denim with sneakers and a tee. Being the first state to legalize 'the Devil’s lettuce', CO should have this laid back look down. My hunt will be for faded, worn, and ripped denim jeans, with bonus points for the most authentic wear and tear aesthetic.
Short Shorts vs. Patella Scrapers vs. Cargos
Men's shorts are arguably one of the most debated menswear items in history. They've been worn in just about every length imaginable, predominately as swimwear or as part of an athletic uniform. Tom Ford, one of the foremost authorities on men's fashion, decreed in AnOther Magazine back in 2011,
"Men should never wear shorts in the city. Flip-flops and shorts in the city are never appropriate. Shorts should only be worn on the tennis court or on the beach." -Tom Ford, Another Mag
Whether you agree with Mr. Ford or not, shorts on the Men's Spring/Summer catwalks this year ranged from short, thigh highs down to 'Patella Scrapers' that sit comfortably at the knee, and I still see guys sporting their old Abercrombie and American Eagle cargos from the early 2000s. I am interested to see what will be worn on the streets of Denver; I expect it will be across the board. And you can never really put the infamous Chubbies out of the running, can you?
According to GQ Magazine, the colors of the season are varying shades and textures of grey and green. However, anyone that's ever been in the terrain park of any mountain in CO during the ski/snowboard season knows that we make our own rules on what colors and hues are dope and what coordinates with what. So instead of keeping eyes out for any colors in particular, I will be on the (s)watch for everything, while paying special attention to shades of grey, olive green, and navy blue.
Accessories: The Game Changer
"Fashion without accessories is like sex without orgasm." Robert Morris, Accessories Designer
No one wants that. Let's reach accessory-asm, fellas.
- Hats: whether it's baseball caps, beanies (beanies in the summer? Yes, unfortunately...), fedoras, or others, those 300 days of sunshine will keep the domes covered up this summer.
- Backpacks: going back to the elevated casualness of today's workplace, backpacks often replace briefcases. But your typical JanSport or skate pack won't make the cut. I'm talking about high quality bags with a sophisticated appeal, ones that I wouldn't think twice about as a replacement for that briefcase. (And guys, please, please do not be rolling anything around on wheels...)
- Socks: For me, the crazier the colors and patterns, the better. Whereas I usually try to keep the rest of my outfit coordinated, I often like to ignore that consistency and break the 'rules' when I choose my socks. Is that just me? I don't know, I just hope to see the upper levels on the city's foot-shelter game.
- Shoes. Watches. Jewelry.
Fade In to Stand Out
I spoke to Spruce's Head of Barber Services Johnathan Sanchez to find out what men's hair would make the cut.
"Short on the sides faded into a longer top. Parted on the side. Think Mad Men. More details would be tapered into beard and skin taper on back of neck. It can be worn messy or neatly combed." -Johnathan Sanchez
So, while they are moving away from the 'Mad Men' formal dress etiquette, the cool kids are keeping the cranium suave and slick.
Twice a year in Florence, Italy, at the Pitti Uomo menswear trade show, the most bold and adventurous style connoisseurs, known as the 'Peacocks of Pitti', flock to be seen and photographed. It's one of my favorite shows to follow in menswear, and really can't be portrayed any better than by this hilarious short video by filmmaker Aaron Christian.
Obviously I can't hope to fall upon a display as spectacular as this, but I do hope to see some of the more audacious in Denver out and about owning some of this season's more difficult trends, including matching pattern on pattern outfits, white denim and chinos, wide-legged trousers, overalls, bomber jackets, and bold headwear.
Stay tuned for my sartorial quest through Denver's most popular neighborhoods as I seek to uncover the city's most style- and trend-conscious men, starting in Spruce's very own Berkeley neighborhood, as well as the surrounding LoHi and Sunnyside 'hoods!
Follow the quest on Instagram @HighEndTight.