2008 February 18


Simon Cowell’s belt notwithstanding, more and more men are hanging out their shirts and it’s not just polo-shirts or square-cut tropical and Hawaiian styles which are actually designed to be worn outside trousers but many men are revealing tapered shirttails that weren’t ever meant to appear public.

Why hang your shirt out?

While it’s the young who appear in photographs, with their formal shirts untucked and their bow ties untied, it’s a style that has clear benefits for middle-aged men, who need to conceal midriff bulge or the pot belly that too many business dinners and not enough gym time always deliver. So it does seem to cross the generations. But there’s another reason it’s been so popular too, and that suggests we might start to see a change on the fashion front.

Skirts go up, and shirts come out, when the economy is good

It’s taken as a truism that hem-lengths drop as we head for recession and get shorter when we’re in a boom – it’s very counterintuitive because it costs more to make a long skirt than a short one, but it’s been the case since the 1910s, that you can correlate the amount of leg showing in High Street fashion, with the level of economic spending. But what’s not so often realised is that shirts follow a similar rule. The last times we’ve had flowing tails were the 1960s (cheesecloth) and the 1980s (new romantics, loose shirts belted around the hips), both times of reasonable economic buoyancy. So while our iconic images may be of Mick Jagger in his loose shirts, or Adam Ant’s swashbuckling pirate gear, the fashion world could be on the cusp of change and, as a recession seems to loom, it may be time for men to put their tails away …

Shirttails photograph courtesy of Andrei Shevelov

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