The 'lotharibro' – that devilishly handsome man in Cannes with several different credit cards under several different names – had his summer cut short. We all did. So, where his particular strain of open shirts and rippling chests and glistering jewellery works best abroad, we weren't actually allowed to go abroad. The lotharibro was stuck in London. Or his ancestral home in the Cotswolds. The lotharibro just couldn't take off.
But arch-girlfriend-stealer's wardrobe has a longer lifespan. Or, at least, one piece does in particular: the silk shirt. It seems purpose-built for summer, right? All billowy and light, in lustrous shades of screwdriver and blue lagoon and Nurofen. Though look to the A/W '20 runways – the last round of air kisses and glamour before Covid-19 forced fashion shows onto laptops – and it seems the silk shirt is set to live on in the colder months, repurposed as a way to add texture and vibrancy to the usual rotation of cold weather monochrome.
That said, the silk shirt has changed ever so slightly this season. Japanese designer John Lawrence Sullivan, a menswear insurgent who blends the conventions of rock 'n' roll with something a bit scarier, went for rich shades of garnet in loose, flowing shapes. It's not his usual Satanic leather vibe. But it is still moody, vampiric even, and best-placed, as it was in the show, below a pitch black suit. Dolce & Gabbana went quieter too. Or, at least, quieter compared to the Italian's house usual standards, with one key shirt emblazoned with an amber, sepia print based on the illustration of a cobbler's desk at dusk. Somebody play The Godfather theme and cook up some arancini and be done with it.
There's a lighter approach, though. Rather than queue jump at Club Tropicana (or check into John Lawrence Sullivan's haunt, which looked a lot like that terrifying blood rave from the opening of Blade), these silk shirts were full of pastoral glee. At Ami, one cream ruffled shirt was a bit Marie-Antoinette's-bit-on-the-side. Jil Sander, a deity of clean, polished minimalism, painted what looked like watercolour succulents upon the front of a clean, polished shirt. And Valentino also went for large-scale springtime florals that were surprisingly wearable. Shades of magnolia, cream and off-white aren't boring when they're in silk shirt mode.
A special mention is reserved for Casablanca. The brainchild of French-Moroccan designer Charaf Tajer, the brand's signature is a new one. As in actually new. Few have seen Marrakech of the Seventies through the lens of a Colin Tilley music video at The Grand Budapest Hotel. Which, unsurprisingly, translates to some really great menswear, and some really great silk shirts – a staple of Casablanca's powder pink output. Under the grand awning of the InterContinental Paris Le Grand Hotel, the A/W '20 show trotted out stripes of green and bubblegum against prints of long-limbed adolescent Dalmatians, while others offered cartoonish vistas of unknown Italian towns that weren't too far from the hand of Georges Prosper Remi, the illustrator behind the colourful world of Tintin. This is as fun as silk shirts get, and it's a big step away from pot-bellied has-beens down the local Algarve disco.
Because it's easy to sniff, isn't it? Silk shirts can feel like a bit much. But with the sheer range on offer – and given menswear's slow march to the experimental end of the playing field – there's choice and wriggle room with a piece once associated with a very specific way of dressing. It's not just for the lotharibro. It's for you too.
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