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More Effects of the Pandemic on Menswear

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to change our lives daily, it has also had an effect on the much-publicized world of women’s fashion. However, men’s fashion continue to change as well — even though not much about those changes is presented in fashion magazines. 

In the December 7, 2020 issue of GQ magazine, Noah Johnson’s article, “In the Defense of Hard Clothes,” discussed the belief that the most important thing about clothes is comfort. After discussing soft clothing for men, such as sweat suits and artificial soft fabric, he offered an alternative: “Let me suggest something controversial: hard clothes are better. Clothes with texture and structure and weight are better. Clothes that make you aware that you are wearing them, that’s what I like — natural fibers that itch a little, dense fabrics with a calming heft, a dry, crisp hand. This is the stuff you find at the hardware store, sure, but it’s being made by some of the best, most thoughtful designers in the world too — designers who share my affinity for clothes that do more than coddle you during sensitive times.”

Leading the hard-clothes charge is the Perth, Australia-based label Man-tle launched by husband-and-wife team Larz Harry and Aida Kim in 2016. The two met in Tokyo while working for Comme des Garçons — Harry doing various marketing duties for Dover Street Market and Kim working one-on-one with Rei Kawakubo on the development of the CdG Black collection. That experience, working with “very precious garments,” most of which you can’t put in a washing machine, said Harry, led them to develop a range of shirts and pants that could withstand anything — including western Australia’s notoriously brutal climes.

“We wanted to make something that lasts a long time and transcends style and fashion and was classic but felt surprising to touch,” Harry said. If possible, I implore you to go to your local Man-tle dealer — CHCM in New York City; Meridian in Hudson, New York; Departamento in Los Angeles, California; Neighbor in Vancouver, Canada — to touch these garments. If nothing else, you will be surprised. Man-tle’s simple shirts and pants, made from stuff like high-density waxed chambray and heat-treated compressed nylon, feel like they could stop a bullet.

So, we see a new take on men’s fashions in this pandemic atmosphere in which we find ourselves. Either way, soft clothes or hard clothes, men now have a choice.

There is another effect on men’s clothing in today’s conditions. As reported in the June 22, 2020 issue of the Business section of the Los Angeles Times, Abdul Rashid Dadabhoy realized he had a problem when the Orange County, California supervisors shut down all nonessential businesses on March 17, 2020, which resulted in halting production at AST Sportswear, one of the nation’s largest makers of T-shirts and athletic wear. Dadabhoy heard about the critical shortage of face masks. He got together with his three brothers and prototyped a cotton version which could be manufactured in their Brea, California factory and turned out 1,200 pieces the next day. The company has made more than 10 million masks and continues to manufacture them at the same rate.

The Times also reported that more than 400 apparel companies in Los Angeles, California have participated in Mayor Garcetti’s LA Project initiative to produce five million masks, which is open to Los Angeles city and county businesses. AST joined a national PPE consortium of large apparel makers that includes Los Angeles Apparel and big manufacturers, such as Hanesbrands.

Another company that began making masks and other PPP is Lefty Productions Co., which provides various services to the apparel industry. When medical providers could not get masks from overseas, Lefty started producing caps and shoe covers for the industry. Dov Charney’s new company Los Angeles Apparel has shifted from men’s and women’s clothing to making masks.

The pandemic has forced companies from making men’s (and women’s) clothing into the business of making masks, and it appears that the demand for masks and other PPP items will continue well into 2021, if not longer. With the advent of vaccines, we may see that need reduced substantially, and manufacturers can return to the manufacture of clothing. 

Benjamin S. Seigel, Esq. is of Counsel to the firm of G&B Law, LLP. He can be reached at bseigel@gblawllp.com.

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