Every man experiences a lack of sartorial inspiration from time to time. Keeping outfits interesting and wardrobes well stocked is no easy feat, and even the best-dressed gentlemen out there can occasionally find themselves stuck in a style rut.
The trick is to keep things fresh. One way this can be achieved is by getting some new designers on your menswear radar. We’re talking the lesser-known, the direct-to-consumer, the up-and-coming and the independent. Labels that can inject a dose of something new and exciting into a stagnating wardrobe.
Here we count down some of our favourite brands that you may not already know. Including who they are, what they do best and why they’re worth introducing to your rotation.
The majority of dress codes are pretty firmly established. This considered, attempting to redefine one is no small undertaking. Nevertheless, that’s exactly what British label L’Estrange has been doing with its unique take on the term ‘smart casual’. And to marvellous effect.
The brand was born in 2013, out of a desire to create the perfect hoodie. A garment with all the best qualities of a traditional hooded sweatshirt, but infused with tailoring DNA. Quite literally a smart/casual hybrid.
The results speak for themselves. And now L’Estrange has expanded to include a full range of neo-smart-casual staples, including trousers, shirting and T-shirts.
When you think of luxury items, baseball caps probably aren’t the first things that come to mind. Swedish label Stiksen is on a mission to change that.
Sticking to its motherland’s trademark minimalist approach to design, the headwear brand makes upscale caps that are crafted with high-end materials and are free from heavy branding or logos.
The idea is to turn the humble ball cap into something premium and somewhat smart that can be worn for all occasions – a tailored jacket to the dad cap’s slouchy overshirt.
We all love that effortlessly stylish Mediterranean aesthetic (you know, the one where the clothes cost loads of money), which is exactly what Aurélien delivers, minus the eye-watering price tags.
The direct-to-consumer brand works with the best European makers to bring you high-end garments at so-called ‘elegant prices’. And while this certainly doesn’t mean they’re cheap, they’re still a lot more affordable than the majority of ‘quiet luxury’ brands.
If you’re into labels like Loro Piana and Brunello Cucinelli but don’t fancy taking out a second mortgage in the name of fashion, shopping with these guys is an excellent alternative.
Meet the first-ever skate shoe brand to be B-Corp certified. Cariuma is committed to two things: creating functional yet stylish footwear, and doing so with the lowest possible environmental impact.
The brand does this by using a combination of organic, recycled and regenerative materials, and by ensuring its shoes are built to last well and outlive trends. Shoes such as the best-selling Ibi Slip-On creates three times fewer emissions than the industry average for a pair of shoes. It also features a sugarcane outsole, cork insole and is completely machine washable.
Can you get glasses cheap? Yes. Do they tend to look good? Not really. Thankfully, Johann Wolff is an antidote to this all-too-common affordable eyewear conundrum, offering up stylish frames at a fraction of what they cost elsewhere.
What’s more, the brand offers a lifetime warranty on all of its specs. They’re so confident in the quality of these glasses that they will replace broken pairs free of charge… forever!
You can’t go wrong with a bit of French workwear, and that’s what Kleman is all about. Since the 1980s, this functional brand has been producing handmade footwear for several public organisations — the French national railway, fire departments and police forces to name a few — but also for a loyal civilian customer base who rate the Kleman’s shoes for not just for their quality, but also their style.
Expect classic styles like Derbies, loafers and sandals, and the star of the show, the Padror shoe. It’s a proper French moc-toe work shoe, handmade in France using traditional techniques.
Founded by menswear industry veteran Nick Reed, Neem was designed to be ‘an antidote to fast fashion’. It achieves this by producing high-quality garments, transparently produced using recycled materials, and by ensuring all of its products are built to stand the test of time.
The range consists of simple, easy-to-wear pieces in subtle, neutral shades that work well together. We’re particularly fond of the four-pocket flannel overshirts.
Steele & Borough
What’s the point in pouring so much effort into your outfit only to ruin it by slinging a battered old gym bag over your shoulder before you head out the door? Your choice of bag is every bit as important as any other element of your look, so it pays to get a good one.
The trouble is, smart luggage tends to be expensive… unless you know where to shop that is. We’d recommend Steele & Borough: a relative newcomer to the arena, but one that is offering up some fantastic options at seriously reasonable prices.
Simple, well-made, casual pieces, all lovingly designed in the UK. That’s the name of the game at Wax London. Founded by three friends in 2015, this young brand is heavily inspired by London life, creating elevated everyday pieces that can be called upon day in, day out.
The overshirts, in particular, are rather special, such as the Whiting overshirt, which has a heavyweight construction, relaxed fit, and is available in a plethora of colour options – some eye-catching, some subtle.
Portuguese brand JAK specialises in well-made, reasonably priced sneakers with an emphasis on understated versatility. This means the shoes are often fairly minimalist, with simple designs and little to no visible branding. As a result, JAK’s shoes can be worn with pretty much anything, making them a valuable addition to your shoe rack.
OK, they’re not exactly dirt cheap, but when you put them next to comparable brands in terms of quality and aesthetics the value aspect is plain to see.
The first and most important step in building something beautiful is to lay a solid foundation. This is true not just in architecture, but also your wardrobe. A reliable sartorial arsenal depends heavily on the selection of basics that form its backbone. If these are up to scratch, everything else will fall into place. If not, well, you’re in trouble.
Thankfully, Stockholm-based brand Asket is all about the essentials. Since 2015, the Scandinavian label has been on a mission to kit men out with the fundamental tools they need to build the perfect capsule wardrobe.
The idea behind the brand is to create timeless basics to last forever, not just a season. Team that with high-end craftsmanship and focus on sustainability and you get one of the slickest purveyors of stylish staples you’re ever likely to come across.
Swedish brothers Niklas and Mattis Oppermann founded Carl Friedrik in 2012 after they grew frustrated with the lack of well-designed, high-quality leather goods that they wanted to use themselves or to give as gifts for friends.
Luckily for the rest of us, they soon put this right. Carl Friedrik’s stylish luggage is slick, well made and versatile. Crafted from the highest quality Italian leather by genuine artisans, the range encompasses weekenders, backpacks, tote bags, briefcases and even suitcases. Basically, everything you need to get your gear from point A to point B in as good-looking a manner as possible.
Swedish lifestyle store Arket burst onto the scene in August 2017 to unprecedented success. The offspring of H&M, this minimalist high-street mecca offers a breath of fresh air from the hustle and bustle, serving up stylish trinkets, good coffee and, of course, excellent attire.
Here you’ll find clothes that are well made, squeaky clean and just oozing Scandinavian cool. Keep your eyes peeled for their overshirts and tailoring, but where Arket really excels is with its knitwear. Think fine-gauge, merino wool and just the right amount of restraint.
A Day’s March
It may have been temporarily eclipsed by garish colours, over-the-top detail and bulky silhouettes in mainstream menswear, but make no mistake – minimalism is here to stay. And leading the resistance is Swedish independent label A Day’s March.
With several brick-and-mortar shops already established on its home turf, and one in London’s Soho district now too, A Day’s March’s signature brand of stripped-back simplicity has quickly made them a favourite here at Ape.
Expect well-made wardrobe staples with slim cuts and pared-back branding as standard. For a quick snapshot of what the label is all about, look to its military-inspired overshirts. They’re clean, versatile, timeless and a prime example of what the Stockholm-based brand does so well.
King & Tuckfield
Founded by Londoner Stacey Wood in 2016, King & Tuckfield is a relatively young label that’s already making waves. Since day one, the menswear industry has been abuzz with talk of made-in-England selvedge denim and cuts so clean, contemporary and cool they would give Acne Studios and A.P.C. a run for their money.
These are classic, simple clothes with big personality. Elegant garments that somehow manage to be both subtle and statement-making at the same time.
The label has friends in high places, too. Male model and dapper man-about-town Richard Biedul is a fan, having recently launched a co-branded collection. But for King & Tuckfield, this is only the beginning.
A market stall selling boxer shorts made from shirting offcuts may not sound like a great jumping-off point for a stylish menswear label, but it certainly worked for SIRPLUS.
Since as early as 2010, the company has been a regular fixture of London’s Portobello Market. And what began as such a simple concept has over time morphed into a full-scale fashion brand.
Perhaps it’d be unfair to label it as “fashion”, though. Because the label’s output isn’t driven by trends, but timeless style that’ll keep looking good and remain relevant season after season, year after year. From simple, plain tees to casual shirts – it’s all exemplary stuff crafted to the highest standards. Look out for the trademark Nehru jackets, too.
With the relaxing of dress codes across the board in menswear, sneakers have found a new audience. These sporty staples have graduated from track and field to legitimately being worn with tailoring. Still, it wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for the brands that made it their mission to smarten them up.
One such label is ETQ., a Dutch brand specialising in the sort of luxurious sneakers capable of complementing almost any clothing combination you could care to imagine. It’s all thanks to a simple design, high-quality materials and artisan craftsmanship. These are the type of kicks that’ll become your go-to – something you can wear for anything from a job interview to a date night with great results every time.
Arguably one of the classiest beach destinations on the face of the earth, Biarritz is cool, chilled out and full of character. It’s also home to Atalaye: a young brand making some of the finest resortwear we’ve ever had the good fortune to see.
Atalaye’s swimming shorts are a perfect visual metaphor for their Basque-country hometown. They’re stylish, laid back, luxurious and bursting with personality. This is premium swimwear that justifies its price tag, making the ideal accompaniment to anything from a polo shirt and espadrilles to simply a bare, bronzed torso.
Eastern-inspired prints are a common theme, so look out for eye-catching designs and lively colours.