PARIS — When menswear designers showed their fall collections here recently, the extremes ranged from silver-plated codpieces (by Jean Paul Gaultier) and Dagwood Bumstead hair styles to shiny tights worn as outerwear.
After five days of shows, those codpieces still looked outrageous, but the fanciful hairdos and tights somehow seemed acceptable.
What looked like dropouts were classic shirts and ties, which designers consistently replaced with knit polo shirts or turtleneck sweaters worn with traditional suits.
The sweaters with suits were part of a more relaxed mood, which, while casual, rarely look rugged.
Designers softened harsh-angled shoulders into a new drop-shoulder look on jackets and coats. Jackets were cut short and wide, like '60s zoot suits, or tapered to the waist and almost hip length. Longer jackets often had as many as five buttons for closings, the buttonholes sometimes outlined in contrasting-color thread.
The newest-looking coats, often in the same color and fabric as the suits under them, stopped at or around the knee. Many had velvet Chesterfield collars. As always, many of the best coats were at Claude Montana and Nino Cerruti.
Montana offered great sweeps of cashmere for an enveloping look; Cerruti offered shawl-collar wrap cashmeres with "100% cashmere" embroidered tone-on-tone on the coat backs.
Other great looks from Montana and Cerruti were the sweater sets. Montana's black, ribbed silk-and-wool pullover and cardigan were shown with black tuxedo trousers for a chic, yet casual, approach to evening. Cerruti showed a wonderful, stretched-out, fire-engine-red cardigan with a matching pullover.
The Gaultier show gets more outrageous every season, but cavorting on the runway are the fashion ideas that will be fueling others for months to come. For winter, the return of mixed plaids, with jackets, shirts, ties, pants and coats all worn together in merrily clashing tartans; tights in everything from stretch to cotton jersey; great-looking mock-turtleneck sweaters and Irish fishermen knits with sleeves in stretch jersey.
And with Paris boutiques now filled with copies of the Cyrillic alphabet Gaultier used this winter, watch his new use of Gothic lettering inspire fans.
Kenzo, who used to be the bad boy of Paris fashion, has definitely grown up this season, with banker's flannel slim coats over matching suits, bowler hats and rolled-up umbrellas.
One of the few to remain totally sporty was Jeff Sayre, whose hand-knit sweaters were inspired by racing silks and fox hunting. There were even fox heads on his ankle socks, while at Yohji Yamamoto, Grenadier guards marched around the ankles of knit socks. Here, as in other collections, there was a feeling for the nautical in those boxy navy peacoats worn with pants always shown rolled at the ankle.
The must-have winter accessory from these collections: the knit stocking cap.