JUST WHEN MANY MEN WERE thinking their wardrobes had been finalized in a classical mode--Brooks Brothers, jeans or L. L. Bean--an unstoppable design force is moving in and shaking things up. In the same way that architects Michael Graves and Frank Gehry add iconoclastic colors and shapes to classical forms, designers are adding modernity without forsaking their strengths. They're infusing the classics with bold color. They're relaxing the traditional silhouette. And they're showing sophisticated combinations of fabrics.
The man who, in the past, stretched his style at the office with a yellow or red power tie will probably be the first to try the bolder, 3 3/8-inch print ties reminiscent of the '40s or a tie with buttonholes that attach to the buttons on his shirt. Men who first experimented with colored dress shirts will now choose shirts with fine details such as muted stripes in purple, teal or orange, hand-carved bone buttons or brightly colored solids in silk or fine cotton. Tasteful alternatives to ties and shirts are cashmere polo sweaters or mock turtlenecks.
The standard blazer and three-button jacket also are evolving. A stalwart traditionalist, Ralph Lauren introduced a relaxed sack suit with three buttons, a single vent and flat-front pants in his fall, 1988, collection. This conservative shape triggered a fast-moving trend that calls for all jackets to be roomy but not sloppy and have softer, rounder shoulders.