When is slouchy and sloppy considered stylish? When menswear designers turn simple blazers, over-shirts and cardigan sweaters into oversized Hefty bags and start calling them fashionable.
Baggy blazers devoid of construction and sweaters that hang to the knee are turning up in the collections of many young designers, who hope to convince men that bigger really is better. But not necessarily cheaper; some of these looks can cost up to $600.
Beverly Hills retailer Sami Dinar carries baggy basics from such pricey design labels as Sans Tambours Ni Trompettes and Dolce & Gabbana. He concedes it's a look most men have to get used to.
"I know I would wear a jacket like that and feel very comfortable," says Dinar. "I like that they are so versatile and can be dressed up or down." Many of these items are made of lightweight gabardines, cottons and linens, good weights for California's temperate climate.
But it's going to take more than that to convince the average American man.
"It's just another scam to sell clothes," says Carlos Populus, a media assistant at the Planetary Society in Pasadena.
"They've obviously run out of interesting things and now they want to sell us ugly and convince us it's trendy." Populus says he'll stick to his Levi jeans and Pendleton cotton flannel shirts, thank you.
New York-based designer Marcos Ergas says the ideas for his slouchy single-button blazers and sleeveless, wrinkled "peasant" linen over-shirts came from those least likely to afford his clothes, which retail from $110 to $300: "Sometimes I like the haphazard way people on the street put things together," he says. "I have an affinity for rustic, textured looks."
"Certainly a man can put it on and really look like a wreck," says San Francisco-based designer Lat Naylor, whose collection ($250 to $500) for fall includes overly-baggy wool gabardine "leisure" jackets and giant hand-knitted wool/mohair cardigans and pullovers. "Or you can put it on and look like you thought about it for ages, when actually you just threw it on."
Naylor, who designs for Think Tank, says it's taken three years for American retailers to accept his offbeat and oversized silhouettes, which he believes flatter large men like himself. (Naylor is 6-foot-4 and "like most American men, disproportionate toward the middle.")
Predictably, retailers responded more positively to his oversized looks this season, says Naylor, when "recognizable names like Calvin Klein and Andrew Fezza" showed the jackets in their collections.