Dressing up a beard has been easy for the past few years: throw on some flannel, a watch cap, some jeans and boots… done. While there’s little doubt that this look will march on as a niche and lumbersexuals will continue to thrive in rustic areas like the Pacific Northwest, there is something of a shift moving menswear at the moment. Terms like “urban techwear”, “Nordic minimalism”, “70’s revivalism” and “light androgyny” are being bandied about by magazines, influencers, and designers. Men have, arguably, more options when it comes to style than they’ve ever had and the whole thing can be a little confusing.
That’s why I sat down with the guys from Shockoe Atelier in Richmond, VA, to talk about the future of menswear, how to dress as things change and how their first full collection, coming in Fall of 2015, fits into it all.
Shockoe Atelier takes its name from the Richmond Neighborhood, Shockoe Bottom, where it resides. Once home to slave markets and turn-of-the-century industrial sites, the neighborhood sat abandoned and forgotten through much of Richmond’s rocky period in the 90’s and came to life again when scrappy start ups like Shockoe and shirtmakers Ledbury moved in. Shockoe started as Shockoe Denim in 2012, though principles the Lupesco family bring over half a century of experience in the high-end tailoring industry; a fact that shines through in the immaculate fit of every garment of theirs I’ve tried on. They still make jeans in their Richmond workshop, one at a time, the old fashion way, but rebranded as Shockoe Atelier to announce a full collection of shirts, blazers and vests, made in Italy, for Fall 2015.
I sat down with partner Matt Rho and retail manager Patrick Baran. Rho and Baran are a perfect contrast to talk about the shifting focus of menswear and the myriad directions a guy could take in the future. Rho sits on a vintage couch reupholstered, naturally, with denim in a Shockoe Atelier quilted vest made from a gorgeous double front fabric, a blue window pane check shirt from the brand, a pair of patchwork Shockoe jeans and a pair of white Adidas Stan Smiths. His facial hair is manicured into a shape that would seem positively villainous on someone who didn’t speak with Rho’s abundant kindness and careful consideration. In contrast, Baran could be mistaken for a southern frat boy by someone not keyed into the details of his wardrobe. He wears pegged Shockoe raw, selvedge denim on top of Concepts x Asics Gel Lyte 5 sneakers and a white Southern Proper polo.
Rho acknowledged the embarrassment of riches facing men when it comes to picking out clothes these days and said that choice is a good thing. “I think menswear is going to get more mashed up before anything crystalizes,” he said before listing a few dominant aesthetics right now. He also said that men are defining how they want to dress, instead of listening to magazines or the media. He cited Baran’s appropriation of southern prep and said “I think more and more guys are dressing that way, they don’t want to be told by an editorial board at a magazine how to dress.”
Regardless of what becomes the dominant trend, if the heritage/lumbersexual vibe of the past half decade is indeed unseated by something else, the good news is that, for whatever reason, men have the leeway now to explore aesthetics and wear whatever the hell we want. We’ve been released from the uniform of our predecessors.
“In my opinion, the whole thing’s just clothing,” Baran said. “If you want to wear skin tight pants and a big shirt, wear skin tight pants and a big shirt. I don’t because it doesn’t look good on me but the best thing about right now is that it’s ok to do whatever you want.”
Which may not seem like a lot of guidance from an article called “how to dress your beard.” But, it is. We’re telling you to let go, to embrace different aesthetics. Hold onto your flannel, but buy some minimalist clothing. Buy some luxury goods and some vintage engineer boots. The best way to dress your beard in the coming seasons is to embrace options.
Rho thinks Shockoe Atelier’s forthcoming collection fits this budding mold perfectly. “It’s American denim blended with old world sartorial tailored goods.” Having seen samples of the collection, I can vouch for every item’s quality and versatility. I, at one point, staring into a mirror wearing a blazer made of fabric that felt like it was floating on my shoulders told the guys at Shockoe “this is how I want to dress now. How did you do this? This is how I want to dress.” I was wearing a ratty v-neck t-shirt under the jacket and some raw denim, but the look was effortless, the fit so flawless and the construction so dead on that I probably could have been wearing a potato sack and that jacket would have made me look like a million bucks.
It’s this blend of high-end, street style and active wear, luxury and lumbersexual that will define menswear in the future by refusing to define it. It’s a brave new and confusing world out there. Embrace it and mash up your style a bit… it’s all just clothes after all.
Photos courtesy of Shockoe Atelier
About the Author:
Greg Houser is a freelance writer living in Richmond, VA. Follow him on Instagram.