It's been a lively few days in London, both on and off the catwalk. There've been granny-chic florals (Kit Neale), martial-arts layers (Craig Green), skimpy neon clubbing gear (Christopher Shannon), and even a bit of sports-jock ass-flashing (Sibling). And away from the shows, the city simultaneously played host to a stage of the World Naked Bike Ride, thrown an epic party for DSquared's 20th anniversary, and watched the Trooping of the Colour on Pall Mall. There, on Buckingham Palace's balcony, Prince George watched the display with his father, wearing the exact blue shirt and pants his father wore to the same event three decades ago.
It was a neat illustration of how little, despite all the fuss, has actually changed in British menswear since Margaret Howell started out in the Seventies. Along the way, there have been bursts of peacockery and punk, minimalism and joyous exuberance. But Howell has stuck to her guns, sending out the same refined classics season after season – and now the fashion crowd come to her shows as though going to church: quietly, respectfully, attentively. In her white-walled shop, on a white-painted plinth, she sent out a collection today that could have come from any season – gentle, beautifully considered cuts, in buttery shades of seal, fudge, and chocolate.
What was interesting was how, subtly, an element of exaggeration had been added – bulked-up shoulder detail, oversized buttons and weighty sleeves, heavily-pleated trousers, and tightly wrapped waists. Spotted neckerchiefs and chunky socks nodded back towards a nostalgic Boy Scout practicality – but, equally, they nodded forward towards the discomfitingly off-kilter aesthetics of many of Howell's younger rivals. And in doing so they highlighted – quietly – that there isn't perhaps as much clear air between Howell's comforting classics and the work of London's so-called cutting edge as we've become accustomed to think.