Trend Watch: The New Victorians


What’s even hotter than a potbellied hipster or dressing like the ’80s never ended? According to the latest dispatch from the New York Times, embracing the fashion and decor of the late 19th-century. While many one-off elements of the aesthetic have had their moments in recent years — and we have the fedora somewhere in our closet to prove it — in this trend piece, the Times is clearly talking about a look that’s more head-to-toe. Extreme is the new normal.

Not long ago, big brass-buttoned military coats looked a bit extreme. So did high-button, high-lapel vests and slim tweed trousers. And so did guys who tucked said trousers into high, old-fashioned hunting boots. Now these clothes (along with those ever-present beards and mustaches) look like downtown defaults compared with fall runway looks like cardinal-red tailcoats at Ralph Lauren, capes and bowlers at Alexander McQueen and knee breeches at Robert Geller.

You know that we love beards. But isn’t the rise of the Victorian hipster dandy a little silly? Who springs for a three-piece suit in this rough economy? Would you date a non-superhero who walked around the Lower East Side wearing a cape? Is tweed really a fabric that anyone should don while riding a bicycle?

Also, we find this part of the article, which tries to unearth the patriotism in the pageantry, rather rich:

Part of the appeal, in fact, is in how the clothes relate not to the runways or the estates of Europe, but to America’s heartland in ways that few fashions do. Country and city men alike have rediscovered old-school American brands like Filson, Orvis, L. L. Bean and Duluth Pack. Obsolete hobbies like wet-plate photography are finding new enthusiasts; long-outmoded farming practices are being revived. Even deer hunting with old-fashioned muzzleloaded rifles, which have to be loaded with gunpowder, a musket ball and a ramrod, has come back in force in some states.

Just to be clear, real country men don’t know from Orvis or L.L. Bean. They’re wearing Wranglers from K-Mart because they’re cheap and they last. And if these men are deer hunting, it’s because they’ve been doing it their whole lives (please see: The Old Man and the Boy), not because they want to look like Victorians. Oh, and most of them hate fashion and cities in equal measure.

Finally, this isn’t a new trend at all. It’s a repackaging of the steampunk trend that’s been around forever (and that the Times reported on in May 2008), just another spin-off of Taavo Somer’s downtown anti-style style. And of course, he’s quoted in this piece, too: “We’ve already seen the comeback of the butcher and the baker. Next thing is going to be a hipster candlestick maker.” If he says it, it will happen. Don’t believe us? Name one restaurant that has inspired more copycats than Freemans. And then when you can’t, start stocking up on candles.

Photos: Tintype Photographs by David Sokosh for the New York Times; Photographed on Governors Island, New York.