The Rise Of Nu Lad Tradition In Men’s Vogue
Like many of the subcultures before it, the concept of ‘Nu Lad’ is easy to recognise but tough to explain. While it might sound like a ‘nothing’ fad – an invention from a bored type author desperately trying to extract some type of content material from one LCM show, a couple of Palace Skateboards collaborations and a few bands wearing Reebok Classics – the roots of this trend go far deeper than just its trainers. This is a movement that appears to articulate a sure type of feeling among men in Britain proper now; a look and an identification rooted up to now but birthed in the culture of its time. It’s one that is influenced by politics, gender issues, music, and football after all, all parented by a rich history of similarly macho, hedonistic scenes that came before it – from Madchester to Britpop, to UK Garage. Nu Lad is something that was born in the past, but lives very much in the present; a development that while not necessarily very futuristic is inherently very “now”.
Much of the iconography that makes up the Nu Lad aesthetic seems to come from a different time and place, namely a late Nineties/early Noughties Britain that has perhaps only simply started to be truly understood. The JD-recent Reebok Classics that outline the Nu Lad look come straight of out Ewen Spencer’s iconic UK Garage photos and Nick Love’s homoerotic council estate caper Goodbye Charlie Brilliant (a film unappreciated on its release, only to find itself becoming an unlikely type text in its afterlife). Whereas the opposite staples of the look – such as Ralphie polo shirts, Adidas tracksuit tops and bottoms, reflective Stone Island jackets, button-downs, Nike TN trainers and caps, and tucking your trousers into your socks – seem to have been ripped from a collective vision of the onerous lads at our old faculties. It’s essentially dressing just like the people you wanted to be in your teens, but in your twenties.
Jonah wears linen printed Union Jack jumper by Balmain;
stud earring by Topman; chain stylist’s own
These little bits of visual identity all hail from a certain time in British youth tradition, one with its personal mindset and distinctive visible identification. Its era was pre-internet but post-Blair; very much modern but not quite endowed with the paranoia
of the new Millennium. Perhaps the main difference between then and now is that the look co-opted by Nu Lad was once the norm: now it’s the underground, the predominate look amongst younger males in the cooler climes of London’s nightlife tradition. It’s something you’ll see hanging off the bodies of DJs, MCs, stylists and those who think it’s possible for menswear to be more youthful and utilitarian than chunky knit scarves and pinstripe pegs. It’s a series of codes and signifiers you’ll see manifested within the teased fringes, tracksuits and customised numberplates of Liam Hodges’ boy racer-inspired latest collection; the utopian ‘Hug a Hoodie’ looks that Cottweiler and Astrid Andersen have been doing for the last few years; the sexualised Grime stylings of Nasir Mazhar and the crew neck sweater and shorts combos adored by Christopher Shannon. It could even be argued that ‘hot proper now’ stone island cream jeans sale Russian designer Gosha Rubchinskiy’s designs are a sort of “Eastern” take on the aesthetic. It’s the reason why Drake wears Stoneys and Skepta wears white tracksuits, a sleek, clean yet rough’n’tumble look that’s fashionable, flattering and perhaps most of all, achievable. Its ideology also seems to have permeated the wider zeitgeist, presenting a shift towards a ‘laddier’ way of being in many parts of British culture. The success of The Lad Bible, and its offspring The Sport Bible, point in direction of a form of reclamation of the old fashioned notion of “laddishness” – albeit one which seems to be increasingly more considered in its expression as these sites (among the most viewed in the UK) start to pen as many think pieces about Jeremy Corbyn as they do viral stag-do hijinks.
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Jonah wears navy blue wool argyle pattern sweater by Dior Homme
Meanwhile football, which has all the time been the cornerstone of lad culture, has in turn moved towards something a little bit bit more refined, with a growing obsession with the sexier side of the game being led by new ’zines, sites and mags. Magazines such as the Green Soccer Journal seem to style today’s footballers the way we’d like to see them, in Italian sportswear and expensive jumpers quite than the jeggings and leather racing jackets that footballers appear to love so much. This is a very modern version of the old casual culture, influenced by high fashion and fulfilling that need for there to be something for the young man who’s into football and drinking (and perhaps even fighting) but also dancing and medicine and clothes.
It’s an idea you too can hear as well as see, particularly within the clubs the place the UK-born sounds of Jungle, UK Storage and Grime, as properly because the sexy, jubilant sound of Home have turn out to be some of the dominant sounds of the previous few years. Acts like Actual Lies and The Rhythm Technique have taken the sounds that you simply hear when you’re out and off your face, and refined them into generational statements. It’s also probably no coincidence that Craig David, himself a product of the original metrosexual technology, is having fun with a recent comeback.
Leo wears white cotton slim match shirt by CP Firm; plain white cotton London swimsuit trousers by Dsquared2; black Henley Penton new bar leather-based loafers from Dr Martens
A extra cynical observer would possibly say that this is just another example of Retromania, part of the previous ten-yr cycle, whereby issues which we might by no means have thought would turn out to be trendy once more become… simply that. An much more cynical observer would possibly say that that is all just part of a rising motion to fetishise working class culture, that it’s a group of men essentially aping the seems of Blazin’ Squad, or the “banned from Bluewater” ASBO youngsters of the late Nineties. However whereas a sound case exists for both of those theories – particularly when seeing 20-one thing media workers wandering round dressed just like the teenagers in Xchange nightclub in Staines circa 1999 – dismissing this development as a solely nostalgic train is unhelpful, and considerably unfair. For me, this pattern is completely reflective of the place of younger males in Britain right this moment, an ideological and aesthetic manifestation of their uncertainties; their fears; their lack of curiosity in looking like somebody from the solid of Mad Males. It’s part of a collective need to return to a time when males wore clothes that you might get a bit sweaty in; clothes that are perfect for dancing and running and causing havoc in.
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Luke Macman wears his own jacket from North Face; jeans from Stone Island; trainers from Nike Air Max and bag from Adidas. James wears cupro rayon russet toffee anorak by Bottega Veneta; white and blue cotton Griff shirt by Luke; blue cotton denim denims by Valentino
For me, it’s a reactionary trend, one that pushes against both the politics and culture of our time. One which reclaims a sense of identity that’s perhaps being eroded from the British male psyche in the face of joblessness, depression and a normal sense that being into drinking and football and going out is somehow stupid or wrong, and that it is best to feel guilty in your masculine manners and desires. It’s a great distance from the abhorrent Men’s Rights movement, however it’s definitely a method of trying to have the kind of time you want to have without being made to feel guilty about it.
If you throw in worrying statistics like the staggeringly excessive unemployment charges of younger males within the UK, the truth that drug and drink issues are rising and suicide is now the most important killer of younger men, then it’s easy to see that Nu Lad, for all its inherent childishness, is perhaps a approach of reverting back to a time when things were simply that little bit simpler for us.A time when younger males might be younger males; a time that was possibly somewhat freer and a bit more forgiving than now.
It’s also a reaction in aesthetic terms, an aloof “no thanks” to the idea that being a man in 2016 is about not solely rising a beard, but in addition placing oil in it. A flagrant desire for chilly pints of watery lager over small cans of American ale; a selection of light, breathable nylon and polyester rather than stiff selvedge denim; a short, sharp spray of Lynx Africa in the face of artisan hipster tradition. It’s a defiantly British, assured, youthful take on masculinity which is sort of completely at odds with the rising beards, tats ’n’ pulled pork aesthetic you’ll discover in London’s Old Road, Manchester’s Northern Quarter and Liverpool’s Baltic Triangle.
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The entire battle calls to thoughts Liam Gallagher’s notorious quote in regards to the grunge bands that preceded Oasis’s arrival on the scene: “Americans need grungy people stabbing themselves in the head onstage. They get a vibrant bunch like us, with deodorant on, they don’t get it”. And that’s what Nu Lad is: “vivid lads with deodorant on”, 20-one thing metropolitans.
Jonah wears black chenille and silk zipped bomber jacket by VERSACE; bright white cotton microdot print T-shirt from Victorinox; darkish navy the Dylan denims by AG Jeans. Leo wears a gray marl cotton Balham emblem T-shirt by Fairly Inexperienced; darkish navy denim 5-pocket denims by Woolrich; Ebony Pembrey loafers in calf leather-based by Church’s
The life-style of the kids who bend to this type of aesthetic is a hedonistic one. It’s one constructed on cheap pints, cheap-sufficient medicine and doing it a number of nights per week. It’s unselective; you possibly can seemingly take pleasure in it nearly wherever however doing it in more pedestrian surroundings is probably better. It’s Vogue Week in a chain pub. It’s a close to-complete rejection of Night Customary items about the latest spots for mixologist-created cocktails and the perfect places stone island cream jeans sale to get a £25 shave. It’s a movement for individuals who know they’ll by no means purchase a flat but will always have the ability to afford beer and trainers.
The comparisons between this motion and the unique loaded-period lads are simple to attract. Each are movements of educated, involved males who’ve rejected the American-influenced traits of their time in order to co-choose a standard, pub-primarily based, clear, hyper-masculine aesthetic. Most of them make their dwelling inside music, trend and the media, but behave as if they’re on shore leave in Faliraki, seemingly in an attempt to wind up their “civilised”, bourgeois contemporaries. Each old and new groups, nonetheless, are each completely in thrall to soccer tradition.
Jonah wears pink traditional flag swim shorts by Tommy Hilfiger; blue Peterborough kit from Peterborough FC
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However I think that the fundamental difference between the two eras lies in the fact that the original lads were gleefully, gloriously macho and hedonistic, as well as considerably unrepentant about what they’d created. The Nu Lads are simply as understanding – but way more introspective and method less recognised than their forefathers. The whole thing is inherently sadder and definitely more impoverished than what came before it. The Nu Lads don’t have their own version of loaded, stocked in supermarkets and ready to sell for a massive profit. They don’t really have their own thing; it
is, alas, fairly area of interest even when it comes to British tradition. They’re primarily worker bees, stripped of energy, making an attempt to revert to their safer teenage selves in an era of very modern pressures.
The Nu Lad is essentially the culmination of two decades of continuous redefinition of what it’s to be younger. They’re the bastard youngsters of Technology X, Technology Y, the Britpop Lads, the Metrosexuals, the Retrosexuals and the whole lot in-between. The Nu Lad is a reaction towards the Shoreditch beard crew, the Geordie Shore gym bunnies, and town boys with tins of pomade of their fits. It’s about wanting again to try to discover an identification that is continually being referred to as into query by the media and its surrounding culture. It’s about sticking to what you know and being who you are: young, British and a bit blokey. It’s a scene which seems to be a bit Nineties, however behaves itself somewhat higher now. It’s how it’s to be a younger man in 2016, who doesn’t know what he’s doing together with his life however doesn’t care too much both.
Originally printed in GQ Fashion Spring/Summer 2016. GQ Fashion Autumn/Winter 2016 is accessible in print and for your digital device on 22 September 2016.
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