One of the more grati fying aspects of those twice-yearly menswear shows in Milan and Paris, is the way many of their trends fizzle as fast as their catwalk lights.
Average blokes are notoriously sensible in the face of dropped- crutch bloomers and cut- lunch stovepipes with patchworked leather winklepickers. Thank God.
Only the broadest brushstrokes of a few influential designers per colate down to shop racks and this enables mens wear, generally, to mod ernise itself at a slothful pace.
It can take several seasons for lapels to widen or narrow, or the button count on a suit jacket to alter by one, or for cuffs to thicken in the French manner or thin to a single, or for prints to fade from graphic to floral to graphic-floral on casual shirts, or for trou sers to loosen, shrink, loosen . . .
In the most recent series of autumn/winter collections shown in Paris and Milan, how ever, and being delivered to northern hemispheric shops as we speak, a handful of designers adopted a new tack that could conceivably speed up the evolution of men's fashion and acceptance of change at street level.
Instead of eye- popping, off-the-wall, ground-breaking new aesthetic proposals, they tapped into the known realm of costume.
Tom Ford's final collections for Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent channelled languid lounge-lizard Hugh Hefner at his 1960s peak, icy-cool spy James Bond, and a dashing Valentino-esque hero.
Ralph Lauren scanned his history books for a classic concert pianist and a rough-diamond lumberjack, and other designers drew carica tures of nerds and dandies, beatniks and pirates.
The ploy may not propel menswear forward to the speed of change of womenwear, but if it nudges one bloke out of his beige chinos and circa 1995 sports jacket and into riding boots, jodphurs, cravat and a whip, well, it's done its job. (I'm joking.)