Menswear had a casual presence on the runway at New York Fashion Week in Fall 2010, as plaids, the incorporation of colors other than grays and blacks, and wide striping gave the tailored clothing category a more wearable feel.
The trend built on a tone that first emerged this season on the runways in Europe, which showed that in tough economic times, designers become more willing to show practical pieces — as opposed to outlandish creations intended to grab media attention, said David Wolfe, creative director at the Doneger Group consulting firm.
"There's such an awareness that we need to be more realistic because of the economy," he said. "No matter what comes down the runway, it can look fabulous, but there is just the reality that we are a very comfort-driven society."
Casualization in menswear has been occurring in the US for the past few years, with some experts attributing it to the popularity of "Casual Friday."
What might be spurring the more noticeable departure from classic looks is that menswear has adopted an ever-changing fashion cycle similar to that women's wear, said Steven Kolb, executive director for the Council of Fashion Designers of America trade group.
As such, this season's Duckie Brown show featured mixed English plaids, while runway newcomer Simon Spurr's collection included windowpane looks and wide stripes, as well as an injection of pink.
"It's about the evolution of design," he said.
But Andy Gilchrist, author of "The Encyclopedia of Men's Clothes," said he pays no attention to changing runway trends, saying they're simply a gimmick to attract male shoppers to the tailored men's clothing category — an area in which spending dropped more than 8 percent in 2009, according to research firm NPD Group.
Instead, he said men started dressing more formally after the burst of the dot-com bubble in the late 1990s, and that this trend can only be intensified with an unemployment rate near 10 percent, as men once again find themselves looking for a job, he said.
One line that took this approach for the Fall was Perry Ellis , which is traditionally known for its casual elegance. But creative director John Crocco said he decided to take an even more dressed-up approach this season, drawing on formalwear influences such as velvet, pocket squares and cravats.
"That's really in response to our customers sort of telling us that that's what they want," Crocco said. "They sort of vote through their purchases."
Though designers who continue to follow the women's cycle will likely experience a temporary increase in sales, Gilchrist said men will once again realize that the best way to shop is by investing in a classic style.
He equated it to what some consider a recent drop-off in women's fashion trends, saying they have stopped listening to the "dictates of designers" and started buying what looks good on them.
"Men will once again get smart enough to ignore the [trends] since it's wasted money to buy a garment that is just going to last one season," he said.
More from Consumer Nation: