Men's Fashion Goes on Holiday in Vacationcore

You don’t have to travel to embrace menswear’s latest trend.

By Theo Coetzer
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icture it: A radiant, sunbaked vista populated by men in pleated trousers and recklessly unbuttoned shirts. Some wear tinted lenses and well-traveled Panama hats. Their feet are covered in exotic footwear: espadrilles, huaraches, and Belgian loafers. Look carefully and you might catch the flash of a chain bracelet, a vintage signet ring, or a length of silk draped inside the collar of a summer jacket.

There’s a certain bygone charm animating every outfit in sight. It’s like something taken straight out of Plein Solei (known to American audiences as Purple Noon) or The Talented Mr. Ripley. Each ensemble looks classic and considered while also being touched by a louche, reckless charm — a kind of studied carelessness that the Italians know as “sprezzatura.”

You would be forgiven for mistaking such a scene for one documented decades ago in some glamorous and exotic locale; a postcard sent from a faraway place in a nearly-forgotten time. Instead, it’s a snapshot of the most recent trend in menswear, one that is as likely to show up at your favorite restaurant or neighborhood coffee shop as it was in the French Riviera and Amalfi Coast of old.

This is Vacationcore and you don’t need to set foot on a plane — or a time machine — to embrace it.

Understanding Vacationcore is simple enough. It’s all about embodying the spirit of going on holiday without the inconvenience of actually leaving your zip code. Aesthetically it exists at the intersection of timeless elegance and off-duty comfort. Simply imagine yourself as a midcentury jet-setter bound for a balmy Mediterranean locale, although happily without the cost of airfare and the jeopardy of relying on sunscreen from the 1960s. All that you really need is the wardrobe, which can be gotten simply enough.

From left: Scott Fraser Collection Gaucho Trousers, scottfrasercollection.com, £254; Casalantic Mogador Shorts, casatlantic.com, €130; Peplor M29 Swim Trunks, peplor.com, $91

To join the Vacationcore crew, you want your clothes to show some old-world flair by way of present-day comfort. Think natural fibers, earthy tones, and looser fits. Ideally, you want your trousers to have a high rise and a wide leg. In terms of footwear, forego the flip-flops and slides for a more classic set of woven leather sandals. If you’re looking to wear tailoring, go for something in linen, cotton, or tropical wool.

From left: OAS Happy Golfer Viscose Shirt, oascompany.com, €100; Bryceland's Towel Shirt, brycelandsco.com, HKD1,880; The Anthology Cuban Camp Collar Shirt, theanthology.net, $230

And for your shirts — the real nexus of the Vacationcore aesthetic — opt for camp collars, natty knits, or Hawaiian prints. Please note, however, that shirts with buttons on them should be left as open as circumstances allow. If this causes any concern, simply throw on a light tank top underneath, ideally with a chain necklace or a nice pendant to go with it.

From left: Albert Verona Safari Jacket, albertclothing.com, £350; Colhay’s Breton Stripe Cashmere Cotton Sweater, colhays.com, £295; Spier & Mackay Linen Sport Coat, spierandmackay.com, $328

The same principles apply to colder climes or as fall approaches. If you find yourself in a chillier setting, be sure to layer up with a touch of foreign flair: a Breton top from Brittany, a Balmacaan coat from the Scottish Highlands, or even a retro puffer styled for the Alpine slopes of yesteryear.

From left: Sabah Ashmore Grey Shoes, sabah.am, $195; Crown Northampton Brockton Belgian Slipper, crownnorthampton.com, $356; Drake’s Herringbone Espadrilles, drakes.com, $115

Feel free to add to the mix something that feels a little outside your comfort zone stylistically. Perhaps it’s a safari jacket or a guayabera shirt, or maybe a bit of toweling and a colorful kerchief. You are on holiday, remember — albeit only in spirit — so be sure to have some fun with it.

The idea of fun, as it happens, seems to be at the core of what has sparked this burgeoning trend. Or, perhaps more accurately, it is the all-too-recent absence of fun. It feels like no accident that a movement in men’s clothing embracing a free-spirited life of leisure should follow a time of extended isolation during a global pandemic. After months stuck at home all day while wearing grey sweatpants and unwashed pajamas, who wouldn’t develop a craving for sun-kissed silhouettes and a sense of occasion?

It’s also apt that the occasion in question should be the prospect of going on holiday. For many of us, this year has been the first time that traveling has become a possibility again. For others (for any number of reasons) it still is not. What all of us share, though, regardless of our circumstances, are the daydreams we have about our next chance at an escape; dreams made all the more poignant by how recently none of us could do anything of the sort. It seems only natural, therefore, that our wardrobes should begin to express a similar desire for a getaway, even if the furthest we’re liable to go is the office or the grocery store.

Vacationcore is an expression of both nostalgia for a pre-pandemic world and excitement about a post-pandemic future, but the lessons of pandemic life can still be read within it. All the clothes are classic, sure, but they’re also supremely comfortable — wisdom undoubtedly gained from all those days spent in cozy sweats. Vacationcore evokes the glamour of Old Hollywood going abroad, yes, but it also spans the ’90s and mid-aughts via ease-oriented style icons like Tony Soprano and Kramer from “Seinfeld” — or, indeed, the sensibilities of other recent lifestyle trends like Coastal Grandmother or Dirtbag Ivy.

One of the silver linings of that period spent in our PJs staring at screens all day was a lesson in the restorative powers of mental escape. Now’s the time for our wardrobes to do the traveling even if we're still staying close to home. After all, Vacationcore is, above all, a state of mind. So, kick back, undo that extra shirt button, and take a trip right where you are.

Theo Coetzer is a menswear writer who runs Habilitate, a blog for people looking to learn more about the stories behind the clothes they love. Theo was born in small-town South Africa and moved to the UK shortly after finishing a master's degree in English Literature. He now lives in Edinburgh where it’s a whole lot easier to find nice outfits.

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