Men everywhere this summer will be wearing rainbow pastels, more silky luster , looser shapes in tailored clothes, and active sportswear "like the pros," if the thousands of retailers who thronged to the first World Congress of Menswear in Dallas earlier this year bought what they saw.
Displays of some 3,000 American and European lines, spread out over space the size of 10 football fields, plus styles presented in press seminars by the Men's Fashion Association, made it clear men will have to develop a taste for sherbet colors like strawberry, peach, and mint, or be stuck with bland basics.
This isn't to rule out popular neutrals like still-strong khaki. And expect to see miles of white because it looks so good with suntanned skin.
All of the new colors find lively expression in polo shirts, one of the hottest items for summer and also the coolest. Many also surface in madras and updated plaids.
Since men are more prone to be kicky dressers in the warm months when it costs less, it is sure to be welcome news that many more walk shorts, in various lengths and styles, will be seen this year. Also, if a man feels like slipping into a windbreaker over a shirt and tie instead of a tailored sport coat, there will be many times when he can.
The newest tailored suits not only are cool looking and crisp textured, they shine -- not like old serge, but through the use of lustrous silks and silk blends. More traditional in hot weather are suits of linen and cotton, usually mixed with polyester to cut down on wrinkles. All are trim and neat, but a bit more relaxed in shaping.
Pierre Cardin, for instance, bypasses his familiar pagoda shoulder in favor of a softer line. Designers admit that looser silhouettes alleviate that 'busting your buttons' look that made heavy men appear even heavier.
More and more men are being won over to coordinates because the go-together pieces offer strech comfort, plus wash-and-wear practicality, and the price is right. Fiber improvements now make it possible for a three-piece suit to be washed and put right back on when dry, a great boon for the traveling man and a vacationer.
Although American designers were influenced by Europeans in the 1970s, a turn-around is evident for the 1980s as French and Italian designers look to the United States for menswear inspiration. They're heavily into jogging suits, Western wear and, of course, jeans.
Incidently, country singer Kenny Roger's new Western Wear Collection, which he introduced to the fashion press in Dallas, appears to have taken off like a rocket. Included are Western-style shirts, jeans (with button-down chaps), boots, hats, padded vests, and leathers.
"It's become very chic to be American," says Mr. Rogers.
Collections also build a strong case for summer sweaters of all kinds, but the string ones are outstanding and those by Calvin Klein among the best. Mr. Klein, who thinks clothes should be lasting friends whatever the season (he was wearing 10-year-old slacks when interviewed on one occasion), likes to see his sweaters with cotton or linen suits.
The tremendous trend toward participation in active sports (reportedly growing at the rate of 8 percent a year) accounts for a phenomenal uprurge in style choices for all those perspiring bodies.
The right looks are important, and to make sure they do not miss the mark, designers and manufacturers are taking their cues from the pros, copying what the men who play for pay wear. What this comes down to are clothes for golf, jogging, or one of the racquet sports, often with matching tops and bottoms and detailed with symbolic stripes and trims.