Considering the clothes options for men this fall, dull dressing will be downright difficult. Even though designers face limitations when it comes to introducing fresh ideas within the traditional menswear framework, they've managed a surprising number of breakthroughs for next season.
For instance, a man will have to do some fancy footwork to sidestep dashing long topcoats, handsome new weaves in suitings and sport coats, rugged leather and shearling looks, terrific sweaters, and great accessories, including the return of porkpie hats.
All these made an impact at fall and winter menswear seminars and designer shows sponsored by the Men's Fashion Association of America for the national press.
What's more, it may be impossible to avoid the avalanche of winter white all through fashion. While there may be varying schools of thought about the long-range practicality of white woolens, just one word comes to mind when a whole parade of winter whites appears on a fashion runway: dazzling.
Explaining the growing trend toward classier looks for men at all economic levels, Chip Tolbert, Men's Fashion Association fashion director, said, ''The mass market wants to equate with the class market. Men who are successful in business (and look it) are the new role models.''
The days when a man depended on a basic raincoat with zip-in lining to carry him all through cold weather are numbered.
Full calf-length topcoats and overcoats in luxury fabrics like cashmere and cashmere blends, some made still more elegant with shawl and notched collars of mink and sable, are making a big hit with young men, according to industry spokesmen. The trend started some years ago when it became a fad to wear ''antique'' coats of pre-World War II vintage. The fad extended to long military coats, since discontinued.
So designers were quick to get the message. The result is a group of colossal coatings by such menswear influentials as Jeffrey Banks, Piero Dimitri, Pierre Cardin, Andrew Fezza, Gianfranco Ruffini, Jhane Barnes, and Yves Saint Laurent.
The coats appear in dressy black, also beefy tweed and covert cloth. Models include balmacaans with raglan sleeves, voluminous belted polo styles, and chesterfields, all with accentuated shoulders. There even is an Inverness style with shoulder cape.
In suits, double-breasteds continue as strong favorites. They are joined by single-breasted styles in new-weave fabrics and are frequently shown with sharp looking lapeled vests.
The British drape suit, like those Alan Flusser first introduced, have caught on in other collections. As Mr. Flusser notes, ''A major element of drape clothing is comfort. I don't think clothes should tire you out, which can happen if they are constricting.''
Business suits generally are dark, but dark with a difference. Many are enlivened by the addition of colored fibers, which broadens the choice of accessory tones.
Looking very good for the price are Lee Wright's navy suits ($225) and navy blazers ($150) for J.C. Penney.
Although they were shown with mountain-climbing gear and heavy spiked boots, a man doesn't have to be a mountain climber to enjoy Robert Comstock's leather and shearling outfits, the jackets converting to vests when the sleeves zip off.
Mr. Comstock, an avid adventurer when he isn't designing, is very conscious of the functional clothing needs of trail-blazing outdoor men. For instance, in 1980 he organized a 300-mile canoe trip down unchartered Ecuadorean headwaters of the Amazon. He spent the entire time in the canoe on his knees, an experience that benefits those who buy and wear his expedition pants.
Two points spark 1984 shirts - spread collars and longer tails. Contrast collars continue to be very popular.
Asked if necktie knots should be bigger with spread collars, the experts said ''no,'' unless you happen to prefer that look. A regular-size knot will do just fine. Clip-on ties in any size, however, are not favored by the fashion moguls.
In all four-in-hands, look for deep tones accented with brights. Young men once again are going for skinny ties, while the preppies are wearing more bow ties.
Since it's an established fact that wearing something on your head helps to retain 40 percent of body heat, a lot more men are beginning to wear hats. Styles for fall and winter range from dressy felts and velours to sporty tweeds and knits. And in addition to the return of porkpie shapes, watch for Harrison Ford-style hats with turned-down brims.
Menswear trends that Luciano Franzoni (director of fashion relations for Hart Schaffner & Marx) spotted recently in Europe, and which could sift through to the United States in due time, include pants with no back pockets (undoubtedly accounting for an increase of shoulder bags among European men); dress shirts with no pockets; the strap-type undershirts of yesteryear; and - would you ever believe it? - white socks with dark suits.