When it comes to menswear, it’s a hoary old cliché to preach about ‘timeless classics’. But camel, that very light brown shade that takes its name from the even-toed ungulate of the same name, goes all the way back to the bible – by which we mean the actual bible, not style ones. Specifically Matthew 3:4, which refers to John the Baptist straight up stunting in a “raiment of camel’s hair, and a leather girdle about his loins”. Fierce. And this roughly 2,000 years BY (Before Yeezus).
Even now, some men still take a bit of converting to camel. Certainly, it’s not as safe as some less showy shades. If you’re among the sartorially meek, then rejoice: the colour is practically omnipresent for the season of our Lord autumn/winter 2015, and we’ve set in stone the commandments you need to follow.
This is the camel gospel according to FashionBeans.
On The Runway
There was a veritable herd of designers that came over camel this season, coats in particular. Which is as it should be, says Thom Scherdel, buyer at men’s e-tailer The Idle Man. “The camel coat is a staple and also one of the first styles we put into work for our in-house collection,” he says. “We’re finding that coloured coats are outselling black and navy nearly five to one. We sold out of our camel coat in just two weeks and they’ve only just now come back in stock.”
At Louis Vuitton in Paris, Kim Jones showed a variety of coat styles, mixing them up further by adding prints. Hedi Slimane at Saint Laurent included a more conventional but still covetable version in his collection of Parisian scenester wardrobe staples. While Miuccia Prada expanded her remit from coats to shirts.
Elsewhere, Alessandro Michele’s androgynous first collection for Gucci featured some very wearable camel knitwear alongside the only slightly less wearable pussy-bow blouses. And we have to shout out Lacoste’s unexpectedly brilliant Royal Tenenbaumstribute, which included camel trench and teddy bear coats and a suit accessorised with sweatbands. How’s that for ‘sports luxe’?
Campaign For Camel
If you’re one of those people who complains about there being too many ads in fashion magazines, then you’re missing the point – and roughly half the fun.
‘Campaigns’ – as they’re rather grandly referred to in the industry – are where brands literally and metaphorically set out their stall for the season. That’s part of the reason The September Issue was the subject and name of a documentary about American Vogue – it’s when the labels traditionally unveil their new ‘creative’ (another fancy word for ad) for the autumn/winter season.
Brands put a lot of stock and cash into these campaigns, assembling top photographers and stylists at great expense to showcase what they consider to be their A-game garms: what’s going to sell, garner attention, or both. As well as being nice to look at, fashion ads are therefore a pretty reliable way to gauge what’s cool for ‘fall/winter’, as our US brethren insist on calling it.
This season, camel is so hot it’s fire. Menswear’s Mad Men have gone crazy for it. Hugo Boss has ensconced top male model Clement Chabernaud in a camel coat and Bottega Veneta is pushing a sharp peak lapel. Meanwhile, at the other end of the pricing spectrum, H&M has a surprisingly luxe-looking dropped shoulder number. And it’s not just coats either: Bally ballyhooed a full camel suit and matching beanie. As did Reiss.
The Camel Coat
In the beginning was the camel coat. It’s not quite the alpha and omega of go-to essentials, but it’s up there. At the same time, it’s a look-at-me statement piece that can turn any outfit into an ‘alphet’ in a way that common navy or grey outerwear simply can’t. Hence why designers keep coming back to it – as will you.
“A camel coat is definitely a versatile piece, both in terms of colour adjacency and styling options,” says Scherdel. In other words, you can wear it with a lot of things, in a lot of ways.
As you’d expect from a tailored overcoat, you can layer it over a suit. Camel is on the lighter side, so we’d suggest anchoring it with darker colours like navy or charcoal. But, in all honesty, it’ll go well with any of the 50 shades of grey around this season. You knowtone-on-tone grey is a thing, right?
Or, you can go a little more rock ‘n’ roll. “My advice would be to wear it with an all-black ensemble paired with some brown Chelsea boots,” says Scherdel. (Very Saint Laurent of you, Thom.) “Another option would be a grey marl sweatshirt and denim.”
Camel looks really good with denim. Think about it: most blue jeans have contrast stitching that is close to camel, if not bang on. That’s why you often see camel coats styled with denim jackets underneath (both pieces share a certain roughness of texture too).
Some points on fit: there should be enough room to squeeze a tailored (or denim) jacket under your camel coat, but not much more than that, unless you go for a slouchier raglan sleeve, which is less sharp but undoubtedly more on-trend.
However, although oversized outerwear is all the rage on the runways and among the cognoscenti, in real life coats generally shouldn’t stray below the knee. You want to look modern, not like you should be accessorising with a zimmer frame.
The (Camel) Cult Of Kanye
“When I think camel coat, Kanye is the first person that pops into my head,” says Scherdel.“When he popularised the famous Maison Martin Margiela x H&M one with grey lapels.”
More recently, and on a more casual tip, Kanye wore head-to-toe camel at the MTV VMAs – almost certainly from his Yeezy season 1 collection with adidas, which will have broken the internet by the time you don’t read this.
“Love him or loathe him, Kanye makes ripples in the industry and is certainly a barometer of trends,” says Scherdel. “Personally, I think he’s on-point. Not many rappers would know who Raf Simons was if it wasn’t for ‘Ye.” Amen to that.
Alternative Camel Pieces
If you want to tick off two trends for the price of one, Michael Kors, Gant and even Mango Man have all done shearling in camel this season, which sounds like an unholy cross-breed but is in fact totally praiseworthy.
Ben Sherman also has a duffle that’s a mite more affordable than Vuitton’s. And if Gucci knits are a tad too spendy, A.P.C. and Uniqlo both have camel crew neck jumpers (although the latter calls it ‘natural’).
Or you could go for a camel roll neck, like Oscar Isaac in A Most Violent Year. Killer.