Fella Fashion Review

James Flesher reviews high street fashion for fellas.

Budget fashion fashion week high street fashion jack wills james flesher mens fashion mens style river island Student Budget student style topshop

I took a trip round three of Cambridge’s mainstream clothes shops to explore what the high street has to offer for men this spring and I discovered the good, the bad and the downright surprising.

The Good – River Island

River Island list their top recommendations for looking good this spring as shirts, trousers, t-shirts and shoes. An original season then. Funnily enough RI do seem to have broken from their 2011 trend of taking exactly what All Saints had on offer and making it less expensive, and now seem to be offering a look of their own, even if some of their looks are so alternative even those scary people who inhabited Kambar (RIP) wouldn’t consider wearing. Lurid oranges and blues are apparently the order of the day for an early summer look. Really?!

On the other hand, there is a slightly more muted range that they’re calling ‘Ship Shape’, offering lots of simple stripes, polo shirts and chinos, along with a great selection of denim shirts – my top recommendation for this spring. I am, however, still slightly confused about how apparently anything with blue in it has now been turned into some kind of ‘sailor chic’. Another top spot – a great range of boat shoes, which look great with tan chinos and a striped t-shirt. It isn’t a massive departure from their usual standard, but there’s plenty of choice for someone wanting to make their wardrobe more versatile and interesting. There is, however, a thin line between a simple, muted look, and just plain boring – watch out. Overall verdict – very positive. River Island is managing to still make great clothes while keeping prices student-affordable.

River Island: Shirt – £35, T-shirt – £14, Boat Shoes – £40, Chinos – £30

The Bad – Topman

At first glance, Topman seem to have really reacted well to the negative press they received last year over their offensive graphic t-shirts that supposedly incited men to beat their wives/girlfriends, and compared other mens’ girlfriends to breeds of dog. The most offensive that this season’s range manages to get is a shirt emblazoned with a picture of Keith Lemon and a bright blue vest covered in pictures of balloons. A word to the wise: Neither of the above items should be worn outside the privacy of your own bedroom.

Our visit to Topman Cambridge ended up being a rather covert affair – we were keen not to be seen looking at or trying on some of the truly hideous clothes (and there were lots of them). Top on our list of things to avoid were these turned-up maroon short shorts with a kind of hideous wannabe-Indie-rainbow at the hem, and a continuation of the ridiculous obsession Topman seems to have with covering t-shirts with the faces of B-rate celebrities. Jessie J’s open-mouthed gawp is not the sort of thing I want to see across someone’s chest. Perhaps the highlight of their season this spring was a pair of mustard yellow moccasins. To quote photographer Tom Porteous, 1st Year at Caius, “Are those meant to be shoes or are they just slippers?” Overall verdict – Truly ridiculous in every way, my only recommendation for shopping at Topman this year is AVOID AT ALL COSTS.

Topman Moccasins – £30

Topman T-shirt – £22

Topman Burgundy Shorts – £28

The Downright Surprising – Jack Wills

I must be honest here; I was never a fan of Jack Wills. I never really thought that there would be anything on offer there that I would even consider. I am happy to say that I have now changed my mind, to a point. There was still the predictable gilet, though now it’s available in a garish turquoise. Not a sensible choice. There was also the usual selection of hoodies, which although extortionate (£69 plus), are easily the softest things known to man.

This year, JW seem to have followed the River Island trend of thinking that sticking nautical images on clothes makes them cooler. It doesn’t. Personally if I see you in the street with a big anchor on your chest, I will just shout ‘Hello Sailor’ related jokes at you. As well as their wide selection of interesting tops and jackets, my top buys in Jack Wills this spring include their jeans – great fit and really nicely put together – one of the few clothes they sell which is really worth the price. Their chinos, which although twice the price you’d pay elsewhere, are superbly made and eye-catching while remaining subtle. Overall verdict – A bit mixed. If you like Jack Wills and want more of the same, go for it, you won’t be disappointed. If you don’t normally like what they have on offer, give it a go – they don’t charge you for just looking…Yet.


Jack Wills: Gilet – £98

Jack Wills: Hoodie – £69, Jeans – £69, Shoes – Model’s Own

Photography by Tom Porteous