(Source, left: rickowens.eu; middle: driesvannoten.com; right: dior.com)

Men’s Fashion Week Fall 2021 was inarguably about the clothes, with a toned-down, natural approach being the dominant trend when it came to hair and grooming. Whether in Milan or Paris, simplicity reigned supreme.

It can be fun when designers and stylists integrate daring makeup or inventive hairstyles, but they’re not always the easiest to translate into day-to-day life. With their emphasis on simplicity, the recent shows left us with looks that are inherently attainable, rather than simply aspirational.

Unkempt, tousled hair

It’s fitting that after a year of spending so much time cooped up at home — rolling out of bed and walking a few metres to a makeshift home office — unkempt bed-head would be all the rage. Of course, these looks were far from unkempt, meticulously placed and tousled just so. But the underlying message was clear: it’s OK to look as if you didn’t bother to comb your hair.

From longer tangled locks at Études to what looked like a self-cut head of hair at Dries Van Noten to messy bangs at Hermès to gently tousled hair at Children of the discordance and Tod’s, it was the apparent effortlessness of it all that stood out across the shows, where we’re so used to seeing models with neat side-parts and slicked-back hair. For once, it felt as though brands were taking cues from reality and not the other way around.

Hats as hair accessories

Technically speaking, a hat ought to be considered fashion. But if you’ll forgive that small detail, it really existed as more of a hair accessory than a clothing accessory for Fall 2021. Of course, there were a number of classic styles on show, but also some innovative takes that will feature prominently come the fall, partially covering untidy hair. 

The cult designer Hed Mayner showed headwear resembling old school military caps that were small relative to the tailoring’s blown-out proportions. At Dior, Kim Jones’s headwear also had a military bent, as models sported an array of smaller hats that flaunted the locks underneath, from berets to loosely knit beanies to a curious contraption reminiscent of a rugby head brace. Arnar Már Jónsson opted for more rugged headwear in the form of balaclavas, but styled them with hair flowing out, making them look too small. That was echoed by Virgil Abloh at Louis Vuitton, where hair stuck out from below cowboy hats.

It underscored that headwear is likely to be a complement to hair in Fall 2021.

Simplicity for all to see

Fashion shows are just that: shows — performances where artistic merit is centre stage. That’s often translated into makeup, nail polish, facial accessories or contact lenses — and sometimes even body modifications. It’s a little weird to say something not being there is a trend, but the absence of any glaring beauty trends is, in itself, noteworthy.

Rick Owens perhaps best exemplifies the trend, as the designer has been among the most progressive when it comes to facial jewelry or body modifications. But for Fall 2021, his only addition to the models’ faces were masks. At Dior, Jones’s models appeared bare-faced thanks to relatively restrained makeup. They were accoutrement-free, as well, after a few seasons of dyed hair and nose piercings. At Louis Vuitton, the simple youthful beauty stood in stark contrast to bold accessories and maximalist designs — and also to the facial hardware shown a year ago. At Wales Bonner, the simple look played into the youthfulness of the collection.

Time to grow out the moustache

In the rare instances where simplicity didn’t reign supreme, moustaches were a popular grooming choice. In most instances, they were similar to the unkempt hair, reflecting an unbothered attitude rather than meticulous grooming — not necessarily bushy or fully grown-in and looking a bit forgotten.

Moustaches figured prominently at shows with a retro twist: the ’60s and ’70s-themed Casablanca show and the ’70s-inspired Doublet show, for example. But they were also found on the Y/Project runway and at Vetements, two of the more conceptual and edgy brands on the fashion calendar. 

On the whole, the moustachioed men of Fall 2021 might not have been the most common, but they were undoubtedly among the most noticeable. The best part? These moustaches don’t take much foresight — no months of planning and trimming — just a desire to try something different.

Ringing in the earring era

The dearth of bodily accessories, outlined above, meant statement earrings stood out as the big trend for those not ready to totally embrace the bare-faced look for Fall 2021. 

At Ermenegildo Zegna, in Milan, and Boramy Viguier, in Paris, the earrings were toned down and simple, barely drawing the eye. At Dior and Casablanca, they were dangly and worn on a single ear, with undeniable panache. Balenciaga’s video game collection split the difference, with mismatched asymmetric sets. 

At the Fall 2021 shows, the earring felt more natural than in previous seasons — noticeable, but not necessarily arresting. That augurs well for its wearability in the coming year.


Marc Richardson is a Montreal-based writer and photographer. His work focuses on fashion, culture and the intersection between the two. He’s spent the better part of the last decade observing and cataloguing menswear from New York and London to Florence and Paris. You can follow him on Twitter @quicklongread and on Instagram @shooting.people.