Boots, Western Wear and the Return of the Bell Bottom? A Fall Fashion Q&A

Design & Merchandising Associate Professor Joseph Hancock, PhD, weighs in on some of the fall trends to watch for this season on Drexel’s campus and beyond.
Photo courtesy of iStock

Now that the 90-degree weather has (hopefully) checked out for the season, boots, sweaters, scarves and jackets are emerging from the back recesses of the closet. Word on the street is that this season’s big fashion focus is on outerwear. DrexelNow checked in with Joseph Hancock, PhD, fashion merchandising expert and associate professor in the departments of Fashion Design and Design and Merchandising, to gain some insight on what styles, prints and colors will be moving through the streets of Philadelphia this fall.

What prints are hot for fall?

We just saw the anchor print all over the place this summer, but I don’t think tons of prints are hot for fall. I am seeing a lot of traditional fabrics like plaids and solids this season for men and women. What I am seeing, though, is the return of western wear and the serape woven fabrication (not just printed but actually woven) for both men and women. I was shocked to see Ralph Lauren doing a hand-knit serape maxi dress for women for $1,495. 

I’m also seeing the return of fringe leather jackets, cowboy boots and a few dark prints like paisley and even hunting-inspired designs.

And what about hats? What styles will we see this fall?

Hats are back with all shapes and sizes — we can thank [American singer/rapper] Pharrel Williams for that. But I think with students we will see a little glimpse of pork-pie hats and the standard ski cap. Not to sound like an ad for hats, but I like the store Hats in the Belfry in Philadelphia for affordable styles.  And check out Target because they have some really wonderful styles for everyone. 

Talk about the ‘chic sweatpants’ trend. Where did that originate from and will we see that trend this fall?

If you are speaking about the cropped, tight-fitting narrow sweatpants for men and women, those pants have been around since the dawn of sweatpants in the 1950s.  Tight sweatpants were worn by yours truly as a child in the 1970s and it wasn’t until the oversized styles of the 1980s, with retailers like the Gap, that sweatpants got looser and eventually evolved to what we have today with track pants.  Also, in the 1970s track pants were the double-knit polyester pants with a matching jacket — think “Six Million-Dollar Man” and “Bionic Woman.”  Eventually, the double-knit polyester was replaced with nylon and you had wind pants with matching jackets. 

I actually like this new trend of what you are calling “e-chic” sweatpants, although most magazines are just calling them luxury sweatpants or giving them names like “sideline pants.” They really are just “ribbed knit cuffed pants” but I like it because you are seeing really unique designs and fabrics like cashmere. I do see this trend coming to campus in all variations such as wool, cotton twill and even camouflage.

I love the reinvention of athletic wear for sportswear because it signifies that we are a very casual society that likes comfort.  Also, this new take on sweatpants gives them new life and function for other occasions. 

Speaking of pants, a co-worker who shall remain nameless is dying to know: when might we see the departure of skinny jeans?

Tell your coworker, when I was recently at a men’s fashion show last week, I saw the dawn of bell-bottoms again!  So, I think we are starting to move away from skinny jeans, but that does not mean they are going to vanish.  I think that they are going to be here to stay as a classic, but will not have the prominence they have had over the last four years.  I personally like all pant silhouettes and wear everything from skinny jeans to boot cut. But I don’t think you will see me in bell-bottoms — I like to see my feet. 

However, skinny is in for fall again and it’s not going anywhere. But, what is new is that rigid jeans and selvedge denim is out, and what is in is ripped-up and destroyed denim, which I love because it allows me to take the jeans I already have and wear them longer, or go buy a pair of destroyed jeans. My favorites for men and women are Ralph Lauren’s Denim & Supply line jeans for about $150.  

Boots, as you know, are a fall fashion staple. What new colors or styles are on the hot list this season?

Boots, boots and more boots!  I just ordered two pairs of boots from White’s Boots in Oregon that are custom-made.  Boots are at the extreme this year, from cowboy to punk to work wear. And colors are all over the board. 

I would suggest buying one nice pair of boots this year and wearing them all season.  

We've heard this fall is all about outerwear. What styles are big this season?

Yes, outerwear is going to be huge this fall and winter.  That’s great for retailers because it’s usually a pricy ticket item.

For both men and women, you are going to see the return of leather jackets; everything from simple styles such as the Schott’s motorcycle jacket to extreme luxury brands like Dolce & Gabbana. These coats will either be plain in design or have trimmed collars in fur such as fox and/or the traditional shearling.

Also, the parka returns for both men and women trimmed with a nice fox or faux fur collar in bright colors like red and green. These coats will be priced from Burberry’s $3,295 to Uniqlo for $100. Shirt jackets are big again this year in wool and cotton and will be lined in either down, polyester or just cotton lining. These are also priced anywhere from Calvin Klein at $950 to the traditional LL Bean for less than $100.  

Finally, the topcoat appears back again for all sexes in wool, not just in black and blue, but in bright colors and various shades and patterns. I am personally eyeballing one at Ralph Lauren right now.  

We heard that fashion furs are a big thing this year. And leather. Leather is everything this year. With all the controversy, how do trends like these find their way back to the forefront? Do you think on an urban and diverse campus like Drexel, these trends will fly?

Yes, you are right!  Fur and leather are huge this year, and I do think you will see them on Drexel’s campus. That’s because these trends are priced from the high extremes — with Tom Ford making fur and leather coats “priced upon request,” which means “don’t even ask how much,” to Uniqlo’s fur-lined hoodies (and even sweat pants!) for less than $70.  Also, leather jackets are quite inexpensive — GQ just did a spread on the highest quality inexpensive leather jackets found at retailers like H&M, Banana Republic and Topshop, stores where I think many students shop.

What’s important to understand is that a lot of the leather and fur you see is either cowhide or lambskin, with fur being shearling. So “real” leather and fur is somewhat sustainable because all the parts of the cow from butchering for food, including the skins, are being used in clothing production.  What’s interesting to me is that a lot of the faux fur is synthetic and non-biodegradable, which means folks are supporting the consumption of eventual landfill items.

It’s a catch 22; if you are a vegan you are probably going to buy synthetic fur fashions that are going to end up in our landfills and if you are buying the real leather and fur, folks that support animal rights are not going to be happy. Fashion can be so ironic. 

But yes, I think we will see these items on campus.

Are you seeing an increase in the vegan/organic/ environmentally friendly textiles movement?

I think the sustainable fashion movement is quite trendy and really, again, represents an irony that is not quite clear. For example, most trends that vegan folks will buy are those made from synthetics such as faux fur and leather made from fabrics like polyester, which does not bio-degrade. Another irony is that many individuals are supporting “made in the USA” again. I just received a $40,000 grant from Cotton Inc. to study this trend. What I am finding is that most products that are made in the USA and that are environmentally more sound are very expensive — like denim jeans for over $300. How many students will pay that?  I know some, but not many. And real leather and fur garments will actually bio-degrade because they are natural, but when you wear them, animal rights activists get mad at you and think you are the new ‘Cruella de Vil.’

So, fashion is one of those “you’re-damned-if-you-do-and-damned-if you-don’t-type areas. Just remember, no matter what you decide to wear, be true to yourself, your own purchasing habits, and don’t worry too much about following fashion, it’s more important to have your own style.