During the first half of this decade, if you looked hard enough, any man with an interest in style was dressed like a Scandinavian. Fast-forward to this winter, and it seems that we are all Scandinavians now. When Topman launches a “Malmö collection”, it’s the same cosy aesthetic that helped make The Killing’s Sofie Gråbøl a star that has clearly achieved total hegemony on the British high street.
From chains like River Island to more upmarket retailers like Matches and Mr Porter, to a display at Harvey Nichols based on the lifestyle of the modern Nordic male, “Scandi” is everywhere. Clothes of sturdy simplicity are summoning up the spirit of “hygge”, the Danish candidate for word of the year which translates as warm conviviality in a cold climate.
The shift from alternative to mainstream has been on the cards for the past few years, given our fetishisation of the place, or rather places. After all, “Scandi” is a narrow term for a broad look reflecting the taste of three countries: Sweden, Norway and Denmark.
Ubiquity might also be leading to some degree of confusion. Topman’s collection, for example, makes reference to Scandinavian style in the loosest sense (textured trainers and a lot of navy). Kristian W Andersen, creative director of the Copenhagen International Fashion Fair, told the Observer: “Personally, I associate skinny jeans with [French fashion designer] Hedi Slimane more than something Nordic. When some Scandinavian brands are doing extremely well internationally, people will automatically associate all of Scandinavia with just those brands.” To Andersen it’s less about fashion and more about function and expression: “Denmark has an old design tradition that came in the wake of industrialism. It was the idea of combining simplicity and functionality.
“I think it’s a part of the hype surrounding Scandinavia,” explains Andersen. “Our way of life is on the radar internationally at the moment. Many countries look to us when it comes to our values, our systems, and our successful work life. We are not only successful in fashion but in also architecture, furniture and design. I think people right now are really buying into the tales of Nordic countries.”
A more mundane reason for the new mass appeal of “Scandi” is that the outerwear is designed for the cold. “It’s meant for the climate of those territories,” explains Mr Porter’s buying director, Fiona Firth. Martha Evans-Roden, menswear PR at Harvey Nichols, agrees on the importance of comparable climates. “It’s unsurprising that this look has become normal in a country whose winters last longer than its summer. It’s about time everyone started wearing it.”
“We launched with Acne Studios on the site in 2011,” said Firth, “and our roster has grown to include other Scandinavian brands including Nudie Jeans, NN07, S.N.S Herning*, and Our Legacy.”
Acne, meanwhile, widely considered the godfather of Scandinavian fashion, has since evolved from slick, traditional basics to something “more designer-minded”, in a bid to capitalise on its global success.
It has also paved the way for an influx of cheaper high-street brands like Weekday and Tiger of Sweden.
Until now, for the self-consciously stylish, luxe sportswear has been the more fashionable option and Scandinavian style has been more closely associated with an older market.
Firth at Mr Porter agrees the look has gone mass market, and that this is no bad thing: “I would tend to agree, as the style is very accessible to men of any age. The pieces are often the building blocks of casual wear.”
Evans-Roden thinks the full impact of Scandi’s breakout into the world of mass consumption is yet to be seen, “although I suppose that basic style is more easy to spot, more based on trends than labels, so men tend to come in and look for a shearling jacket rather than ‘something from Dior’.”