This story is part of the GP100, our list of the 100 best new products of the year. Read the introduction to the series here, and stay tuned for more lists like it throughout the month.
The past year and a half shook up the style space: comfort was the priority, brands broke down boundaries and new trends took off. It also allowed companies to put their best foot forward, leading with new products that didn’t compromise on vision. Standouts ranged from artisanal sunglasses to heirloom rings to sustainable denim to nostalgic fragrance. While there were many different throughlines, one thing in 2021 was clear: men’s style is forging ahead.
Game Changer: KYX Sneaker Rental
Membership Levels: 4
Cleaning: KYX cleans them for you
Biggest Perk: Rent-to-own
Monthly Price: $69+
For those unfamiliar, the process of buying new and exciting sneakers sucks. It’s awful. You have to enter into a lottery for the mere chance of purchasing a pair; battle bots and bold teens equipped with their parents’ credit cards in queues; or simply miss out even when it feels like there should be way more pairs up for grabs. We’d understand if you gave up on sneaker shopping entirely — especially if you’re a fan of the types you need to browse resale sites or Sneaker Cons to find.
But the madness birthed a brand-new concept this year — one that had sneakerheads and those on the sideline alike divided. KYX, a new sneaker rental platform, helps consumers access rare and covetable sneakers for a flat monthly fee. Instead of helping them purchase the pairs, they stock them and ship them to them like a subscription service. Interested wearers pick a plan — they start at $69 a month — that determines how many sneakers you can rent at once, how expensive the pairs can be and how many mid-month swaps you can make. Once you rent a pair, you’re with them for a month. When the end of those 30 days nears, KYX inquires about which pair you’d like to wear next — and the cycle repeats until you cancel.
It all sounds kind of crazy, right? It sort of is. But that isn’t KYX’s fault. The company’s found a way to get pairs to crazed consumers who otherwise cannot afford to cop every single pair that comes out, especially as these pairs often fetch upwards of $200 dollars at retail (and more than 200% over retail on resale sites). It’s all in the name of accessibility, it seems, and if it works, it could upend the industry. Plus, it makes people less hesitant to wear their sneakers out since KYX covers the cost of cleaning the pairs you send back.
Tiffany & Co. Men’s Engagement Rings
Carat Weight: 3.01
Availability: Contact a Tiffany’s boutique near you
Tiffany’s first five diamond engagement rings designed for men — called the Charles Tiffany Setting Collection — debuted this year at the LVMH-owned label’s flagship stores. The name derives from its founder’s ingenious 1886 invention, the first-ever women’s solitaire diamond engagement ring (aka the Tiffany Setting). 135 years later, the jeweler announced the all-new men’s line rooted in “love and inclusivity.” It serves as, according to an initial release, an attempt at “paving the way for new traditions to celebrate our unique love stories and honor our most cherished commitments to one another.”
In appeasing the growing number of men interested in wearable adornments, this is surely a first, and smaller makers are bound to follow. (And, to be clear, these obviously aren’t the first men’s rings with set diamonds or stones. They’ve just never been done with such clear intent.) Tiffany’s new engagement rings let men share in the flair typically reserved for the rings women receive. It also lets same-sex or non-binary couples in on the intimate act of asking a significant other to marry them — with diamonds, of course. And that, folks, is priceless, but these rings start at $19,000 dollars.
Jacques Marie Mage Arkansas Sunglasses
Frame color: Havana tortoise
Lens color: Brown
Case: Handmade Chimayo wallet case
The Last Frontier collection from Jacques Marie Mage is unrivaled in its attention to detail. Designer Jerome Mage is already respected for his uncompromising approach to eyewear design, but with the Arkansas frames, he reached a new level. Blending world-class manufacturing with artisanal details, the Japanese 10mm acetate frames feature custom beadwork from Kewa artist Francisco Bailon. The design, made up of small charlotte beads sewn onto leather, is complemented by sterling silver arrowhead front pins, Chimayo textile-inspired filigree engraved on the core wire and 4B scratch-resistant mineral glass lens. Only 35 pieces were produced for collectors.
Collection: 10 pieces
Designer: Jeremy Karl
Status: Back in stock
Arc’teryx remains an outdoors brand first and foremost. In fact, as the company explains, it’s its “mountain DNA” that’s made Arc’teryx so popular. However, with the explosion of GORP (“good ole raisins and peanuts,” i.e. outerwear) in city settings over the past five years — namely in fashion’s most influential circles — the brand would be remiss not to consider what the style-savvy customer wanted from a brand like them.
The answer arrived with System_A, a collection of GORP for city folks. (Not officially, but basically.) Comprising products like thigh-length, triple-layer GORE-TEX C-KNIT rain jackets, lightweight nylon cargo pants, packable shells, temperature regulating T-shirts and the ilk, this collection caters as much to those already obsessed with Arc’teryx as it does those entirely unfamiliar. And the former party is growing fast.
Arc’teryx finds itself on the most talked about and fastest growing fashion brands list, (based on research organized by Lyst) month after month, beating out luxury labels Gucci or Dior and other popular outdoors brands like Salomon or The North Face. Arc’teryx’s place in the fashion world was well on its way to being firmly cemented, and System_A certainly shores it up even more. But good luck getting your hands on anything from the launch: It’s all been sold out since the day it debuted.
Vacation Eau de Toilette
Other notes: Petitgrain essence, bergamot, sea salt
Ingredients: Denatured alcohol, water, fragrance
Size: 1 fluid ounce
Poolside FM knows scent has the power to conjure memories long forgotten, so they tapped perfumers Carlos Huber and Rodrigo Flores-Roux to bottle the spirit of summer. The duo created a fragrance that mixed Vacation sunscreen’s signature scent — coconut, banana and orange blossom —with nostalgic notes of pool water, pool toys and swimsuit lycra. A spritz from the ’80s-inspired bottle delivers tropical top notes that, as they subside, mingle with hints of chlorine and warm plastic. Even if you’re months away from poolside lounging, you can still smell like you had a carefree day in the sun thanks to Vacation.
Pangaia Nettle Denim
Materials: Himalayan Nettle, Organic Cotton
Designer: PANGAIA Denim Design Director Jonathan Cheung
Pangaia is both a material innovation company and a clothing brand. It strives to reshape several apparel categories with an emphasis on “high-tech naturalism,” a model that calls for using materials that are naturally abundant instead of those we’ve over-industrialized — like nettle over cotton, for example.
That’s where the real innovation comes in: Pangaia creates all of the processes and chemistries required to transform raw materials into functional textiles. For its new line of jeans and jean jackets, instead of using cotton alone, it sourced naturally strong Himalayan nettle instead, a material traditionally used for rugs, and blended it with organic cotton. The blend is stronger but ultimately also softer than traditional jeans since Pangaia opted for a left-hand denim twill construction (which counteracts the nettle’s natural stiffness).
But design-forward decisions reveal themselves in every component of the pants. Ex-Levi’s SVP of Design and current Pangaia Denim Design Director, Jonathan Cheung, guided the brand through the process of picking washed versus selvedge denim, the pocket configuration, the shape of the jeans and whether or not to add stretchable materials like spandex or elastane (hint: he didn’t).
His insights resulted in a better final product. Because nettle is hollow (like a flattened straw, Cheung explains), it is breathable in the summer and insulating in colder weather. Nettle is also stronger than hemp (which is 10 times stronger than cotton). The jeans themselves were finished by Candiani, from weaving to dyeing. The mill’s latter process is proprietary and uses less water and dye. And PANGAIA’s in the process of sourcing even more nettle for future pairs, which they expect there will be demand for.
“The denim jean is the most democratic, inclusive, hard-wearing, long-lasting, and culturally influential piece of clothing in all human history,” Cheung explains. “No other piece of clothing has been worn for so long, by so many people and I’d argue that a simple pair of jeans is the coolest piece of clothing you can own, too.”
Blackstock & Weber x J.Crew Loafers
Designed in: New York City
Sizing: Go one size down
Pair with: Arc’teryx, sweatpants or vintage jeans
2021 was the year of the loafer. Footwear as a category underwent several changes during the past 12 months, and, most significantly, sneakerheads awoke to the idea that maybe the $300 dollars they’d spend on luxe Nikes or Jordans would be better spent on nicer shoes — like loafers. The migration from sneakers to hard-bottomed dress shoes, though, can also be attributed to a crop of new brands — like Blackstock & Weber — making better-fitting and -looking loafers.
The brand, founded by FIT fashion grad and former J.Crew (and Stone Island) employee, Chris Echevarria, has “streetwearified” the style, all while retaining the components traditionalists adore them for. These aren’t the loafers you see parked in airport shine stations. Surely you could take them there, but Echevarria envisions loafers as something far more universal: everyday shoes. And they can certainly be worn as such.
Blackstock & Weber’s loafers are comfortable, especially since the brand suggests you size down and let them mold to your foot’s unique shape. Plus, Echevarria favors pebble or grain leather, embossed croc, raw denim, pony hair, nappy suede, double-stacked leather soles, and chunkier construction over polished hide or plain suede. Instead of styling loafers with slacks or khakis, he pairs them with sweatpants or shorts or vintage jeans with frayed hems.
He’s certainly contributed to the loafer style’s resurgence. And now, fresh off two collabs with J.Crew, a former employer he’s still fond of, it’s clear he’s leading the pack.
Jacques Tennis Collection
Inspired by: Concrete, stone, clay and water
Comprises: Socks, shorts, polos and accessories
Sports have invaded the menswear scene. Most notably, golf and tennis welcomed a lot of first-timers and imbued the industry with preppy statement pieces in the process. With celebrities (see: Macklemore), fledgling brands (Manor Golf) and big retailers (Mr Porter) alike focused on golf, a handful of brands turned to tennis. Kith collabed with Wilson, which was cool, but it was the debut of Jacques — an NYC-based tennis label — that embodied sport as luxury best. The label’s simple ensembles are positioned as upscale sportswear, the perfect occupant for the space between luxury and athleisure.
Nike GoFly Ease
Sizes: 3.5-13 (half-sizes), 14
Upper: Mesh, neoprene
Price: MSRP $120
Nike’s GO FlyEase features innovations that allow users to put it on and take it off without using their hands. It has no laces, and it doesn’t lose its shape thanks to a bi-stable hinge in the sole combined with a flexible tensioner, a rubber strap that spans the length of the shoe.
To put them on, you simply step in. That action straightens the sole, causing the tensioner to rise up and contract around your foot for a secure fit. To take them off, you simply step on the heel and reverse the process.
Like all shoes in the FlyEase line, the GO was designed with accessibility in mind, making life easier for all kinds of people all over the globe. The clever design could prove essential to those with disabilities who have difficulties putting on traditional footwear. In its own statement on the shoe, Nike quotes champion fencer Bebe Vio, who won Paralympic gold in the Foil B category at the Rio Games: “Usually I spend so much time to get in my shoes. With the Nike GO FlyEase, I just need to put my feet in and jump on it. The shoes are a new kind of technology, not only for adaptive athletes but for everyone’s real life.”
Unfortunately, the shoes sold out in the much-hyped sneaker market and are selling above market price on platforms like StockX and GOAT. If Nike is truly focused on accessibility, it should make the innovations in the Go FlyEase available to a general audience in coming seasons.
Mission Workshop x Afterschool Projects Backpack
External dimensions: 12.5″ x 19″ x 4.5″
Weight: 2.88 lbs.
Colors: Mojave Camo, Inyo Camo, Hippie Camo, Black
San Francisco’s top technical bag maker Mission Workshop teamed up with L.A.’s After School Projects to create a near-perfect day pack. The 20-liter weatherproof Speedwell bag has a laptop compartment, exterior water bottle holders, a magnetic fidlok closure and an adjustable waist belt. It also features the first-of-its-kind, tie-dyed technical fabric with unique colors like Mojave Camo and Hippie Camo. Great for cycling trips or short jaunts around town, the Speedwell successfully blends top-tier function and eye-catching looks into one small package.