Every Stone Roses is followed by a Mock Turtles, and so after every pasty-faced rock star with a penchant for rosary beads and skinny jeans run a rash of even paler imitations. Pete Doherty may have set the dandyish style tone for the past 18 months, but where the entire population of Hoxton follows, there stop the rest of us.
While few men will admit that Doherty's dandyism ever exerted an influence on them, many a portly gent has squeezed himself into some minuscule black jeans to misspend his middle youth. The kids have also happily wasted thousands on hats, which last one night out before being crushed. If the straw hat no longer fits, who next can men turn to for sartorial inspiration in the coming seasons?
Style icons are a tricky concept for men. It remains a very brave act to waltz into a hairdresser with a page ripped out of Shoot! and request a David Beckham. And it is an even more courageous thing to march into a clothes emporium with a picture of the Babyshambles front man and ask Ted Baker or Paul Smith for a similar look. Women are much less inhibited; they can openly cite inspiration from Sienna Miller or Chloe; Sevigny or, hell, request a Vicky Beckham bob without mockery from their peers.
I asked six male friends who their style icon was. The answer was a resounding dunno. One mate is unquestionably a Doherty clone although firmly in denial about it. The rest are probably right in arguing that they take their cues from the street or the media, although one admitted he liked Wes Anderson's “geek style.” The American director of the beautifully styled The Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatic apparently gets his favorite tailor in New York to knock up suits in all shades of corduroy. Sounds iconic to me, but it's probably a niche taste.
Despite being dull viewing, Britain's Big Brother 7 TV show throws up a couple of contenders. Tourette's sufferer Pete Bennett entered the house with a twirl of a Doherty-esque hat. He has since proved less iconic Babyshambles and more the perfect gentleman with a couple of pairs of loud trousers.
Meanwhile, the stock of Big Brother's Russell Brand's brand has never been higher. Breathlessly billed by one Sunday newspaper as “a cross between three of the most sexually charismatic people ever to have lived — Lord Byron, Mick Jagger and Kate Moss,” the comedian may once have shared Doherty's dalliances with hard drugs and Kate Moss, but is he really a style icon? A former lady friend of Brand's reckons he has a tiny wardrobe, wears girl's jeans (don't they all?) and has a smelly dreadlock underneath his explosion of 1980s rock-star hair. That, coupled with his silk scarves, gives him the look of Whitesnake or, heaven forfend, The Darkness.
Most men last wore a scarf out of season when they were 14 and needed to hide a love bite from mum. “It's the hairy chest that makes it a bit wrong for me,” says Alex Needham, associate editor of the NME. “He also looks too big for the clothes, like he is bursting out of them, which always looks bad for blokes.”
It has been a summer of what-might-have-beens, and what might have come to pass. If Beckham disappointed on the pitch at the World Cup, he upped his game by serving up the summer's iconic male style image: the boat, the glistening body and those tiny white swimming trunks. Many fashion watchers believe that Beckham remains the nearest thing to a male style icon. As Topman's design director Gordon Richardson has noted, men are basically conservative beasts and won't wear something until they see it looking OK on someone else.