Topman Brought Innovative Fashion to Men Across the U.K.

We're sad to hear of its potential demise.

The Arcadia Group collapsed into administration earlier this week. For readers that don’t know, this is a UK-based retailer that owns several brands including Topman, Topshop, and Burton. It’s awful news, especially considering the job losses that could occur at a tough time of year.

For fashion-focused UK men, it will be the demise of the first brand on this list that hurts the most. Topman is a U.K. menswear institution. With a shop on every high street, it was a powerhouse that made innovative styles accessible to men around the country.

Now that ecommerce giants like ASOS make on-trend clothing just a click away, it’s hard to imagine that even just 15 years ago accessing cutting-edge designs wasn’t easy in many places across the country. Near where I lived, Topman was the only option—apart from on rare ventures into the city where there was an H&M.

One Step Ahead

Thus, when I was developing my own ideas about style, Topman was the first place I went. Their look-books always seemed to be one step ahead of the competitors. The mannequins in the window were always better than those next door.

Were Topman went, others seemed to follow.

They were the first of the major high-street retailers that I can remember selling skinny-jeans back in the early noughties, a move that helped align the shop with the era’s burgeoning music scene. Anyone who wanted to look like the bands of the time knew there was just one place to go to.

Long trench coats, sharp Chelsea boots, and slim-fit suits are other trends I remember wanting to try and then finding in Topman way before anywhere else. Later in the decade drop-crotch chinos showed that not every move the shop made was a good one, although the experimental spirit was always there.

Cutting-Edge Design

Ironically I guess, considering everyone shopped there, Topman sold clothes that helped you stand out. The sheer variety of styles on offer perhaps helped. But I think it was mainly that the brand seemed willing to experiment in ways that others didn’t.

What I didn’t know at the time is that this was in part because Topman (and Topshop) was also busy bringing on the next generation of British design talent. This excellent GQ article on the retailer explains that huge names such as Patrick Grant, JW Anderson, and Graig Green are just some of the people to have benefited from the exposure provided by the company.

Living outside the U.K. means I haven’t shopped in Topman for a long time. And affordable, on-trend menswear is more accessible throughout the U.K. (and rest of the world) than ever before.

But the reaction to the administration suggests that the company is still appreciated. Topman and the styles they sell seem to resonate with many.

The good news is that there is hope some of the Arcadia brands will be saved. The administrators say they plan to sell the company’s assets. Topman and Topshop’s well-established reputations mean they are among the most likely to live on beyond the collapse.

Let’s hope that’s the case.

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Duncan Elder

Duncan is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Boardwalk. He's a menswear writer who has spent the last 15 years developing his own sense of style, which lies at the cross-section of mid-noughties indie and Uniqlo-inspired minimalism.

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