As more Y2K trends get revived, it was only natural for mesh menswear to make a return.
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If you don’t remember it with clarity from the first time, you’re not alone. Rather, “mesh” then and now referred to a see-through, although not always net-like, material that offered some stretch.
Some resembled fishermen’s nets, like Jean Paul Gaultier’s infamous tank tops, while others looked like a stretchy, gossamer gauze with a print on top.
Today, Gen Z and younger Millennial consumers are exploring trends from the turn of our current century, while menswear collections take inspiration from retro athletic and club-leaning material. Learn more about the development of mesh menswear and ways to try it out in the present.
About Mesh Menswear
The present’s conception of menswear goes back to ‘90s Gaultier collections for both men and women.
Women’s ready-to-wear presented a certain aesthetic: stretchy, layered, brightly colored, and made with cheeky see-through material.
Mesh emerged through patterned tops that could be worn alone to show off the body while still providing some coverage, paneled garments, or as a dress to play up these factors more.
With menswear, we tend to associate the ‘90s’ top trends with streetwear, be it Grunge to hip-hop. However, clubbing gear took full advantage of the material’s sheer quality and breathable nature.
Also with menswear, we tend to see the era through Gaultier’s fine mesh tank tops – now considered a queer clubbing staple – or the 1994 Tattoo collection designed to function as a second skin.
At the same time, mesh brings up athletic associations in men’s fashion, be it gym wear or jerseys. Although this perspective tends to be plainer and more on the nose, it builds off mesh’s functional aspect – particularly letting air circulate to cool your skin.
How to Wear Mesh Menswear
While womenswear is all abuzz with rediscovering mesh, menswear has taken a more subtle approach expanding upon the role of lace and other sheer fabrics that’s we’ve seen over the past few years:
With a Print
This is classic ‘90s, whether you’re thinking all-night club party or getting some Gaultier inspo. In the present, fine, stretchy mesh becomes a canvas for prints, all-over and placement graphics, and even color-blocking. Wear ideally in shirt form to highlight the print, either over your skin or a solid-color tank top if you’re seeking more coverage.
Paloma Lira Grey Galaxy Mesh Top
This is how you do unisex fashion – as well as a Y2K revival. Paneled mesh with exposed seams, an uneven hem, and a psychedelic print deliver a Pucci-meets-Gaultier hybrid.
Von Dutch X Koché Mens Mesh Long Sleeve Shirt
On the subject of a Y2K revival, the revamped, more luxurious Von Dutch imprint goes for moto-inspired color-blocking and some era-appropriate tattoo-influenced graphics.
Ottolinger Green & Black Nylon Mesh T-Shirt
This cropped combination with a higher neck and ombre print goes for some vaporwave vibes that manage to be simultaneously trippy and soothing.
Inspired by Sportswear
In the present, cooling in sportswear frequently comes from quick-drying, moisture-wicking treatments, making mesh seem a bit old school. That’s exactly where sportswear-inspired mesh garments aim.
Some go for more of an Americana, 1950s vibe: think retro polo shirts styled out of a thin, breathable material. Others nod to the ‘80s – jerseys as shirts, preferably cropped to show off your abs.
Forever 21 Jersey Mesh Tank Top
Think touch-football but with a brighter hue, more substance, and a sleeker form that’s intended to be worn by itself with your favorite pair of shorts.
AMI Paris Oversized Mesh T-Shirt
We’re getting classic sports jersey from this solid-black mesh T-shirt. More sheer, logo-free construction suits the modern, more style-centric wearer.
ERL Printed Mesh T-Shirt
Think hockey jersey but made for the seaside. Inspired by California’s Venice Beach, this contrast-heavy, long-sleeve top feels familiar yet simultaneously unpredictable.
The appeal of Y2K, so far, has been its retro futurism, similar in the way we now view 1960s space-age architecture.
The start of a new century – coupled with the pervasive concern that technology would no longer work – resulted in colorful yet often skin-tight and synthetic apparel meant to convey something otherworldly that simultaneously worked for dressing for a rave.
Techy mesh garments pull from their athletic roots while also nodding to Y2K-like futurism. It means anything can go – jackets to full button-down shirts – just as long as it appears ultra-modern.
Banana Republic Mesh T-Shirt
Lounge or workout, this closer-fitting, long-sleeve mesh shirt looks classic yet modern and combines the material’s perforated qualities with quick-dry properties to control perspiration.
ASOS DESIGN Long Sleeve T-Shirt in Glitter Mesh
Full-on mesh with a touch of sparkle comes across contemporary yet quaintly retro, reviving Y2K clubbing trends for the Gen Z market.
Lululemon Water-Repellent Hiking Short Sleeve Shirt
A watercolor-like multicolored print on water-repellent material made of recycled polyester and elastane is joined by mesh panels for improved air circulation. The oversized, jersey-inspired fit is reminiscent of streetwear, while performance properties give it a practical aspect.
Patchy and Paneled
You might be thinking about a beard growing in unevenly. Instead, “patchy” and paneled in the context of mesh create a color-blocked effect, with solid elements breaking up the sheer material.
It adds more coverage and substance and, at the same time, delivers a secondary patterned element that doesn’t always involve layering.
AMIRI Off-White Cotton Shirt
Cotton and cashmere set the foundation for a larger-grid mesh fabric interspersed by silhouette-style florals.
Bode Mesh Grid Long-Sleeve Shirt
Inspired by anglaise silk lace panel curtains and the domesticity they represent, this long-sleeve shirt adds a more substantial grid pattern against finely woven mesh squares.
Differio Sheer Black Velvet Shirt
Goth-inspired and ready for a night of clubbing in almost any era, this long-sleeve, slim-cut button-up plays sheer mesh panels against solid velvet vertical stripes.