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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Menswear plays a poor relation to women's styles at New York Fashion Week, but it is enjoying faster-growing sales and consumer tastes that are becoming more daring, experts say.
Just a fraction of the hundreds of shows at New York Fashion Week are devoted to men's lines, and they attract far smaller crowds and less coverage, yet the menswear scene is flourishing.
Driving sales are younger men shedding traditional looks in favor of color, casual styles and quirky twists on classics.
"The men’s market is steadily growing and for many retailers it has outsold their womenswear," said Matt Feniger, associate editor for menswear at WGSN, which predicts trends and style for the fashion and retail industries.
"Men are much more willing to experiment with fashion and
try new things and this is reflected in sales," he said.
In the United States, men’s apparel sales outperformed womenswear last year, market research shows. Menswear grew 5 percent in 2013 to $60.8 billion, according to the NPD Group, a trend and sales tracking company. Womenswear retail sales grew 4 percent to $116.4 billion last year, NPD said.
"It's a really, really great moment right now. Men are dressing differently," said Lucio Castro, an Argentinian-born menswear designer who just showed his collection in New York.
Fashion Week in New York runs through Thursday, when it wraps up with shows by Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren and Marc Jacobs.
"Men don't really want to be uniformed anymore," Castro said.
He noted the popularity of sweatpants, trim and skinny, which he showed in his collection that evoked Soviet-era summers on the beaches of Odessa and Sopot.
Timo Weiland showed linen sweatpants topped with a classically styled button-down shirt and blazer. Todd Snyder matched sweatpants with a tailored jacket and mixed sweatshirts with tuxedo pants.
Sweatpants were popular as well in the debut collection of tailored athletic looks by Grungy Gentleman.
New York-based Duckie Brown had some fun with outsized plaid overshirts and high-waisted trousers. Richard Chai mixed slouchy shorts with a tailored jacket.
David Hart showed argyle-patterned polo shirts and flashy luminescent suits, while W.R.K. took inspiration from Formula 1 racing with prints drawn from garage oil stains, racing flags and tire marks.
"I think men are experimenting a little more and caring more about how they look, the way clothes fit, the fabrication, the way they feel," said Michael Maccari, the new creative director at Perry Ellis who showed his debut collection this week.
"Even if they are not daring, they appreciate quality, details, fit, fabrication, hand feel and things like that," he said.
At one time, the only playground for fun or color in menswear was ties, and then socks and now sneakers, said Castro.
"There's definitely a comfort zone that expands and grows really slowly," he said.
"It's definitely a very fine balance in menswear," he said. "Men will not feel comfortable if it's something too new or too strange."
Additional reporting by Patricia Reaney; Editing by Lisa Shumaker