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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Taking a cue from the women's lines which command center stage at New York's Fashion Week, looks for men waxed casual, hewing towards leisure and athletic wear, with an emphasis on colors and patterns.
The perennial poor relation of women's high fashion, menswear is nonetheless gaining momentum, as well as market share, in the high-stakes retail business, analysts say. Men's interest in clothing and personal style is growing and they continue to move toward shopping for themselves, they say.
Sales of menswear are projected to grow some 14 percent a year, or nearly double the pace of luxury women's wear, according to consulting firm Bain & Co.
And men are studying up as they spread their fashion wings.
"Men are spending more time online and learning about dressing," said Tom Julian, author and retail trends expert. "As a result, look for lifestyle options - head-to-toe concepts and brands that are distinct and unique."
Tim Bess, men's fashion trend analyst for retail consultants, the Doneger Group, said menswear was gaining momentum "in a refined, casual, modern way."
Such experts taking stock of the collections showing at New York's Fashion Week, which runs through until Thursday, pointed to a wealth of prints, colors and unstructured tailoring as hallmarks of the spring 2013 looks.
"The athletic leisure look which has taken hold is now really taking off," said Bess. Shorts are worn with blazers, and jackets no longer mandate a collared shirt.
Meanwhile, one of the biggest changes in menswear isn't happening on the runways at all, but on city streets, as evidenced by the new store openings dedicated to menswear.
Julian pointed to "an explosion of labels that continue to reach modern men by marketing their collections in their own freestanding retails stores, of within department and specialty stores."
Examples include Ted Baker, True Religion, Scotch & Soda and Vince, as well as Topman, which is being launched in the United States by Nordstrom.
Another trend is an increasing influence from swim and beachwear in sportswear. "Many designers and brands are extending the concept of swim trunks," Julian said, citing "an emergence of retro surf" which is expected "to go nostalgic and West Coast."
Accordingly, for his first collection for Joseph Abboud, designer Bernardo Rojo showed suits and separates befitting jaunts to the beach or tennis club, rendered in soft variations on white, ivory or gray, as well as bold reds, yellows and blues.
Neckties were absent and jackets unlined and deconstructed, while suits bordered on rumpled.
Unstructured looks dominated at Duckie Brown's show, where square-cut jackets topped billowy pants and billowy tops were paired with red plaid trousers.
Nicholas K showed unstructured, oversized flowing separates noteworthy for oversized lapels, plunging shawl collars and block-color tops paired with shorts or rolled up trousers.
Tommy Hilfiger hewed toward schoolboy with a leisure-oriented bent, showing insignia-emblazoned blazers in solids and stripes paired with shorts and track-suit style trousers.
Stripes were everywhere. Hilfiger splashed vertical stripes in his trademark red, white and blue, from narrow to wide, on everything from casual to workout-inspired suits.
Lacoste, synonymous with leisure fashion, also showed bold colors, as well as unstructured jackets and voluminous parkas.
Richard Chai ventured into different territory, featuring lightweight, square cuts, color blocking and shirts that bordered on translucent. Soft, light fabrics with sheen in powder blues and off-whites mixed with jackets and shirts in black and charcoal.
The collection by General Idea didn't miss a single menswear trend: deconstructed tailoring, color blocking, bright hues, prints and patterns and shorts were all in evidence -- in some cases reflected in a single outfit.
In a mini-British invasion, a show later this week will feature four brands being introduced into the U.S. market: Pretty Green, designed by Liam Gallagher, former front man of rock band "Oasis;" the denim brand Fire Trap; Bolongaro Trevor from the original designers behind the cult retail store All Saints; and Richard Smith Prêt à Porter, featuring customizable tailored men's suits.
Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and David Brunnstrom