Contrary to what many may think, Kiwis obtained their nickname from a flightless bird called the kiwi, and not the kiwifruit, otherwise known as the Chinese gooseberry. The word kiwi is of MÄori origin, and the bird—unique to New Zealand—is regarded as very special by them.
Towards the end of the 18th century, the flightless kiwi appeared on military badges and, during WWI, on regimental signs. Somewhere about this time, the term was applied to New Zealand soldiers and, then, to all New Zealanders.
Traditionally, New Zealand has been an agricultural-based economy. Although sharply decreased in recent years, the ratio of sheep to New Zealanders is still 9:1. Hence, wool production abounds, making New Zealand the largest producer of crossbred wool, as well as sheep jokes, otherwise known as “ewe-phemisms.”
In my first article on Kiwi fashion, New Zealand: the Men & their Style, Miranda Likeman of COCO PR introduced us to the Kiwi male and his taste of styles. Today she continues to share her expert knowledge about the men’s fashion scene in New Zealand.
What would you say, Miranda, are the major influences on New Zealand menswear?
It would be accurate to say most influence is drawn from overseas when it comes to putting together an outfit for the modern New Zealand male, because we are still developing our claim on the international fashion scene, and as a result of the new technology culture, our consumers tend to look beyond our shores more frequently for inspiration and in search of that special piece that sets him apart from the pack.
What do you mean by “new technology culture?”
As a nation that has emerged relying heavily on its agricultural heritage – the farmer and rural roots from our history still have influence on our casual style. Wool always has been and will no doubt continue to be, along with other natural fibres, a backbone of the Kiwi male’s wardrobe.
What about the influence of pop culture?
The music scene is huge in New Zealand and has an enormous impact on the fashion here. Musicians are often innovators in terms of fashion and are looked up to by the modern male for inspiration on personal style and dress sense. Television presenters are also role models for the more mainstream market and frequently strike a chord with the Kiwi Male in terms of the likability factor.
You mentioned males wanting to be “set apart from the pack…”
On that note, there is a constant dichotomy within the New Zealand male to strike a balance between fitting in with the rest of us and remaining an individual. We like to be noticed but not draw an inordinate amount of attention.
A simple jeans and tee-shirt outfit may appeal deceptively simple, but on closer inspection will express cultural values and norms constituting a male wardrobe staple, while actually communicating a sense of individuality and carefully constructed style.
Would you call Kiwis and Aussies the same?
In many ways we can be likened to the Australian male. Like close cousins who grew up together, we too developed and blossomed with regards to our respective fashion scenes over the same period of time and retain a close relationship when it comes to what we wear.
What sets them apart?
Of course the like of the Melbourne male has been and will forever indeed remain the ultimate pioneer in terms of male style. He has spawned many a trend and appears yards ahead of the pack. Fair game, too, for in New Zealand; we prefer to remain more low-key and develop our own tangent from the main stream (though still of course only a tangent from the mainstream fashion, not a complete diversion). Also the menswear style in Australia has many more roots in surf culture, whereas in New Zealand it has a far more streety/military style.
To what extent do European styles play a role?
Not so much, the New Zealand male tends to perceive European fashion as at the far end of the metrosexual scale, while they tend to remain at the more conservative end.
…and the US?
If you mean in terms of music (particularly hip-hop) influenced fashion, then yes—in particular the Polynesian male population have affinity with those styles; but not as far as other styles are concerned.
What impact have Asian styles made an impact?
A few brands from Asia (specifically Japan and Singapore) have been introduced into the New Zealand market in recent times and had arguable success. It appeals to a small segment here and specialist stores may stock such brands. We have a high Asian population here that is really the primary target market for Asian designers and styles. Many find them overpriced and tend to opt for the more special pieces, such as a coat or pair of designer jeans over, say, a tee-shirt.
It can definitely be said we appreciate quality here and are more than willing to pay for it, but there is a benchmark beyond which no qualifying excuse will encourage us to remove the plastic from our wallets.