If he was still around, Sigmund Freud would be having a field day with the current state of play in American menswear. Here's a Freudian slip for you: America has presidents, Britain has queens, and that's why young Yankee designers—as opposed to their more theatrical English counterparts—are so hooked on emblems of authoritarian male dressing. In collection after collection, it's all about button-down shirts, suits, ties, a general air of formality. There's a cinematic angle here, which gives Scott Sternberg—Mr. Band of Outsiders—an edge. The former CAA agent has no fashion background, but he has an acute grasp of visual archetypes. In that respect, he's a little like Junya Watanabe, able to train a detached eye on the familiar and find the exotic in the mundane. No wonder Tokyo is Band's biggest market.

This season, Sternberg pushed out the boat, literally. To mark a distinctly Watanabe-like collaboration with a fine old American company, boat-shoe manufacturer Sperry, he presented his collection on the water. The heavyweight fashion turnout testified to his burgeoning rep—he's a candidate for the current CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund award—which made the specificity of his offering all the more peculiar. Sternberg is a member of the less-is-more school of shrunken tailoring—in his own words, "Brooks Brothers boys' department circa 1970"—and over the course of his four years in business, he's been building his own repertoire of classics. For spring, the designer added a baseball jacket and a trenchcoat, tightened, pared down, and rendered in a waxed cotton that looked like oilcloth but was substantially lighter. Lightness was also the primary asset of batiste shirts, light enough to layer (he showed coral under burgundy). Sternberg claimed Havana in the fifties as an influence, starting with the jacquard ties he's already known for, and moving on to a double-breasted jacket in a windowpane check, apparently the mirror of one worn by a waiter serving Hemingway in an old photo the designer had found. It's this fetishizing of sartorial minutiae that lends the most interesting American menswear its emotional undertow.