From Beau Brummel onward, British style cults have dominated the mass memory of men's fashion like nothing else. For Spring 2011, Dries Van Noten returned to the well of mod and ska for refreshment. The modishness was easily dealt with in precise tailoring, some with the peak shoulders and the slub that mods loved, along with classic topcoats. Van Noten refracted his ska influence through the style affectations of the skinheads who evolved out of the mods. In this collection, that primarily meant jeans and jackets in "snow-washed" denim that had been bleached to within an inch of its blueness.

Perhaps it was brooding about U.K. skinhead style that steered Van Noten into a bigger early-seventies picture. When he name-checked The Great Gatsby as he talked about his cream double-breasted jackets, it was clearly the 1974 movie with Robert Redford he had in mind. Likewise, if his all-white outfits triggered an echo of the droogs in A Clockwork Orange, it was again the 1971 movie version, not the book. But the clearest reference to the early-seventies was his use of a particular shade of brown that will be forever linked with the grim period before glam rock tore down the curtains and let some light into English dystopia.

There's always a story behind the story with Van Noten. Here, for example, white shirts seemingly randomly splashed with watercolor to create haphazard Rorschach blots had actually been hand-painted by a couture atelier in Lake Como. No two shirts were the same. As the designer was quick to point out after the show, it was all about "perception." So what looked like a heavy tweed overcoat was actually woven from a nylon/cotton blend so light it was almost translucent. And a punky "mohair" sweater was really 90 percent linen. And a skinhead was really a sweetheart. Still, the show lacked the romance that is Dries at his best.