The cooler and edgier bros of the moment have been embracing all kinds of remixes and twists with classic tailoring. The suit has moved on, yo. It’s all about being short, brief, casual. A hyper-softening and casualization of the suit is in full swing, moving it closer to comfy and approachable athleisure. Slouchy, even.
According to the so-very-right-now, the classic tailored suit as you’ve known it is dead, bro. Or at least that’s the vibration on the street and the interwebs.
As the kids seem to be saying… A jacket length that covers the ass? A lapel wider than three inches? A structured shoulder? Pants that touch the shoe? Ew. Fuck you, old man. No way. I don’t want to look like my father or some stodgy grandpa. Them times of dignified dressing is past. I want the latest. The nowest. The freshest. The youngest.
And so it goes with designers, influencers, hipsters/youngsters, and brands desperately trying to reinvent the suit out of boredom, not knowing any better, a desperate urge to deviate for deviation’s sake, or the need for this quarter to be bigger than last quarter.
Some unfortunate high-profile suit remixes from Fall/Winter 2016:
I’ll tell you who else is bored: me. I’ve lived on this globe for a few spins and observed what comes, what goes, and what sticks. I’ve also seen a lot of men surf a trend wave, no matter how physically ill-fitted they were to pull it off, ignoring a time-tested design aesthetic that has had men looking their strongest, most dignified, and most handsome for a very long time. But looking handsome or even masculine has given way to looking cool, comfortable, cute, fierce, or – God help us all – “boss.” The overall effect is less “men dressing like men” and more “kids playing dress-up.”
Just this past week, I read an article the Fall/Winter 2016 Big Black Book, Esquire magazine’s biannual style manual. The writer took to Savile Row in search of a bespoke suit that was decidedly un-Savile Row – something more along the lines of Italian tailoring. (One wonders why he didn’t just go to Naples instead of London, but okay.) According to the article, the bespoke houses on London’s Savile Row aren’t the stuffy old tailors of yore. In lieu of getting a suit make in the unique “house cut” that different houses are known for and, thus, capitalizing on the strength of a particular heritage, you can order something completely different – “off-menu,” as the writer put it. (As someone who worked in many restaurants over many years, I can assure you that chefs hate that shit.) Want something unstructured and more Italian? No canvas? No roped shoulder? No structure, throwing out everything that English tailoring is famous for? No problem! On the hipper and cooler Savile Row 2.0, you can get whatevs, bro.
For his un-Savile Row suit from Savile Row, the author went to Kilgour, known for its single-breasted, one-button jacket that elongates the torso for elegant balance and symmetry. The author cast all that aside for a looser, less structured suit with a bafflingly popular shorter jacket design that essentially cuts the wearer in half and invites the world to observe his ass and zipper, an unfortunate choice for any man who isn’t built like the wafer thin boy models who make abbreviated jackets look even remotely appealing. The overall cut was less statured and formal, more comfy and leisure-like, and almost boyish. Personally, I’m of the opinion that a man who physically lacks a strong, angular, and commanding physique – like the writer – would benefit from a cut that gives him the structure and stature he physically lacks. It’s one of the great effects of a beautifully tailored suit and why the suit is the great equalizer that elevates every man to his best. A soft and unstructured form wearing a soft and unstructured suit is just another six feet of doubly soft and doubly unstructured.
But alas, the gentler, softer, more boyish approach is the trend. Sharp, strong, and – dare I say – imposing has given way to casual, whimsical, breezy. Non-threatening. Personally, I’d rather look more commanding than easy. A guy who opts for a suit with bird shoulders, whispy lapels, short jackets that flash the fly and a less than stellar ass, and pants that reveal the ankles begs to be taken less seriously. One of the whole points of a suit is to look dignified, not dumpy. The insistence on infusing dumpy elements into men’s highest form of dress is beyond me. But this is an age where people demand the comfort of pajamas wherever they go.
Like a kidney stone, this, too, shall pass. The street style photos of super-sprezz 2009sters in their micro suits are looking dated already, as will the current froth of suit remixes in a few years. As the foam evaporates, the purest form will still remain, and we will continue to look back in admiration on the style icons of ye olden days as the standard-bearers from whom all else is derived. Steve McQueen, Cary Grant, Sean Connery’s Bond, Marcello Mastroianni, Gregory Peck, Frank Sinatra, Gay Talese, Glenn O’Brien and other unwaxed men who enjoyed looking like men will continue to kick any trendy street style brat’s ass, many from their graves.
There’s nothing really wrong with doing whatever you want with your money (as long as no one’s getting hurt, of course). Do what you want and spend it where you want to spend it. Like the shaving business, men’s tailoring has to keep reinventing in order to make a profit. But as a man on a budget who recently ditched the wasteful and costly cartridge shaving model for the old time safety razor, I’m more interested in investing my limited financial resources in the long game, which, for me, means tailoring that has served the male form most flatteringly for over a century.