Suits ain’t what they used to be, and that’s a good thing. Dressing down, working from home, comfort-seeking and bolder styles have upended what it means to wear a suit. With Savile Row on its uppers, traditionalism in suiting still works for wedding days and funerals. And accountants. For everything else, it’s time to welcome in some new ideas.
Tailor the smart end of your wardrobe with the suit trends redefining menswear not just for this year but for the foreseeable. The suit is dead. Long live the suit.
Tailors are obsessed with the pursuit of perfect proportionality. Balance is all. Fashion on the other hand, well, it just loves messing that up. Enter then, the oversized suit, with a touch of 1980s Armani about it, and nods to David Byrne’s ‘Stop Making Sense’ style.
This is probably the most capital-F fashion of the moment, with jackets – especially double-breasted ones – spilling over at the shoulder, draped tent-like around the body rather than on it, and, length-wise stopping somewhere mid-thigh. Of course, getting this right actually requires some darn clever, if unconventional tailoring. So don’t think you can simply size up to pull this look off.
Mismatch Of The Day
Your predisposition to dress like a woman is entirely your own business, of course, but there’s one way in which we would positively beseech you to dress like a woman – and that’s to get a grasp on the idea of wearing separates. If many women have long shunned wearing a suit, precisely because of its association with masculinity, they haven’t shunned tailoring.
Their answer? Mixing and matching – putting a tailored jacket with complementary but not matched tailored trousers. You need some skill in pulling these together – stick to the classic menswear colours, keep the darker shade for the jacket, don’t forget the interesting accessories – but the result is smart without the stuffiness of traditional suit styles, and a lot more fun than wearing a suit too. Words to live by: invest in a good blazer.
Suit trends evolve at a glacial pace. After all, it’s precisely the suit’s conventional role not to change, but to be a working uniform and the embodiment of wearable conservatism. All the same, it feels as though tighter fitting suits – narrow in the shoulder, nipped in at the waist, trousers fitted oh-so-butt-clenchingly and too short – have been with us for a geological age. They looked pretty awful on most men, as though they’d been through a hot wash, and lost. But at last, the dam has broken.
Look now to a broader suit, through the chest, across the shoulder and, most obviously, through the trouser, with a looser, wider leg. Stop thinking about estate agents and instead channel the 1930s and 1940s, the elegance of an Astaire or Cooper.
On Your Marks
Sartorially-speaking, we live in lazy, sloppy, comfort-seeking times. Just check out the number of men who dress in the shopping mall suit of matching grey hoodie and sweatpants these days. It’s depressing. OK, so these are also strange, locked-down times, and cosiness can be reassuring, but there’s this longer term, over-arching drift towards ease too.
Much as makers of ‘proper’ shoes are struggling against the tireless ascent of the sneaker – and are having to adapt, essentially by making upscale sneakers themselves – so ‘proper’ suits are being reframed as, if you like, swanky track-suits.
Look for two-piece garments that match, but which are softer, stretchier, techier and more unstructured than any ‘suit’ you’ve worn before. They may have elasticated waistbands. They may be stain- or wrinkle-resistant. They may even go in the washing machine.
Colour Me Happy
The prospect of wearing a pink suit outside of a Miami Vice theme park probably strikes most men with some trepidation. And they’d be right. Any man in a pink suit is going to get the kind of attention they may not have bargained for. They would, however, be terribly fashionable.
Think less the dark sobriety associated with most suit styles and more about pastels and jewel tones – rich Crayola shades of pale orange and lilac, emerald green and sapphire blue. The tones aren’t blindingly bright – more washed through. And some men, as the trend has it, may even wear them with tonal variations of the same colour for shirt and tie. All the same, this is a sign that the suit continues to look for a home outside of the office.
As the great poet once said, “no man is a sofa”. But there’s always a chance of looking like one if the most striking suit trend of the year is anything to go by. Traditional suiting has typically avoided all but the most subtle of patterns – the pinstripe, the Prince of Wales check – favouring the surface detail of certain cloth weaves instead.
Now take those patterns and explode them into huge checks, or have a suit in an all over motif, or with a full-on florist’s of florals. These may work for the red carpet – where the intention is to draw attention – but beware these are not easy suits to wear, and certainly not twice. On the other hand, these are definitely not dull suits. And that has much in its favour.
Beyond The Shirt
A suit is more than a tailored jacket matched with a pair of trousers. It’s also a set of conventions, none more than what it is worn with. These conventions may be breaking down, generation by generation, but most bespoke tailors will insist that, for example, a suit simply looks wrong without a shirt and tie.
Well, say goodbye to all that. Suits are now worn with knitwear – and here we mean the chunky kind, not the slick and finely gauged. They’re worn with a bobble hat or with sneakers. Even, gulp, with sandals.
In other words, the suit is actually going back to its roots – back before it became office attire, back to when it was a working garment, back to when it was just what a man wore, every day, to do anything in, and which he wore with whatever else he needed to keep himself warm or cool. It’s probably the boldest step in attitudes to the suit for three decades.
Brown In Town
Make of this what you will but look to the catwalks and it’s apparent that brown is now being proffered as an option in suiting. Don’t think ill of brown, it’s a great shade: serious but warm, dark without being the more predictable navy or grey, kind to all skin tones. But pulling off a brown suit takes forethought – be careful to break up your ensemble with some light but complementary shades, the likes of a chambray shirt or baby blue tee, or a charcoal polo, for instance.
Pity the poor double-breasted suit. Castigated by its spivvy associations with estate agents, dodgy second-hand car salesman or yuppie excesses, a double-breasted suit, well cut and worn well, still, for sheer class, leaves all other styles languishing. Think more 1940s noir than 1980s bagginess.
New takes on the DB, however, respect our preference for more relaxed dressing, and come in lighter-weight fabrics and softer fits, cut close to the shoulder while allowing movement through the body. Don’t be scared of wearing just the jacket with a pair of jeans either.