Exploring the fine line between being sharp and looking like you’re wearing a bin-bag…
We see lounge suits all around us every day. Some are well-cut, well-worn outfits put together with taste, intelligence, and a solid sense of proportions. Most are unimaginative, lazy, obvious, ill-fitting, wrinkled garments made of sad, sad fabric. It is a true pity considering what lounge suits, now the most common sort of ‘formal’ day wear, can bring to a masculine appearance when worn with gusto.
The most important consideration of all is fit. In the words of a greater sartorialist than I, ‘Clothing that does not fit, no matter how beautiful its color and pattern, how expensive its cloth, or how expertly made it may be, is useless.’ Getting fit wrong is certainly the most efficient way of taking an ensemble out back and shooting it in the head: too tight, a suit will pull and crease disharmoniously; too large, it will leave you floating in Edward VIII’s stress dream. Sleeve and trouser length is almost equally significant: ideally, sleeves stop at the wristbone to show around half an inch of cuff. Pompous rules of fashion? A basic sense of elegance. Cuffs should be a visual echo of the shirt collar that peeks out above the back of the jacket, and, when matching, of a white handkerchief. Trousers are tricky too: on the scale of inelegance from one to wearing Black Tie in the afternoon, trousers that are too long are off the charts – they just sit on the shoes in a million of ghastly wrinkles. No break at all (when they merely touch the top of the shoes) is certainly a hard choice to pull off, though certainly the sharpest when it works, also adding a cheeky bit of sock-flashing to the equation when walking. Trousers work best when high on the waist – I know, I know, it’s how they wore them back in the 1920’s, but they also knew that a) it makes your legs seem longer and b) low-waisted trousers have a serious tendency to make a grown man look like he’s wearing a diaper.
As far as fabrics are concerned, there really is only one ground rule: one should never (ever, ever) get anywhere near polyester. It is cheap and easy to find, but it doesn’t last, it is impossible to cut as well as natural fabrics and it frankly looks as bad as the new library carpet. Any sort of wool is always a safe bet, and, let’s face it, silk is the greatest thing in the sartorial world.
This doesn’t leave much room for personality, does it? Well, yes it does. The most exciting and fascinating part of putting a suit together lies in the matching of patterns and colours. It is well-known that pink doesn’t go with red and that stripes on stripes is usually a terrible idea but some combinations are well worth exploring. A light blue shirt and a patterned pink tie is a classic, best combined with a mid-grey suit (Prince Charles’ favourite), as well as dark navy and dotted burgundy. More daring and well rewarding are green on blue, green on pink, or check on stripes. Patterns are absolutely vital, and block colours do look dull together. Whilst navy on blue on red isn’t wrong as such, it is as insipid as a novella written using the same metaphor over and over again. An ensemble should go far beyond that – the possibilities are virtually endless. Socks are very good assets and an intelligent handkerchief often brings a good outfit to life. Three-piece and double-breasted suits have sadly become rarer but have the tremendous advantage of covering the unpleasant junction between the shirt and the trousers. Finally, bow ties are not featured here but remain an excellent choice. Unless they’re clip-ons.
A well-worn day suit can be a remarkable embodiment of what it means for a man to dress well: paying extensive attention to proportions, shapes, patterns, and colours, all assembled with an elegant sense of measure, whilst adding an element of boldness to the outfit. Take risks! Clothing would be seriously tedious without it. Finally, dressing well really shouldn’t be about money, but if you happen to have an extravagant amount to spend on clothes, do yourself a favour and avoid designers. In the words of poor cousin Jasper: ‘Go to a London tailor; you’ll get a better cut and longer credit.’
Photography : Susie Eldred
Models : Peter Zahnd, Benjamin Wallo, Paul Obi Jr