What’s happened? Where’s it gone? And can it make a comeback?
You may think I’m overreacting; fashion constantly recycles and revisits itself and what is currently out of vogue will, more often than not, have its heyday again. Britney and Justin’s infamous double denim disaster is arguably very on trend right now; kitten heels clawed their way back onto the scene in 2017, and Madonna’s pointy boob tubes…oh wait, maybe not quite yet.
The question I’m trying to find an answer to is when will that erstwhile staple, the piece around which so many men’s wardrobes revolved for centuries…the suit, make it’s comeback!?
Having begun my career in the suiting world, spending 6 years at Favourbrook, I am well versed in the history of the suit and the occasions for which they were made. Whilst the occasions themselves haven’t changed; weddings, job interviews, attending the British Grand Prix, it seems that the value placed on dressing ‘appropriately’ for them has. It used to be that if you didn’t wear a suit, you’d be wildly underdressed, and that job interview? Forget it!
So what’s happened to etiquette, to our sense of occasion? Last summer I attended a wedding at a beautiful and very-well known cathedral in London and you’d have thought, if there was ever an event to get togged up to the nines for (which I like to do on the regular) it would be this. I was truly taken aback at the lack of any strict dress code amongst the guests. Don’t get me wrong it was a lovely and very happy day regardless of what we were wearing, but nonetheless, why didn’t certain chaps feel the need to mark the importance of the moment in their choice of outfit?
I asked a couple of my clients why they seemed reluctant to wear a suit and the feedback was pretty disheartening. “It’s not enforced within the workplace.” “Why would I when I can get away with a t-shirt and jeans?” As we witness freelancers and hedge-fund managers alike, donning knitted polo shirts and carrying their laptops from coffeeshops to members clubs, it’s clear that the rules of how to dress have become as flexible and fluid as the ‘workplaces’ we now find ourselves in. Combine this with the rise and rise of cheap casual wear and it’s no wonder the suit has become so marginalised in the modern man’s wardrobe.
Now I’m as much of a fan of the t-shirt as the next person but I see two main misconceptions here; that a suit is something to be ‘enforced’, and that ‘casual’ means ‘comfort’. For too long the modern suit has been a uniform of navy, grey and more grey (50 shades?), worn by great swathes of faceless businessman, in identically stark offices all over the city – so it’s no wonder that men have turned to jeans, tees, bombers and trainers to express their personalities where they can find a proliferation of colours and styles. I totally understand why we’ve wanted to loosen our ties and undo our top buttons, but as an avid fan of the suit in it’s many guises, I’m on a mission to prove that the world of suiting is so much more exciting than pinstripes and stiffened collars.
If we glance at the current trends for formalwear it’s clear that our desire to look good isn’t the problem here. The flamboyant dinner jacket is more popular than ever with exceptional offerings from Gucci, Dries Van Noten, & Etro, demonstrating that we still love nothing more than a bit of ‘peacocking’ on the red carpet, and standing out from the crowd at a black-tie event. I take great comfort in seeing that the enthusiasm for ‘making an effort’ is very much alive, but its clear that this eagerness for good suiting has yet to flow back into our everyday attire.
As a stylist specialising in menswear and tailoring it can be a tad deflating knowing that the extraordinary amounts of work, skill and original design in traditional suiting isn’t getting the coverage it deserves. We need to support the small family-owned tailors, traditional manufacturers and fabric weavers that make up our industry or we risk losing the unique craftsmanship that has defined our ‘British’ aesthetic for so long.
Fortunately, I’m not alone in lamenting the ‘death of the suit’ – Brands like Drakes, Richard Anderson and Emma Willis are already doing a fantastic job of modernising traditional ways of dressing by bringing us 21st century offerings of heritage silhouettes, and ‘Peaky Blinders’ has done wonders for raising the profile of flat-caps and waistcoats – hats off to you Tommy Shelby!
The progress may be slow, but I’m cautiously optimistic that if we can continue to shed the stuffiness surrounding suiting, there’s no reason the everyday suit can’t make its way back into the spotlight with swagger and aplomb. And in the meantime? You’ll find me fully suited and booted, in bars and boardrooms alike – no dress code needed.