Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Men’s Suit Introduction
An illustrated introduction to the modern men's business man suit. The article touches on men’s suit fabric and fit, but primarily focuses on the parts of a suit to include lapels, vents, sleeve buttons, pockets, single & double breasted styles, and the trousers.
The men's business suit is the most universally appropriate item in a gentleman’s wardrobe. There are few events at which a man in a good looking suit will be out of place, particularly if the man has a firm grasp of fashion and an understanding of his personal style. The path to elegance begins with the suit, the cornerstone of men’s fashion.
A suit is a pair of jacket and trousers of the same cut, made from the same fabric, and intended to be worn together. Such a simple definition, however, denies much of the suit’s personality, and it is that personality that has made the suit a lasting and essential element of a gentleman’s outfitting. The primary element of a suit is its jacket, so the discussion begins there.
Most experts agree that there are historically three major styles of suit, named for the countries in which they originated, though it is now quite common to find all three styles in any country as well as fusions of elements from one or more different styles.
The first is the English style, typified by soft, unpadded shoulders, a long, hourglass body with a high waist, either double or single breasted, with two or three buttons and side vents. The next is the Italian or sometimes called Continental style, epitomized by a lightweight construction, squared & high shoulders, a short close-fitting single-breasted body, with two buttons and no vent.
Rounding out the group is the American Sack Suit, a natural-shoulder suit with a straight and somewhat roomier body, two or three-buttons, and a back vent. Today you would be hard-pressed to find a tailor who hasn’t been influenced by all three styles, and most suits take only a few of the distinctive elements from one style or the other.
The cut of a suit is a product of two elements: the overall silhouette and the particular proportions of the man who will be wearing it. A good tailor will cut a suit to flatter the wearer’s strengths and hide his weaknesses. For this reason alone a man should consider custom clothing; with a suit covering 90% of your body the message it sends more often than not trumps anything that may come from your mouth.
Assuming equality of cut, a custom-made or bespoke suit will flatter more than a made-to-measure suit, which in turn will have a better fit than an off the rack suit. Bespoke suits are custom-tailored to a gentleman’s measurements and built by hand by a master tailor; a custom pattern is created for each man, kept on record and pulled out only when small alterations or new garments are made.
Made-to-measure suits are off-the-rack suits that have been fitted and altered to the wearer’s frame, made from a combination of various pre-built parts. Off the rack suits, as the name suggests, are garments built in mass based on the mythological average man; because they are made to an average specification they do not naturally fit a man without extensive tailoring; and even here, it is a compromise.
After cut and customization, fabric is the next consideration.
While the difference in quality between an off the rack and bespoke suit is imminently obvious, both can appear quite stylish; that is not the case with poor quality fabric, which can make even the most expensive custom suit appear cheap. The most traditional suit fabric is wool. Suits, particularly for summer, are also available in silk, cotton, gabardine, as well as linen – a traditional favorite not without its own unique challenges – and even mohair and cashmere.
There is also the tweed suit, a rugged classic best suited to weekends in the country or more casual affairs; its thick, coarse fabric is designed to repel wind and water in inclement weather. The choice of a suit’s color is an equally important decision, and one best addressed in a separate discussion.
The next indicator of quality is the suit’s trimming and overall style; it’s this selection of details which give a suit it’s ultimate distinctiveness. Options on a men’s suit include pocket styles, linings, button materials, and the addition of subtle signals of the suit’s quality such as ticket pockets and functional sleeve buttons also called surgeon’s cuffs. These little elements, though they may seem extraneous, are signs of the suit’s personality as well as the wearer’s. Good details won’t make a poor suit into a quality one, but they do elevate suits at every quality level from the ordinary to the individual. Below we go into the suit’s details.