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 off 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. Suit jackets are defined by many things; the fabric from which they are made (to include its color and weight); the style or cut of the suit; the details or trimming applied; and the degree of customization to its wearer.
Of these, the cut, or more precisely the fit, is paramount – a poorly fitting suit will never look right on the wearer, regardless of the quality or detailing. 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.
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. 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.
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