News - Musings

2016 Classic Menswear in Review

Wow.  You all posted so many pictures in 2016.  Like, thousands.  Most of you, waaaay more than me.  As @Roycru stated: “Thanks awfully to all those who post pictures of themselves and who don’t get discouraged by the occasional bizarre comments.” Indeed, it takes persistence, a desire to improve, and perhaps a touch of narcissism self-awareness to continue to post, so kudos to all those who did.

So what exactly happened last year?  In short, the return to the Golden Age of Menswear, along with the looks and proportions that it espoused.  The three-piece is enjoying increased popularity, more turtlenecks are being worn with sportcoats, but I was particularly pleased to see something I haven’t seen for a long time: the double breasted suit.

In November and December alone, forum members wore so many double breasted suits that I lost count.  Probably close to a third of the pictures.  Granted, cooler temperatures do lend themselves to wrapping oneself in more fabric.  Still, it’s pretty noteworthy, in no small part due to the perception of the double breasted suit during the past quarter century.

It’s not that the style itself was ever un-stylish.  Like it’s single breasted brother, the whims of fashion have either swept it into the background or catapulted it into the zeitgeist.  I remember them as a boy, on Simon LeBon on MTV videos, and thinking, Man, that looks so unlike anything I’ve seen, and he is so cool, I want to look like that.  Because none of the grownups around me in 1982 had anything like that.  Which makes sense:  American Gigolo (1980) is often credited with reintroducing the style, but TV shows such as Miami Vice (1984-90) really gave the double breasted suit its first big US renaissance.  It all started off well; designers such as Ralph Lauren and Alan Flusser modeled their interpretations from the style’s last heyday of the 30’s and 40’s and gave its wearer a powerful, commanding silhouette with a unapologetic Anglo/American pedigree.  No wonder, then, the money-movers of Wall Street both gravitated towards and projected out that image, giving time-honored credibility to a slick ‘do and sly smile.  At the same time, Italian designers Giorgio Armani and Versace interpreted the double breasted suit with softer and lighter fabrics, little or no lining, and a looser fit.  This gave an otherwise business-y look softer contours and a relaxed air.  By the time Wall Street was released in 1988, department stores were selling completely through their stock of double breasted suits, until finally the New York Times proclaimed them cool again.  Which, of course, heralded its slide out of popularity.

Less than one year later the same newspaper ran an article on the three-button single breasted sack suit, quoting Harold Koda warning, “if (the style) takes, it will make existing styles look unstylish. Once fashion goes baggy, it’s hard to stay sleek without looking uptight.’’  Indeed, once that trend caught on in the early 90s, double breasted suits fell to the wayside (with the notable exception of David Letterman), and they were a forgotten anecdote of fashion history.  And while menswear magazine giant GQ has occasionally showcased double breasted suits with exemplary proportions, the anaemic lapels that have stubbornly clung to those breasts just made the suits look, well, infantile.  I like how old-school GQ Style Guy Glenn O’Brian put it, way back in 2000

“The thing with double-breasted, I believe, is that it’s for men, not boys. And fashion today is a bit on the boyish tip.”

Modern menswear is about to grow up, and that means the return of the double breasted suit.  I’m sure you’ll be seeing it more on the forums.  The Old Guard may pride itself on shirking trends, but let’s not lie: even if only slightly, most of us tow the line of fashion, even if we boast of its irrelevance on our personal wardrobe.  Even those who doggedly adhere to established rules of coat and tie still incorporate modern changes to avoid looking dated.  Of course, fashion cycles in and out, but I feel like the last 20 years of menswear articles throwing around the words “classic” and “timeless” were misguided at best, if not outright disingenuously aimed at fooling gullible men who didn’t know any better.  Seriously, you can get no more classic than old Hollywood, and it looks like it’s ready for a comeback. 

Godspeed, that.

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Peter works in construction, but has an extensive collection of custom suits which he gets so that he can wear suits on the weekend. Even though he lives in San Francisco, he has never used the word "impact" as a verb. He writes about classic menswear and is one fedora away from being a complete dork.

Categories: News - Musings

6 replies »

  1. Bold prediction, Peter. Prince Charles, for one, will be happy. I love the way he roks the DB and this’ll put him ahead of the curve.

  2. Let us hope so but the swallows are in very short supply. Quite honestly I see little sign of the current mania for ill proportioned and badly fitting clothes receding. Witness the Pitti pics posted at this very site!

    • Bad clothes that fit terribly will probably never go away completely, but even the recent Pitti pics seem to hint that a return to classic proportions is around the corner. Hopefully sooner than later.

    • There are two different types of people at Pitti: the very well-dressed people, in a classical sense, most of whom are buyers, store owners, or (occasionally) designers. There are also a host of men dressed in styles that defy SF’s classical tastes, and we think they’re worth documenting as well. You’ll note that we’ve taken plenty of photos of both types – love it or hate it, style isn’t monolithic.

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