How to Wear a Light Colored Suit This Spring

classic hollywood colors for spring style hollywood style styleforum how to wear a light colored suit


When the weather’s spitting, most men turn to dark colors – navy, black, and charcoal – out of a fear of raindrops, mud, and cars driving through puddles. While there’s nothing wrong with that, it does mean that it’s sometimes just as easy to get locked into a spring wardrobe the same way as can happen during winter. With that in mind, we propose a light colored suit for springtime.

First, it’s a nice way to break up the monotony of winter. Second, khaki, beige, or ivory has a touch of old Hollywood about it, which – and this is important – makes it fun in a way other things aren’t.  In this case, we’ve chosen a beige, easy-wearing patch-pocket model from Camoshita, which certainly skews toward the casual. That gives you the option to lose the tie, which we all know is important in springtime, because who wants to wear a tie when the tulips are coming up?

Of course, to fully embrace the monochromatic look, we suggest giving a nod to unpredictable weather by wearing a classic Mackintosh. With a belt and a collar that can be turned up against the elements, you won’t be making any stylistic concessions the next time it rains – by which we mean: please stop wearing your gore-tex jacket over a suit. Thank you.

Finally, after you’ve picked your pocket square, a light scent such as Frédéric Malle’s Geranium Pour Monsieur is a nice finishing touch to match your light color palette. This one smells about as fresh as a spring shower, and opens with a pleasant blend of geranium, mint, and star anise, that later gives way to a suggestion of musk and sandalwood. Like the clothing we’ve picked, it’s a welcome burst of brightness after a long winter.

The next time you find yourself pining for some uplifting clothing, try a light colored suit and a tonal ensemble. It’s a great way to embrace springtime, and if you’re anything like us, you’ll find yourself clicking your heels as you hop over puddles.

1. Camoshita beige blazer – $880 at Mr. Porter 

2. Camoshita beige trousers (matching) – $340 at Mr Porter

3. Kamakura “Tokyo Slim” striped shirt – $89 at Kamakura

4. Mackintosh belted cotton coat – 725 GBP at Trunk Clothiers

5. Alden chukka in snuff suede – $528 at Lawrence Covell

6. Drake’s pocket square – $90 at Supply and Advise

7. Frédéric Malle, “Geranium Pour Monsieur” – $270 at Barneys

How to Jump Into Bespoke

Today I’m in a salon in San Francisco with my wife.  The stylist asks how she wants her hair, and as she responds, she’s also using her hands almost like paintbrushes, drawing invisible lines here and there to indicate bob and bang length.  Then she points to a picture of a model on a wall.

“Like that.” 

Getting a bespoke suit follows a similar path.  We have an image in our mind and say to ourselves, “I want to look like that.”  Getting to look like that can be tricky.  Where to begin?  The following steps should help you on your way.

Decide what style you want. This cannot be overemphasized.  When you look at a picture of a suit you like, what exactly about it attracts you?  Is it the roping on the sleevehead, clean chest, and precise lines?  Or maybe you’re drawn to the roundness of the shoulders, gentle drape and curves, and soft tailoring.  Perhaps you like them all, but what do you see yourself in?  Nail that down, and proceed to step two.

Find a tailor that makes what you like as the house style.  This can be tough.  Generally speaking, there are three types of tailoring: British, American, and Italian.  The tailoring houses in the respective countries roughly adhere to the local style, but even within there are differences.  There are several threads on Styleforum that focus on various tailoring houses and geographical particularities; peruse them to pinpoint the one that most appeals to you.  These will get you started:

THE ANDERSON & SHEPPARD EXPATRIATES THREAD900x900px-ll-1f6ab035_i-79sdpzv-x2





Decide if you are willing to travel.  If so, you can go to any tailor you want, with only time and your budget to hold you back.  If not, you need to limit your choices to traveling tailors.  Here are a couple threads on StyleForum with tailors that travel to the US:



Plan the logistics of your travel.  Earlier this year I went to Sicily and wanted to try the tailors there.  When planning for the trip, I started to look for hotels and rental car agencies.  Many of these are available online in English, and email communication is also in English.  ProTip for car rental: InterRent is reliable and crazy cheap, often $20 a day or less for a car.  Their offices are sometimes located away from the airport but they do provide shuttle service.  Hotels usually speak English, and depending on your pocketbook, Sicily can provide unforgettable accommodations.

Set900x900px-ll-2505fe4a_tumblr_mltkm24ltx1rf1jvro1_1280 up an appointment. Many Italian tailoring shops don’t speak English, so along with other useful questions such as “Qual’è il miglior vino della casa?” you need to learn simple phrases to set up your appointment.  In this regard, utilize the many online translation sites, or language apps to use on your smartphone.  Or try this:  “Buongiorno, mi chiamo Peter. Voglio venire alla sua sartoria il diciannove ottobre alle 3 di pomeriggio. Va bene per lei?”

Since I speak conversational Italian, I called to let both tailors know the dates and general time of day I would be coming, which I did again about a week before my departure date. Most tailors will not discuss prices over the phone, so while it’s good to have a ballpark figure, be prepared for a somewhat fluid policy.  Allow at least a week for the first visit, first fitting, a possible second fitting, and the finished product.  If staying for less time, most tailors are willing to ship to you at cost. 

But what do you do once you get there?  What can you expect?  What do you ask?  I asked venerable StyleForum members to share their experiences, and next week’s Journal will reveal their responses.

Why Bespoke Clothing?

bespoke suit example

An example of a successful bespoke endeavor.

Bespoke what? The word itself has undergone changes since its first use in the 1500’s. Back then, “bespoke” was what you called your outfit.  Your one outfit, the one that smelled of Western European colonization.

“Why yes, the codpiece was bespoke. No, I don’t know why it’s so small. But the godless heathens should be impressed.”

The idea of having something made for you was nothing strange in those days, but as mass-produced items became commonplace, something made to your particular specifications (such as your particular body) became scarce.  Most ready-to-wear suits may not fit you perfectly, but a few may. Most are also made from ugly fabrics, but a handful are tastefully classic. The price range is anywhere from $300 to upwards of $3000 and higher. Something, somewhere, will fit your body, budget, and discriminating bias. So, why bespoke?

bespoke suit styleforum guidelines

All smiles throughout the process.

Indeed, in order to get something bespoke one has to do quite a bit of research, as few companies even offer such services. Fewer still are the tailoring houses that take your measurements, have various high quality fabrics to choose from, and provide fittings for adjustments. Most have to travel great distances to tailoring houses, across state lines, time zones, and oceans.  Others hope traveling tailors visit their city (or a nearby one), but such merchants visit once or perhaps twice a year, which means you may not receive the finished product for one or even two birthdays.  In contrast, off-the-rack suits can be found in any department store, ready for you to take home.  So again: why bespoke?

One word: romance.  Interestingly, a recent article from The New York Times quotes Georgetown linguistics professor Deborah Tannen, saying “bespoke” appeals to our individualism.  Which is partially true: more often than not, those who venture into bespoke have a very specific idea of how they want to appear.  What better way to materialize your distinct sense of identity by dictating your projected image?  Self-love and self-expression often go hand in hand

perfect bespoke suit

The Finished Product

But it’s more than that.  It’s the enchantment with bespoke itself – a medium which takes far more time than the alternative but, to those who appreciate it, returns far more reward.  Even if you never thread the needle, the process of discussing what environment you’ll wear the suit and how you wish to be presented, deciding which fabric you like versus how it will perform examining various technical styles, all contribute to the creation of a unique idea (yours).  You’re excited because you get to dictate the particulars.  But the courtship continues, because it’s during the fitting when you begin to see your idea turn into something tangible.  Sure, maybe a few tweaks need to be made, the tailor makes a note of it, you go out for some coffee, maybe dinner and a drink, shoot the breeze, exchange salutations, make another appointment, and part ways smiling with eager prospects of the next encounter.  Finally you see the finished product – the completed suit – and that’s it.  You try it on, and you’re smitten.  

That’s romance, and that’s the why of bespoke.  Sure, that suit makes you look great, but the process, eliciting feelings of creativity, anticipation and discovery, is the reason to choose bespoke.  Because you can’t find that in any department store.

The Charcoal Suit is Still a Wardrobe Essential

“The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit”, released in 1956, follows the life of veteran Tom Rath (Gregory Peck) in post war America as he attempts to make it in the corporate world while dealing with a variety of personal issues.  It touches, as most great films do, on many themes – among them PTSD and the conflict between family and corporate life.  In the movie, the ubiquitous grey flannel suit of the post WWII workplace serves as a symbol of the demands of the corporate workplace.  A man becomes subsumed by his corporate role when he puts on his corporate suit.  The movie, like the book it was based on (published just a year earlier), was hailed by an audience standing on the precipice between postwar America and Rock and Roll.  Sixty years hence, while the word “suit” still carries with it many negative connotations associated with corporate drudgery, most workplaces no longer demand a suit for every day wear, and a suit has become for many a special event item.  A suit is, for many, a contemporary form of regalia.  A man who puts on a gray suit is more likely to stand out than to recede into the background – the suit says “This guy is about to do something special”.

charcoal suit styleforum wardrobe essential

Styleforum member “Pingson” does the dark grey suit justice.

A few years ago, a Styleforum member named “@Manton,” started a thread called “If you don’t own the following items, you are not well dressed”.  It’s a good list, if any one is building a classic business wardrobe.  We saw arguments about what belonged and did not belong in the list.  The dark grey (or charcoal) suit was, and is, one of the very few items that remains inarguably necessary in a man’s wardrobe.  If your job is one of the rare ones that requires that you put on a suit and tie every day, charcoal suits are a staple.  It says that you are a sober man, a serious man, which is usually the effect you want to affect in those rare professions where suits are still the norm.  If you are not a habitual suit wearing man, if you only need a suit once every so often, the dark grey suit in classic proportions is the suit you need if you are a guest at a wedding, a mourner at a funeral, or a victim at a job interview.

This is not a tutorial on what to look for in a suit, nor an infographic on how to wear one, but here are a few points to start you off:

  • The suit should “cut” your body into approximately two equal parts. The jacket should cover your bottom, but not go much below that.
  • Always make sure that the suit fits across the shoulders. Most other things can be adjusted.  This is a hard facet to alter.
  • In the same vein, make sure that the angle of the arm matches that of your “natural” stance.

And more about styling your suit:

  • A “normal” lapel width is less likely to date your look than a very narrow or very wide lapel. A “normal” lapel width ranges between 3” and 3.5” at the widest point, with the exact width depending on the style as well as the size of the suit.
  • There are three common button configurations for suit jackets: a two button jacket, a three button jacket, and a “two-roll-three” jacket – a three button jacket that is designed so that the top button is on the roll of the lapel, and not to be used for any reason.
  • If you are at a loss on what to wear with a charcoal suit, go with a plain white shirt with a semi-spread collar, a burgundy or navy grenadine tie (or a knit tie for more casual occasions, or a wool tie for winter), and a plain white pocket square.

I’d argue that a white oxford cloth shirt and a few solid or small pattern ties are other “should have” basics, and we’ll discuss those in the future. For now, if you’re starting out on a business-appropriate sartorial journey, or looking to pare down your wardrobe, keep in mind that a dark grey suit is an eternally appropriate choice in clothing. It’s worth having one in your closet, and making sure that it fits you properly – you’ll certainly find continued use for it.