Ever since Adam utilised the proverbial fig leaf to protect his modesty, we have worn some form of clothing or another. Whether or not your vestments are designed to keep you warm, or indeed, if you are blessed with clement weather in your world, to keep the sun from scorching you, they are, or at least were, designed for the express purpose of protecting us from the elements.
And, where sartoria is concerned, if you must wear a suit, or rather, if you prefer to wear a suit out of convenience, or indeed, necessity, tradition or simplicity, then there a few rules of engagement which will ensure that you are getting the most of your armour. Regardless if you choose your suit because you liked the look of it, or because it’s the colour worn by your peers, it provides security and protects us from the outside world.
I begin with cloth because one of the chief requirements of the majority of my (male) customers is that their suiting cloth must be lightweight, as they are prone to run a little hot, and so, do not want a suiting cloth which is too heavy. However, of the suits which Brown in Town is commissioned to make, it is not necessarily the case that they are all made using lightweight cloths.
Now, there is cloth and there is cloth. Some cloth is fashioned from manmade fibre like polyester, whilst others are made from natural fibres like wool, cotton and linen. Manmade fibres are generally understood to be a little harder wearing, but do not have the ability to breathe as natural fibres do. Ergo, it is important to understand which cloth is suitable for the occasion, and by this I do not mean not wearing brown into town, as our name suggests. We encourage the underdog, the experimental and the dandy.
Concerning ourselves with which colour suit, shirt, tie, shoes or even pocket squares to wear is not something which occurs to most men until after we become disinterested in the vagaries of fashion. Or we become exasperated by the same colour garments being brought home for us by our memsahibs for consideration from the weekly trips to M&S, Primani or John Lewis.
The majority of Brown in Town’s patrons fall into two categories: grooms and businessmen. The former, generally speaking, want a garment which is flattering and conjures something of tradition, whilst speaking volumes of their own personal style and taste. The latter would be best served wearing something which is flattering, which conjures something of tradition, and which should almost certainly not speak volumes about their personal style and taste – with the exception, of course, of gentlemen’s pleasures, the age old tradition of wearing your heart discreetly on the inside of your sleeve, under your collar, or most popular of all, the custom lining of their coats.
Given the business suits application (e.g. to impress one’s peers and clients), a certain level of conservatism is probably encouraged. However, this does not exonerate anyone from wearing ill-fitting suits with poorly colour coordinated shirt-and-tie combinations.
At Brown in Town, we pride ourselves on finding just the right colour suiting cloth, shirting cloth, tie, pocket square and handkerchief to suit, ahem.
Wearing clothes which fit you is a good idea for many reasons – not least they are more flattering of the wearer. In addition, wearing ill-fitting suits, or indeed clothes is a sure-fire way of attracting unwanted attention not only from your peers, but also members of the opposite sex. And nobody wants to wear clothes which cause members of the opposite sex to take pity on them.
Moreover, wearing clothes which fit – and fit well – will prolong their life. For, if there are less rough, or indeed, loose edges to be hewn, the garment is more likely to enjoy an easier life and be longer-lasting. Understandably, having one’s suits made may seem like a luxury to some, but if you consider that those garments which are made using our measurements, and for our frame, then we are ostensibly the mould for that garment and, ergo, will keep it in shape just by wearing it – a good, well-cut suit would rather be worn to bed, or during a flight than be hung in a wardrobe, or folded up in a case.
Following cloth and colour, it is the proportions of a suit which we at Brown in Town concern ourselves with. For, irrespective if the wearer has a long or short torso, or long or short legs, if the jacket accounts for half of the total length of the ensemble, e.g. from collar of jacket to hem of jacket, and ergo, the trousers the other half from the hem of the jacket to the hem of the trousers, then the suit should appear perfectly balanced.
Etiquette versus Style
And if form, function and flattery are all that you muster, then you have done very well indeed. However, if you really want to make your mark, then it is sartorial etiquette, and therefore style which will most impress, and which sets those in the know apart from those who are not – as follows:
Trouser length speaks volumes about the wearer’s consideration for his appearance. If the trousers are too long, a la premier league football players’ suit trousers, known as puddling, then the wearer is either trying to mirror the style of his chinos or jeans, but failing hopelessly as cotton will ‘ruck’ up the shin, whereas wool will collect at the ankle, or he cannot be bothered to have them tailored. Tisk, tisk.
A single break (dent) in the crease of your trousers at shin-level is considered de rigueur for all but military personnel, for whom no break is the order of the day. If your trousers are not made for you at the prerequisite length, or if you have chosen to ignore the advice of your tailor, having trousers taken up by a seamstress costs very little and will not only improve the drape of your trousers, stop you treading on and tearing the hem of your trousers, but also ensure your beautiful handmade shoes are shown in all their glory.
Not all shoes are equal. Nor are all shoes handmade. Ask any self-respecting woman and they will inform you in no uncertain terms that you can (and will) ruin the appearance of a perfectly good suit by donning a pair of appalling shoes.
Sometimes Always Never
It is generally accepted that a jacket should be fastened by a single button at all times: it accentuates the silhouette of the coat and best displays the narrowing at the waist and the cut, as intended. If you are wearing a three button jacket, then it is necessity – e.g. inclement weather, or a need for additional security (ideal for those used to wearing waistcoats) – which dictates if the top button should be fastened or not. Under no circumstances should the bottom button be fastened.
It is generally considered appropriate (moreover, good form) to reveal about half inch of shirt cuff beneath your coat sleeve when arms are rested at your sides. It provides a border, if you will, between your coat and your hand. And at the very least, should act as a guide for your coat sleeve length which should come to rest at the top of your hand, where thumb meets wrist, and so if you are shooting more than, let’s say, one inch of cuff, you will know that you are on the Laurence Llewelyn Bowen side of sartorial correctness.
It was once said that it is better to be the only man in a room wearing a tie than the only man in the room not wearing a tie. I don’t think there’s any need to consider this sartorial dilemma any further.
Now, these rules of engagement may purport to be for the consideration of the suit wearers among us, or indeed, renaissance men, dandies, and those who want to make an impression – but not exclusively. The basics – being cloth, colour and fit – can be applied to anyone from Adam to Eve.
It’s a sartorial quagmire out there, but together, we can navigate it.
Best of luck.