Mid-way through 2016, the Wall Street Journal got its hands on an internal memo from J.P. Morgan Chase & Co, detailing how employees were no longer required to wear suits to work. In a stark break from tradition, the banking giant would be “allowing employees to wear business-casual attire on most occasions,” with a suit only required for client meetings.
PricewaterhouseCoopers, another arch-capitalist institution, has even gone so far as to allow employees to wear jeans in the workplace, again, so long as they’re not meeting with clients. While we’d love to say this change in attitude is because streetwear has finally invaded Wall Street, it’s more likely because these firms doesn’t want to scare off future employees. Millennials are used to living in sweats and jeans, and the tech industry can pay skilled professionals just as much as billion-dollar mega-banks without forcing its employees into suits every day.
Regardless, if even the world’s mightiest financial institutions are finally discovering the joys of dressing down, does that mean we might soon be seeing the end of the suit as a staple of the modern men’s wardrobe?
Far from it. Rather than the suit dying, many designers are re-working it to cater for 21st-Century tastes. The luxe-streetwear aesthetic is now the dominant look on pretty much every fashion week runway, but there’s still tons of suits being made — often styled out to make them look young and of the now.
I hit up a few industry connections of mine to find out how the suit is still relevant for modern guys.
“I think that brands are looking towards a more dressed down approach to suiting” says Sam Kershaw, Senior Buyer for MR PORTER. “The most modern and fresh ways to wear a suit these days could be with a T-shirt in warmer climates, or a pared-down rollneck in colder weather.” The luxury men’s megastore counts well-heeled professionals as its number one customer, so it’s pretty much on the front line of the battle against tedious workplace dress codes.
Sam reports that guys are being a lot more flexible with their suits, thinking way beyond the traditional two-piece-and-tie outfit. “The ongoing trend is a less contrived and more relaxed approach to wearing the suit, often in separates” he tells me. Why not wear your tailored trousers with a hoodie and leather jacket? Or pop a fine jacket over a tee and a pair of track pants and sneakers?
“Our classic suits always do well, in interesting and unexpected fabrics especially” reports Jockum Hallin, who founded contemporary menswear label Our Legacy 11 years ago. Since then, Hallin’s work has slowly-but-surely invaded guys’ wardrobes all over the globe. The brand produces low-key casual bangers, but also kills it with its selection of suiting, which caters to modern tastes via weirdo fabrics and loose silhouettes. “A suit for us can be a wide legged trouser, like our sailor pant, and a cropped blouson jacket, in a fine wool or gabardine to give a sharp military uniform feel, or in a silk crepe to add luxe” Hallin adds. “A suit for us can also be a relaxed drawstring trouser and an unconstructed archive blazer.”
Fabrics are important here, and it’s one of the biggest ways brands like Our Legacy are innovating and pushing the old-school two-piece forward. “When done in a linen canvas you have your summer suit locked, and when done in a technical fabric you have a tracksuit hybrid” Hallin adds. Lightweight cloths keep things breezy during high temperatures, while tech fabrications keep things sporty, and can also offer crease-proof finishes — so you don’t need to worry about your garms crumpling during your day-to-day.
“The suit will never be obsolete as the pinnacle of men’s style” says Jian DeLeon, Highsnobiety‘s Editor-at-Large, and a menswear expert for trend forecasting agency WGSN. “It’s true that guys are dressing up less, but there are still plenty of occasions that call for it. As the suit transitions from wear-to-work dressing to sort of the secret weapon in a guy’s wardrobe, what we’re seeing is tailored gear getting more relaxed and casual. Less structure, soft shoulders, and traditionally casual patch pockets are becoming the norm.”
“More often than not, simply throwing on a blazer is considered dressy enough according to modern conventions, so the suit is becoming divided into more versatile separates that can elevate a variety of looks. Dudes are tucking tees into a smart pair of trousers and wearing them with an overcoat, or throwing a blazer over a casual roll-neck and jeans.”
A suit isn’t just for weddings, funerals and job interviews: it’s the most iconic part of the men’s wardrobe, and for centuries it’s been a signifier of authority, style and power. Like Jian says, the suit is the secret weapon in your wardrobe, ready to pull out on those occasions when you just want to look sick. You’ve probably got one lurking in your wardrobe anyway, so you might as well get a bit of use out of it, right?
Don’t think of the suit not as an all-encompassing look: it’s two garments that work just as well on their own as they do together. Forget the old-school shirt-and-tie ensemble — you can use your tailored trousers or jacket (or both) to add some chic to the more casual elements of your wardrobe.
We recommend styling a suit out with a white tee and tennis sneakers (for that crucial euro-architect steez), over a turtleneck (essential for the TriBeCa art dealer vibes), or go all out and flex some jewelry, sunglasses and a vintage band shirt (big up Supreme’s Angelo Baque for straight-up murdering this look.)
A suit doesn’t even have to be the usual navy, grey or black, either. Off-White’s SS17 women’s show contained this absolute banger of a look — red double-breasted blazer with red track pants over a red tee. A word on brightly-colored suits, though: tread carefully, you don’t want to look like Ross and Chandler in that flashback episode of Friends.
Thanks to modern designers and fabrics, the suit is a flex that can work in everyday situations, whether you spend your time in an office or on the streets. Think of it as a sartorial power move, something to pull out for when you want to look like a boss. But please, for the love of all things stylish, avoid waistcoats at all costs.
For more style tips, here’s how you can cop A$AP Rocky’s recent NYFW look for less.
- Cover Image: Supreme