The Extra 10 Percent
At some point in the 17th century, the suit was invented. The suit represented two things, which hold true to this day: power and sex.
Wear a basic T-shirt and a pair of standard blue jeans to a bar, something along the lines of what you would find in the lobby of a hotel. Have a few drinks, and relax. Now come back the next evening, except this time, wear the nicest suit you own. Notice the different reactions of the people around you. Note the small things, like how the bartender speaks to you.
A social experiment like this illustrates how a well-cut suit can turn every man into the ideal sartorial gentleman: serious, powerful, and compellingly charismatic. Great taste and incredible style are best expressed through an impeccably tailored suit on a fit, clean physique.
Beau Brummel’s renegade approach was helped by the neoclassical revival, which brought with it the masculine ideal we know today: the inverted V-shaped torso. A wide back and broad shoulders, tapering down to a slim waist. English tailors abandoned the wide, sloppy wool coat and began to make a molded garment, perfect for comfortable urban wear while remaining stylish. The wearer gained what appeared to be the physique of a classical sculpture. Would-be fine gentlemen emerged everywhere.
The 19th century brought us the Neopolitan tailors, who mastered the tricks of the trade by making the suit nearly weightless. In the 70’s, Giorgio Armani took the suit and ran, giving it a fuller cut and a distinctive Milanese slouch that dominated the fashion scene, famously appearing on Richard Gere in American Gigolo.
His suit was a more sophisticated version than the American suit, and by the twentieth century, the suit was the universal symbol for the business world, in the very corporate gray flannel. The hegemony of the look was challenged by the 2-button style worn by JFK, and also by the slim and dark styles worn by the infamous Rat Pack in Ocean’s Eleven.
Keep that image of the Rat Pack fresh in your mind, and consider another fine garment: the tuxedo. Unless you are a classical musician, you won’t likely wear this garment often. That being said, there exists no substitute for owning your own once you can afford it. Find your preferred style, wear it, and consider yourself a part of the rarified and elegant tradition. Besides, what tradition that involves champagne, caviar, and beautiful women in backless gowns could be half bad?
No one has come up with a replacement for formal male fashion yet, so to combat becoming stagnant, the suit is constantly being tweaked based on fabric, details, and silhouette. Since image and weight consciousness pervades popular culture right now, the presence of a slimmed cut at the forefront of fashion is not surprising. Alas though, fine tailoring can only do so much to hide the fruition of your sloth. Even more recently, the appearance of the shrunken suit has become prevalent, allowing hipsters who’ve never set foot in an office to feel comfortable in the suit, with distinctively short pants and a short, tight jacket. The 1960 British scenesters gave us this little trend, riding Vespas and wearing the pants of their snug Italian mohair suits too short.
No one ever mistook them for bankers, either.