Hanging in the Balance
After a suits colour, which I take very seriously indeed, I consider balance and proportion to be the most important elements of a fine suit. In fact, I have often argued that, if the fit of a suit is good then one could have their suit fashioned from their favourite (insert favourite childhood hero or movie here..) duvet cover!
But why? Because of balance.
The current trend for cropped jackets, or bum freezers as they are known in the industry has, in fairness, gone on much longer than I had anticipated. But I still say that it makes the very tall look ridiculous as it accentuates the length of the leg still further. Conversely, it does not make the vertically challenged among us appear taller; it just reveals a vertically challenged man endeavouring to make his legs look longer!
Given the majority of the suits which Brown in Town makes are wedding suits – which are in turn immortalised in wedding photos – that the suits look as good on the Big Day and forever more, is as important as the groom not letting the bride down in the wedding photos by choosing the wrong colour suit!
While the wedding dress may (or may not) be hermetically sealed after the big day and consigned to the attic, the wedding suit will be worn again and again. And, though the average cost of a wedding suit is a fraction of the cost of the wedding dress, this may not always be the case. Regardless, the groom, unlike the bride, must be seen to be investing in a timeless classic so as to ensure maximum value is redeemed from such a financial outlay. But whether for wedding or for work, Brown in Town likes to ensure that the suit can be used beyond the maiden voyage, which requires it to look as good on the wearer on the Big Day as it does every time it is worn on the trading floor or at friends weddings.
We achieve this firstly by ensuring that the colour of the cloth is flattering of the wearer i.e. not a colour which washes them out, and secondly by ensuring the overall silhouette of the suit is a flattering one. Not only is the suit cut using the wearers measurements, but also incorporating the figurations of their frame i.e. sloping shoulder v’s square shoulders into the pattern to ensure a good fit. This, together with consideration of balance between the top and the bottom e.g. the jacket and the trousers.
This used to be governed by the length of one’s jacket being cut to the top of the thigh, so as not to reveal one’s bottom! Other sartorial litmus tests abound, such as the hem of the jacket falling into the palm of one’s hand when arms are at rest by one’s side, but your tailor will most likely wax lyrical about these sartorial etiquettes whilst measuring you. And this is not to say that cut is not important, but let’s assume that this would be one of the reasons for utilising the services of a tailor to fashion our suits, shirts, jackets and trousers.
When I am measuring someone for a suit, I will consider what length of jacket is going to be most flattering; just as I do the length and cut of their trousers. For example, if the wearer desires a slimmer cut in his trousers, the cutter makes a beeline from the seat of the trousers (typically the widest part of the pattern) to the knee, as opposed the ankle. This eradicated some of the drape behind the thigh: but be warned, if you are blessed with rugby or cyclists thighs, ergo weightlifters quads, you will find your trousers sticking to your legs when you stand!
This does not mean that I am against the slimline cut of the modern suit, far from it. My own sartorial inspirations come from the suits which were worn by my heroes both on the silver screen and also TV during the 1960’s; think Michael Caine in the Italian Job or cult tv show U.N.C.L.E. And I would suggest that the style of this era had a profound effect on Savile Row, not only in the cut of the suits, but also in the cutters who were inspired to pursue a career in tailoring – my own sartorial hero, Dougie Hayward, was a South London lad like me who was unable to secure a position on Savile Row owing to his Sarf’ London lilt, and so opened up on Mount St. The rest is history.
Not that Savile Row would admit to being inspired by Italian tailoring, but just look at the changes which came about during the era of the Mod; brightly coloured iridescent two-tone, mohair suits, sharply cut with drainpipe trousers and worn by young men with pixie boots! Love it or loathe it, this style most certainly had a an affect on the traditional Savile Row suit and is probably the greatest influence on modern tailoring, and which still abounds today.
And whilst I may be inspired by our sartorial past I am certainly not hindered by it. Ergo, nor do I believe that tailoring is the place for imitating current trends if those trends do not afford the wearer a garment which is flattering – these experiments are best conducted in a fitting room on the the High St.
By all means be inspired by what the movers and the shakers are wearing, but consider how you will look in the same get-up. No more would you have me cut your trousers too short if they made you look ridiculous (nor too long for that matter), than you would have me cut your jacket too short if afforded you the same.
I think Dunhill said it best in one of their campaigns; “Trousers are made in three lengths: too short, too long, and just right”.