I’ve noticed that when people post their bespoken work here, the more striking the silhouette, the more props they get. Of course, the level of dissent moves up a bit with the drama of the suit’s cut, but I sense that there are more complaints about a suit’s cut being boring, uninteresting, or uninspired than there are complaints about a suit’s silhouette being too dramatic. I certainly understand why the dramatic look gets the love. If you’re going to spend $4k+ on a suit, you don’t want it to simply be a well-fitting version of the Brooks Brothers model currently hanging in your closet that cost all of $599 on sale. You want your new threads to be a show-stopper. You want to look great in that bespoken suit. And if your physique is of a certain kind, who wouldn’t look great in some swanky Tom Ford suit or, for that matter, a buff-looking upper-body courtesy of some of the drape suits I’ve seen here provided by Rubinacci or Steed or, while I’m at it, some of the more dramatic suits I’ve seen posted here from W.W. Chan. Now, before I go on, I will acknowledge what probably ought to be understood without being spelled out – you can buy what you want; if you like it, go for it; taste is subjective, blah blah blah. Yes, of course. But if that kind of sartorial relativism were to animate all our discussions here, there would be very little to talk about, would there? So, with the above in mind … allow me to make the case against the dramatic silhouette, whether we’re talking about Tom Ford swank or the extreme drape or strong shoulders with a big dose of waist suppression. Most of us here would agree that you don’t want any one thing that you’re wearing to stand out much more than anything else you’re wearing. The reasons, of course, are many and varied. You don’t want your clothes to get more attention than the guy wearing them. You don’t want to look like your major style accomplishment in life was doing something to earn the $200 necessary to buy the tie that “pops” …. something that anybody with a modest amount of money can do. You know that the sum total of a look is more important than a piece-by-piece aggregation of its component parts and that a striking x paired with a neutral a, b, and c to show it off doth not a good total look make. You know that clothes delivering a lot of shape are vaguely feminine. And you know that, for various cultural reasons, understatement is associated with class and good taste and “look at me!” clothes are associated with the parvenu and vulgarian. Hence, it seems to me that a striking suit that threatens to turn the head is akin to a striking tie that threatens the same. It may be beautiful, it may be physically flattering, and it may make you look like a million bucks, but it violates tenants for tasteful dress that we would never countenance were we to consider buying a really beautiful, colorful, and eye-popping (say, Robert Talbott) tie. The trick – it seems to me – is to acquire a suit that accentuates your physical positives and disguises to some extent your physical negatives while simultaneously appearing both natural and understated. If the suit is imposing a shape on you that appears to be at odds with your natural shape then you’ve overstepped the bounds of good taste. The classic British silhouette would seem to fit the bill. But notice that posts proudly displaying photos of Henry Poole (ish) suits are few and far between here. Can Continental silhouettes likewise foot the bill? For some – the thin and strong-shouldered that is – maybe. Can Modified American silhouettes? Almost certainly. Too little silhouette and you’ve got a sack suit that does nothing for most people. Too much and you’re a cartoon or a fellow wearing a costume. The line between what is understated and what is not is clearly a fuzzy one, but like pornography, I suspect that we know it when we see it. So I say “Three Cheers for Poole!” Do you?
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4/2/10 at 10:23pm