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Soft vs Structured Tailoring

Quesjac

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The SF Journal editors have very kindly published my reply to Mitch's great piece on soft tailoring, in which I give a few reasons to reconsider the virtues of structured jackets.

They suggested I set up this thread for any discussion arising from it. In particular, I'm interested in when people favour more unstructured and more structured pieces. For instance, I have a range of odd jackets, but I find that with the exception of thick tweeds, I choose the unstructured ones most days. On the other hand, I don't think I'd ever want a soft jacket for black tie, and think at least on me that formal suits look better with a bit of shoulder padding.

How do you choose what's best, and has your approach changed over time?
 

Newcomer

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@Quesjac

Great idea for a thread! Recently, I have found myself contemplating the soft v. structured dichotomy.

I guess I should start with saying that the difference between soft and structured is often one of degrees, and I believe that the shoulders - both line and expression - have a large bearing on whether something comes off as soft or structured. By way of example, the chest is often built up in Neapolitan tailoring, yet people would overwhelming say that

Personally, I was initially smitten with soft tailoring. The spalla camicia shoulder expression, the buggy-lined jackets. And I think that my fetishization of soft tailoring was driven, in part, by the relative scarcity of such tailoring. In 2009, I had never ever seen a soft tailored jacket, a la what Foo got from Rubinacci.

Since then, I have recoiled, and really started to favor tailoring with some more structure. Not in terms of padding, but something with a little more shoulder expression. I wear suits to work everyday, and I just feel like structured suits are a bit more professional. I also feel that they are often more flattering.


 

aj805

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For myself, I've decided all jackets will be wholly unstructured. Mine don't have canvas/shell or padding.

I think many of your points--particularly balance, flair--can come without this. In my case, I already have disproportionately large shoulders and chest, and any more stuff inside and it starts making me look top heavy. Regardless, I would prefer the more casual style of soft vs structured look. Also in my case, I live in a subtropical region and the goal is to keep the clothes as breathable as possible.

As for flair--in 2018, wearing tailored clothes and jackets of any kind already lends more flair than many people would need, and in my case I don't consider standing out in this way to be a good thing. I just think it looks so out of place in today's otherwise wholly casual world, even in an environment where many are wearing it, such as a formal occasion.
 

MarkWinter

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Not to kill the thread, but only three comments show, that it really comes down to personal preference, build and lifestyle. While what Newcomer said about Neapolitans building up the chest too much, sometimes true, personally it's hard to go back to structured after you had really flattering soft or unconstructed jackets. Also I like thicker tweeds in soft construction, it lets the fabric "behave" in a more casual manner, which suit it's rough quality and colors.
 

Caustic Man

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The thing that's missing here, and that is the most important part of the discussion IMO, is that structured, or unstructured, jackets are more than just a matter of personal preference. Rather, some body shapes and types benefit more from structure, while others benefit less. This is something that was missing from both articles and would have added much to the discussion. You touch on it by talking about the dropped shoulder phenomenon, but you could have gone further. Indeed, Flusser and @Manton write about it at length.

Without talking about body types (and the Brumellian ideal I would say) you make it seem as if all men are 5 foot 11 inches, 175 pounds, and broad shouldered. And thus every man need only worry about the kind of silhouette he is trying to achieve rather than dealing with a real body that exists in the round. Clearly it's more complicated than that. This piece could have gone deeper.
 

Andy57

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All my London-made suits and jackets are more or less in the London drape style of tailoring, which could be described as soft, but definitely not Italian. They have structure, certainly, in the chest, with some padding in the shoulders. Indeed, the amount of structure depends somewhat on the cloth: lightweight, summer cloths have less structure. Indeed, my most recent jacket from Steed, which is made from @dieworkwear's navy blue houndstooth fresco from a couple years ago, is about as close as I would find acceptable to unstructured tailoring. I simply don't see the point in a completely unstructured jacket. One might as well wear a cardigan.

I think that tweed, in particular, benefits from more structure to match the robustness of the cloth.

I have just commissioned a jacket in cashmere from Edward Sexton. I expect this to be quite a change from the drape/soft style of tailors trained in the Anderson & Sheppard tradition and I'm looking forward to it as a distinct change of pace. I think there's room for both in my closet.
 

thejoker

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I work from home and not in a profession where suits are generally not worn. For me, soft tailoring enables me to wear a suit or odd jacket in a casual way. Mind you, reflecting on what inhave must said, it is about me feeling comfortable about what i am wearing. Imlove structured suits, but would feel out of place wearing them.
 

OscarO

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would you mind saying what make each of the jackets are please?
Certainly, the first two are from AW Bauer, the brown tweed is from Norton & Sons and the last one is from Adam Fisher
 

pasadena man

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Great thread. Speaks to my concerns after four months on SF and eight months back into tailored clothing. I am coming to this issue from another direction, sort of from “both sides now”. For 25 years in Chicago and San Francisco I wore reasonably nice MTM suits and shirts to work. I moved to So Cal in the noughts and migrated to a rugged version of California Casual: Patagonia cotton shirts with jeans or chinos and outdoorsy footwear, such as mountain trail summit approach shoes. Sort of a: “Yeah, I’m in an office now, but I may head out to Joshua Tree for some bouldering this afternoon “ vibe. Eventually I realized that Mark Zuckerberg was not my role model and that the above look, as an only look, was a horrible mistake for me.

So I started venturing into upgrading my clothes; Incotex slacks, BB and Kamakura OCBD’s, C & J suede brogues, odd jackets by Canali, Oxxford, and RTW Gieves and Hawkes, etc.

In general it’s gone well, with the usual mistakes in discovering the right boundaries for oneself, etc.

I’ve tried on a good number of unstructured jackets and they just don’t work for me. I admire the comfort, hand, materials, and ease of wear. They look great on a hanger and horrible on me. I have lost about 30 pounds and find myself at my college weight, 6’, 175 lbs. a 41 R with a drop six. On paper I guess I’m lucky and should be thankful for that.

My problems wearing unstructured clothing though are threefold.

First, although I am in good shape and reasonably toned, I’m in my 60’s, and some structure is necessary to “hold things together”.

Second, I have different width shoulders due to a compressed broken shoulder from a motorcycle accident. A structured, padded, shoulder is necessary to balance width and give a flowing shoulder silhouette.

Third, I have an enormous head (7 and 7/8’s), so that every unstuructured jacket that I try on makes me look like a friggin’ Hobbit. That’s OK, though. I don’t feel at all connected to the Southern Italian, Neapolitan sensibility. Milan, London, and Chicago (Oxxford) are much more on my aesthetic wavelength.

So at this point I’m anticipating sticking with brands like Canali, and Oxxford (the latter probably more eBay sourced, given the price point).

Any perspectives on my trajectory from more experienced hands appreciated.

PS: My recently acquired, plain brown flannel, Oxxford SC got more compliments the first time I wore it than any other garment I’ve had The lapels and shoulder line are the best I’ve owned, and the compliments came before I had the sides taken in to fit. I was surprised how people not interested in or knowledgeable on fashion could still somehow sense the presence of top-notch workmanship, and silhouette.
 

Quesjac

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PS: My recently acquired, plain brown flannel, Oxxford SC got more compliments the first time I wore it than any other garment I’ve had The lapels and shoulder line are the best I’ve owned, and the compliments came before I had the sides taken in to fit. I was surprised how people not interested in or knowledgeable on fashion could still somehow sense the presence of top-notch workmanship, and silhouette.
I think we're on the same page about finding balance between structured and not, formal and casual. I get repetitive on this point, but to me Canali Kei jackets are a great balance between unstructured and shapeless --- they've still got shoulder pads and canvas but it's all very subtle.

Your Oxxford jacket sounds great, do you have any photos? I think because I'm in the UK I've only ever seen absolutely ancient, heavy tweed Oxxford jackets, so I'd be interested to see something a bit more up to date.
 

lordsuperb

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Are their any photos to dileneate what represents structured vs soft tailoring? I have seen some suits that are considered softly tailored that still have a structured look to it.
 

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