When is a Suit’s Silhouette “Too Much”?

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by J. Cogburn, Apr 2, 2010.

  1. J. Cogburn

    J. Cogburn Senior member

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    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?
     


  2. DocHolliday

    DocHolliday Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Your point is entirely valid, but still ....

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Good taste can be overrated. Not every suit need fit every purpose.

    But yeah, temptation is a terrible thing.
     


  3. J. Cogburn

    J. Cogburn Senior member

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    Indeed. If you buy "peacock theory" as related to us by the pick-up artists, I would think that dramatic, attention-getting suits can bring in the ladies (or at least, certain kinds of ladies). But do you really want to look like a suited version of "Mystery"? (Google him if you must).

    But Cary Grant made them sigh too. OK, we're not Cary Grant. But I suspect that a fit and trim fellow in that classic sort of look can get the job done as well.

    I hope anyway.
     


  4. Don Carlos

    Don Carlos In Time Out

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    This is one of those "I'll know it when I see it" types of situations. Sometimes, a stronger or more dramatic silhouette seems to work; other times, it looks like a costume or a zoot suit. There are no hard and fast rules you can decree about where the cutoff should be drawn. It's evaluated more on a case by case basis.
     


  5. voxsartoria

    voxsartoria Goon member

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    Someone wake me up when this thread is done. Thank you.


    - B
     


  6. Fuuma

    Fuuma Franchouillard Modasse

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    I'm glad someone out there is finally able to tell me what I should want and why it is the best choice. I would hate my look not to be optimal.
     


  7. lasbar

    lasbar Senior member

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    I'm glad someone out there is finally able to tell me what I should want and why it is the best choice. I would hate my look not to be optimal.

    We're all our own personal sartorial Jesus..
     


  8. J. Cogburn

    J. Cogburn Senior member

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    Glad to oblige Fuuma!
     


  9. George

    George Senior member

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    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.
    The classic British silhouette has shape and lots of it. The A&S look, that is the drape, is not the classic English look. The thing about being understated as a statement of taste is a middle class obsession not a upper class one. The British upperclass/aristocracy simply wouldn't give a fuck and dress how they pleased. In Britain, it's your accent and the use of certain words that would announce your class not your togs. I think this concern with a shapely silhouette being feminine is an American thing. I don't think (and I don't mean to be disrespectful to the American membership on here) that Americans on the whole really understand cut and silhouette.
     


  10. voxsartoria

    voxsartoria Goon member

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    But notice that posts proudly displaying photos of Henry Poole (ish) suits are few and far between here.

    So I say "Three Cheers for Poole!" Do you?


    [​IMG]

    The classic British silhouette has shape and lots of it. The A&S look, that is the drape, is not the classic English look.

    The thing about being understated as a statement of taste is a middle class obsession not a upper class one. The British upperclass/aristocracy simply wouldn't give a fuck and dress how they pleased.

    In Britain, it's your accent and the use of certain words that would announce your class not your togs.

    I think this concern with a shapely silhouette being feminine is an American thing. I don't think (and I don't mean to be disrespectful to the American membership on here) that Americans on the whole really understand cut and silhouette.


    Exactly.

    [​IMG]

    Only but a few ensembles here approach the degree of shape that Poole has.


    - B
     


  11. George

    George Senior member

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    [​IMG] Exactly. [​IMG] Only but a few ensembles here approach the degree of shape that Poole has. - B
    Do you ever sleep? [​IMG] Vox, a question: Why do Americans, especially those on the Eastern Seaboard 'dislike' the classic English silhouette. Is it a WASP thing?
     


  12. lasbar

    lasbar Senior member

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    Do you ever sleep? [​IMG]

    Vox, a question: Why do Americans, especially those on the Eastern Seaboard 'dislike' the classic English silhouette. Is it a WASP thing?


    It is quite surprising because Huntsman and RA have a lot of American/Europeans customers...
     


  13. Nicola

    Nicola Senior member

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  14. voxsartoria

    voxsartoria Goon member

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    Do you ever sleep? [​IMG]

    Yes, during meetings when people are presenting stuff.

    Vox, a question: Why do Americans, especially those on the Eastern Seaboard 'dislike' the classic English silhouette. Is it a WASP thing?

    I can only offer speculation based on personal experience. First of all, "dislike" is too strong a word...I would rather say that there are pockets of American society that are still most comfortable with the distinctly American look. I would say without claiming to possess much evidence that this view is strongest in the traditional South where viewpoints are the most parochial and the least friendly to the international. There are pockets in the Northeast and coastal outposts of Yankee culture as well, but these dwindle.

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    There have always been Americans who have worn the various London looks, but that has been confined to very narrow circles. This issue isn't so much that the look is disliked as much as it seems suspicious to some when an American is wearing that look. I don't know what portion of Savile Row's output goes on the back of Americans, but it's not trivial, is it? So, it depends on the circle.


    - B
     


  15. George

    George Senior member

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    It is quite surprising because Huntsman and RA have a lot of American/Europeans customers...
    Firstly, I think they'd 'relax' the cut somewhat for an American customer. Secondly, Huntsman/Anderson's American clients represent a very small proportion of suit wearing American men.
     


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