In an increasingly casual society, what becomes of the humble suit? David Hellqvist has the answer.
Tailoring is a broad church, sometimes quite literally. There are plenty of people who associate suits with just that, the church, as the formality of a wedding or a funeral is where they think the suit belongs. I don’t have to tell you that isn’t true – that’d be like preaching to the converted, as it were.
But there is a point to be made here: as society changes so do the clothes we wear. As we well know, they’re interrelated, and what we wear mirrors the world and the time we live in. About sixty years ago the world – in a happy-go-lucky post-war bubble – entered a new, less formal, era where suits were no longer the everyday uniform, especially if you were off work. Words like ‘casual’ and ‘leisure’ entered the vocabulary, and sportswear was – from the 1970s onwards – not just something you wore when exercising.
And that’s where we are today, leading increasingly casual lives. So, what’s happened to all the tailoring brands? Well, the conservative ones are tiny in terms of their reach, or even extinct. The ones with a liberal point of view have changed: they’ve adapted and moved on. Many of them, like Drake’s, even thrive in this climate because a) people do still need suits, ties and leather-soled shoes and b) there’s an entirely new audience out there looking for casual suits, clothes that retain some of the old-school authority and respect of a suit but are liberated through the use of contemporary fabrics and comfortable fits.
This particular one, the washed cotton needlecord suit in a light beige tone, is a fine example of aesthetic modernisation i.e. moving something forward by changing key elements in order to fit with a new context. The black or navy blue fine wool suit isn’t dead, it’s just that it isn’t needed to the same degree anymore. No one wants to dress like a bank manager or estate agent. We require individual flair and natural self-expression, and the suit’s challenge has always been that it’s defined by the opposite – a quasi-uniform that people hide behind and wear to blend in. This type of textured material, a razor sharp needlecord, the exquisitely fine handle of the cotton and the light and summery colourway offer the perfect antidote.
It isn’t actually so much about seasons. It’s not even about the controversial legacy of corduroy, something that’s been covered here before. It’s about “the modern suit”. It’s about an everyday uniform that still allows for so much freedom that people will notice you first, and then the suit, not the other way around.