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How to wear a suit, according to a menswear pro

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 9/10/2019 Simon Chilvers
© Getty

Payton Hobart, the lead character in buzzy Netflix drama The Politician, has a thing for turtlenecks.

They sit pert and high underneath bespoke-looking two-piece suits. And yes, in a series that boasts Gwyneth Paltrow gloriously flirting with Martina Navratilova and Jessica Lange camping it up as a villainous nana in outrageously ghastly ensembles, you’d be forgiven if this sartorial detail had somehow slipped your eye.

a group of people walking down a street © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited Over the past two years the pendulum in menswear has been quietly swinging back toward the suit as a thing with fashion cachet, a pointed shift away from an almost neverending sea of fancy tracksuits and expensive bomber jackets that has dominated the past decade. The timing of this comeback is partly cyclical, yes, but can also be read as a kind of quiet rebellion against the many male figures of power whose questionable behaviour seems increasingly unworthy of the suit’s innate elegance and poise. A new generation of suits for a generation of men who want to do things better? Why not.

On the Zara website, in the suits section, the first thing you’ll see is an edit of “The Essential Suit”. Note: it is styled with a simple crew neck T-shirt. The same is true of Cos, which has an elegant series of suiting, including a great black blazer with a wide lapel designed to go with pleat trousers, or a jacket with the lapel completely sliced off. Both are worn with a neat zip-up mock-neck top. Very Payton.

Thibaud Charon wearing a suit and tie: Cos © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited Cos

At the absolute other end of the suiting spectrum is The Row, designed by Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen and launched in 2006. Last year they began to introduce menswear into their hyper-minimalist aesthetic — and they started with the suit. The pair, who have just opened a boutique in Mayfair and sell a suit blazer for just shy of £3,000, are also showing their range online dressed quietly with a camel hair sweater or something similar in cashmere. Having tried on one of their jackets, I conclude: they’re bank-breakingly dreamy.

a person wearing a suit and tie: Haider Ackermann (SplashNews.com) © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited Haider Ackermann (SplashNews.com)

Aside from how to style a suit for now, the other question is what constitutes a modern suit? Haider Ackermann, who has been dressing Tilda Swinton for years and more recently has been integral to The Timothée Chalamet Red Carpet Routine, is making a case for a certain softness and ease in tailoring. At his recent spring/summer 2020 show in Paris for men and women, Ackermann offered languid tailoring in a variety of forms, often in the same dove-grey of Chalamet’s tuxedo, which he wore last month with a co-ordinating silk top underneath. Do not underestimate this designer’s influence in the new suit world order.

There is also something going on with a striking shoulder detail. John Galliano, at Maison Margiela, showed an excellent black suit for autumn/winter that boasts the sleeves from a coat inserted into the body of the blazer, effecting a strong outline around the shoulder and upper body. Bold. Protective. Chic.

a statue of a person wearing a suit and tie: Balenciaga (Imaxtree) © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited Balenciaga (Imaxtree)

Meanwhile, Demna Gvasalia at Balenciaga, who has been toying with blowing up and shrinking suits since his first menswear collection for the house during spring/summer 2017, is also this season backing a suspended shoulder shape that has a certain angular edge. Often these are worn with a striking knit. Of course, it is not enough to simply pay attention to what is happening up top in the new suit stakes. Why? Because down below there are flares.

Clare Waight Keller has reimagined Givenchy men’s suiting with the combination of neat button blazer worn with sweeping flared trousers. It’s a statement bottom-half situation that is also big at Gucci. And if this feels like a challenge too far, then the general overarching suit trouser trend is more about excessive volume than it is about a polite narrowness.

a person in a yellow dress posing for the camera: Loewe SS20 (SplashNews.com) © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited Loewe SS20 (SplashNews.com)

Jonathan Anderson’s first runway collection for men at Loewe, shown in January, also provided its share of clever remixing by employing tuxedo-style lapels on one-side of a blazer. This trick was worked into a daytime dogtooth suit, or a powdery blue version (shown with an oversized shirt) that featured billowy trousers. The latter could easily double as an elegant night-time proposition; a new day-to-soirée two-piece?

Since the start of the year, at Matches Fashion HQ, the men’s team has been working on a project to celebrate (buzzword alert) the diversity in suiting that is being offered by international designers. It will culminate in an exhibition of 20 labels, including Prada and Rick Owens, at 5 Carlos Place later this month, lensed by photographer Paul Gore.

© Getty Its aim is to understand what a suit might look like; from the trademark pleating of Issey Miyake’s Homme Plissé to the more unconventional marriage of a long-line jacket-slash-coat with matching trousers by Craig Green.

The days of the traditional commuter suit are not numbered — the suit is nothing if not a uniform for many. Rather, as with hot-desking and flexible working hours, it is just one part of the modern-day suiting conversation. As the plunge into a new decade draws ever nearer, laced with much uncertainty, one thing in fashion is a given: this current experimentation in suiting will continue. May the suit games commence!

Gallery: 12 photos that show how the fashion at Burning Man has changed over the years (INSIDER)

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