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Men’s Suits: Revived Tailoring at Its Best

Oh yeah – the suit. A couple of years ago, you’d be forgiven if this sentiment crossed your mind.

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While we all need one on occasion throughout the year, whether to don for that palm-sweating job interview, a friend from college’s wedding, or for any event deemed “black tie,” the suit more and more is a garment that sits at the back of the closet until you absolutely have to wear it.

In many instances below this echelon, a crisply ironed pair of chinos and a structured blazer often do the trick.

Within the fashion world, too, the suit’s ship came and went. Its more classic form would surface at uninspiring presentations from Armani or Ermenegildo Zegna…and the style seemed fine. Not great, not inspirational, but “fine.”

You didn’t hate it, but it also didn’t impel you enough to add a photo to your Pinterest board. It’s a classic – but to the point, it’s nothing more than a basic.

check suit fashion show

To some degree, the tides started shifting in 2017, with colored suits, cropped pants, and lots of patterns – not to mention the return of the smoking jacket – leading the way.

And, much of it looked and felt inspirational, whether it was Gucci’s or Dolce & Gabbana’s presentations or the sight of Harry Styles nonchalantly performing in a floral suit. Still, though, streetwear-based silhouettes dominated the majority of fashion week shows.

Styles’ effortlessness might have been the blueprint for the tailoring revival that officially occurred for men's suits in 2019. What’s different this year, as opposed to just two years ago? Attitude is one aspect.

The other? How suits are being cut and worn. They’re not just for dressy affairs anymore, and instead, wider, draped silhouettes – perhaps without a shirt worn underneath – hint that the leisure suit’s second coming is pretty much here.

Only, don’t call it that – or even think it. The fabrics are still high-end – no cheap polyester here – but it’s all about the cut, which overall suggests a merging between more modern streetwear fits and timeless tailoring principles. What’s new this time around?

Red suit fashion show

The Shape of the Suit

If one suit defined the 2000s and most of the 2010s, the silhouette pushed by Dior Homme and Thom Browne was ubiquitous: All-over slim, if not cropped in certain areas.

And, it’s also impeccably tailored: No bagging, no loose areas, and no straining. Pants fall exactly to the tops of lace-up dress shoes, cuffs hit right where the wrist meets the hand, and boxy shoulders fall in line with your natural slope.

Brown suit fashion show

For men's suits in 2019 – and perhaps the next decade – their shape is a reaction to the past 20 years' precision, clean lines, and fitted forms. Led this time around by Virgil Abloh and also Dior (Homme now dropped for “Men”), it’s all approximation.

Specifically, the pants are a little too long and too wide, so they fall with a relaxed drape around your shoes. Jackets seem a little “too” boxy as if you bought one a few inches too large for your frame – and frequently, they sport a double breast that wraps across your torso.

The size, however, should never seem like you’re wearing ill-fitting clothing – or something designed for a larger person. Instead, the suit seems grabbed off the rack – you don’t have time to fret over every single detail – and you’re making it work.

And, on a similar note, it’s “good enough” for a wider range of occasions: Casual and leisure, definitely, to more dressed-up affairs.

cream suit fashion show

What To Wear with Men's Suits

Adaptability isn’t contingent on the suit itself but on what you pair it with. You can take generally the same silhouette, and with sneakers and a T-shirt, it turns into a relaxation piece that’s relatively sharp.

Need inspiration? Look to the ‘80s – a theme running through many of this year's trends. The casual suit, often made with linen or lightweight cotton and offering just a tad more room, was a staple of the Miami Vice cast and practically defined the so-so-in-hindsight American Gigolo.

white suit fashion show

Beyond these two pop culture cornerstones, you’ll also spot one in the era’s teen flicks -- Some Kind of Wonderful and Pretty in Pink, for starters, plus much of what River Phoenix wears through the ‘60s-via-the-‘80s A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon.

It’s equivalent to dressing up without having to look like a full-ledged adult, which, pop culture wise at the time, might’ve been inspired by Wall Street.

Pinstripes or not, the Wall Street look is definitely out, whether you’re repulsed by the “Greed is good” mindset or just find this shapeless silhouette – which continued through most of the ‘90s – horribly unflattering.

There’s a difference between a bit of room to move and a tent-like fit. Regardless, today’s anti-tailoring suit can be elevated with a button-front shirt and a set of lace-up dress shoes.

Understand, though, it has limitations: You definitely wouldn’t wear something like this to a black-tie event, and for job interviews, you might want to err on the tailored side if you’re eyeing that finance or legal position.

white suit fashion show

Suit Colors and Patterns

In this area, though, the limitations are few. Yes, you can find this updated fit in the classics – navy, black, and various shades of grey – but why restrict yourself?

Overlapping with both summer suit and party suit concepts, this more casual version is known to veer down a pastel or light-colored path – or entirely white, as in the case of Abloh’s Louis Vuitton debut.

Dior, meanwhile, made a strong case for head-to-toe dusty pink: It’s not as in-your-face as the bubble gum-hued Millennial variety we just got out of our systems, and it precisely toes the masculine-feminine dichotomy that’s been prevalent through many menswear and unisex collections.

patterned suit fashion show

Come fall (and, in spite of the temperatures, it’ll be here sooner than you think), that pink can transition to red or orange, royal blue gives navy a run for its money, and deep green and purple hues go in line with the season.

Consider a layer underneath – or even a sweater, for that matter – if you’re not planning on wearing an overcoat on top.

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guide to men's suits

Ivan Yaskey is a Philly-born menswear fashion blogger and copywriter. When not writing about men's style he's also an EDM and synthpop enthusiast.