These notes are based off conversations with customers and are designed to help make the process of working with a tailor a little more familiar.
Disclaimer: These ideas are based solely on my opinion, please feel free to ignore, flout and disobey at every opportunity.
By now most of us have seen the photo of disgraced Crypto-Bro, Sam Bankman-Fried sitting on stage next to former world leaders Bill Clinton and Tony Blair. Clinton and Blair are, by some people’s standards, casually dressed in navy suits, open collars and trainers. Bankman-Fried, in shorts and a dirty t-shirt, looks like a sound technician tasked with showing the old blokes how the mics work; not a billionaire in charge of 300 employees.
Less than 6 months after that picture was taken, Bankman-Fried was arrested. Wearing a suit.
Mark Zuckerberg, a man who practically invented the Silicon Valley CEO uniform of hoodie and jeans, donned a navy suit to testify to Congress in 2018.
It seems to me that regardless of the (in my opinion overly affected) on-stage style of these tech titans, when it comes time for them to make a good impression on the grown-ups, they all return to the suit.
Menswear has been through quite an evolution over the last 3 years; from pyjamas (2020) to slacks with elasticated waistbands (2021) to a variation on a suit, but more casual and comfortable: chore jackets and corduroys (2022).
Now it seems that 2023 will see the return of grown up dressing. And nothing is more grown-up than the charcoal 2-piece.
Single or double breasted, worsted or flannel, birdseye or herringbone, you can have it in any style as long as it is grey. And matte.
But after years of casual dressing, it can be a little intimidating to jump right into formality again. So here are a few handy tips to bear in mind when it comes to Charcoal suits.
- Not too tight - The years preceding the pandemic, saw suits get tighter and tighter. If a grey suit is too tight it will resemble your 6th form uniform. Don’t be afraid to opt for a less tapered trouser leg; a straight leg falls over a shoe in a much more elegant way than a 7” hem.
- Not too short - For some reason gentlemen got it into their heads that they would look taller if their trousers skim their ankle. Not true. The flash of sock draws the eye down to the end of the trouser and focusses it on the shortness of the inside leg. If you have short legs or a long torso or just want to appear taller than you are, the best thing you can do is wear trousers on your natural waist rather than your hips. This will allow for an elongated trouser leg without it bunching at the bottom.
- Generous lapels - Charcoal suits are for life so make sure you select details which will never go out of style. A timeless lapel should be roughly half of your shoulder width, so if you have a 6” shoulder, a 3” lapel will look best. If you are broader than that, opt for something wider.
- Glitz is not glamorous - There is nothing worse than a shiny suit! Grey got a bad rep for a while thanks to the proliferation of cheap, poly blend suits which would shine up as soon as an iron went near them. But interestingly, expensive is not always better. Much is made of Super 160’s, Super 180’s etc but in my opinion these very luxurious cloths end up with a similar sheen to them. When it comes to the stalwart that is a dark grey, nothing beats a flannel or a 12oz worsted. Particularly over time.
- Style like you mean it - A grey suit doesn’t have to be your father’s suit. There is more to life than a white shirt. Don’t get me wrong, a crisp, freshly ironed white button-down can turn the sloppiest slouch into a martini shaking hunk but the beauty of dark grey is that it goes with everything! If you have warm colouring try a pale pink, or if you have always been a navy guy, pick an ice blue. Or pair with a maroon polo neck. Or a forest green cardigan. Or a Ramones t-shirt. Or a mustard yellow kipper tie. With a neutral shell you have full reign to wear it with whatever feels most you.