Authors, journalists and bloggers alike have been speculating about the “death” and/or “future” of the suit for many years. Through a simple Google search you can will find multiple opinions on all sides of this age-old debate.
But you know what they say about opinions...
To get a better perspective on the roll of the suit in modern post-pandemic times, I tapped a few of my favorite “menswear intellectuals” who have been observing, studying and writing about men’s fashion for many years/decades (and have seen several macro trends come and go) to give their thoughts.
Let's start with the OG.
Allan Flusser is the original “menswear blogger”. He wrote the unofficial rule book on classic men’s style long before the invention of the internet. His book “Dressing the Man” is still widely considered the Bible of American men’s sartorial style.
This is what he had to say about the "future of the suit" (his response has been edited for length):
“As long as male elegance is in season, the well-tailored suit will always have a place in the stylish man’s wardrobe. However, like other symbols of masculine formality, the destiny of this long-established pillar of male decorum continues in flux. Much like the tuxedo with its promise of elevating the wearer to his most Hollywood handsome, the same can be said of the classic suit. When well cut and knowledgeably accessorized, the tailored jacket and matching trouser continue to frame a man through a prism of sartorial heritage.
In terms of being able to offer a complete yet variable envelope for the male physique, the single-breasted, two-button jacket model has no peer. With shoulders designed to frame the head and broaden the shoulder line, an athletic V-shaped chest flowing down to a defined waistline, up-sweeping and elongating lapels that promote the illusion of height, tapering long sleeves that mirror the trimming line of the jacket, and pockets placed for function and form ….the properly proportioned tailored jacket will redress the uneven and counterbalance the unshapely like no other item of clothing. This may explain why it’s able to transcend fashion, place, time, and taste to offer men and women the ability to both flaunt and camouflage themselves.
The classically cut suit will always offer a man a vision of himself that no other housing can. It’s hard to foresee a time when a man will not want to be reminded of his most debonair self. There’s a moment after putting on a fine suit appointed with the right finery when you turn to look in the mirror and flash back to a moment of discovery, like when you first saw Paris at night or had your first martini. And there’s a smidgen of self-congratulation, a feeling of praise.
So far the fashion world, after many, many decades in the making, have yet to come up with a credible alternative to the man peacocked in all his suit-silhouetted regalia. Call me a sartorial romantic, but I am prepared to bet the proverbial bankbook that they never will….and the world will be better for it.”
- Alan Flusser
Next I asked author G. Bruce Boyer for his thoughts on "the future of the suit". Mr. Boyer is an American journalist who has served as the fashion editor for Town & Country, GQ and Esquire. He's also one of my personal favorite writers on these topics. I should note that his response was edited from a longer piece he wrote called "Dress and Occassion":
“For some men, luxury items such as expensive cars, pens, cigars, wines, high tech gadgets, clothes and the like may be considered penis extenders. But isn’t it possibly as true that, the more the world is given over to intricate, dispassionate technology, the more we may long for the human, to have something not manufactured by robots in some gigantic impersonal factory, but for something made by hand?
In the area of clothing, there’s been something of a small but telling resurgence in bespoke craftsmanship. Some young men are becoming interested not only in better- made clothing and clothing that has some historic provenance, but with the process itself. They want to know how the garments are made, they want to participate in the design, they want to understand the function of the details and the fabrics. There’s an interest in going back to a time before technology and mass industrialization, back to a time when making something individual, by an individual, for an individual instilled meaning into the object beyond the material goods themselves. There was a value added to hand-made things by the very nature of craftsmanship itself. Today, for example, there are a number of blog sites devoted to a concern with the hand-made process of clothing production, and it’s an implied theme of these sites that buying a hand-tailored garment from an actual tailor is a completely different experience from buying a pair of sweatpants in a department store.
In other words, there’s something of a renewed interest in individualized and personalized clothing from a traditional perspective. I’m heartened to believe that some young men today, while they’re as willing to throw out the bathwater as any young generation has ever been, are very happy to keep the baby. In fact, they seem to have a great interest in the infant, an interest that takes into account the dignity of the work involved: the creation of design and production of a specific garment made by artisans who have a high degree of expertise and knowledge, and put a great deal of themselves into their work.
In great measure this has been the result of technology itself. The internet has spread knowledge and accessibility, the whole world is spread out before us, great steaming piles of fashion are on display on our computer screens whenever we wish. The result has been that, on the one hand, we’re satiated, drowning in mass-produced products; and, on the other, that we long for something personalized, something in which we have participated and with which we feel a rapport. It may well be that the craftsman will still have a healthy future.”
- G. Bruce Boyer
Ethan Wong, menswear blogger and up-and-coming style icon, gives us a perspective from a younger audience. What I love about Ethan is that he is not, nor has ever been, a “business dresser”. Like me he loves tailoring for its beauty, history and function - not for its association with business executives.
“ I don’t think the suit is dead. In fact, it’s got a bright future ahead! It’s just getting a new philosophy; it’s not about businesswear, being professional, or being formal. Tailoring is just a style of dress and should be interpreted as such. We’re entering a new age of sartorial fun, where guys are finally putting on checks, foulard ties, loafers and are even reinterpreting it for the sake of art. In short, we’re wearing suits not because we have to, but because we want to. And we’re going to fucking do it the way we wish.
On that note, “Casual suits” are becoming increasingly more common, where the jacket is much more like a chore coat or a safari and the pant has more similarities to a military chino or a gurkha than a pleated, side-tabbed trouser. However, the two pieces are made of the same cloth, which is really all that a “suit” needs to be. It will still look cool with an OCBD and tie or with your favorite crewneck tee or turtleneck and at first glance to a layman, it’ll still look like a normal suit just a bit “different” (in a good way). Trust me, chore-blazers have become the new navy hopsack for many guys who still enjoy menswear but don’t feel the need to be corporate to achieve the look.”
Lastly, I will leave you with my favorite quote.
“The more that suits disappear as a mandatory business uniform, the more they will gain power as a status symbol of taste and refinement."
- W. David Marx
I couldn’t agree more with this.
This is something I already feel when I wear a nice suit in public (especially if its not a basic blue or gray). Now more than ever, when everyone is wearing sweat pants (or athleisure, or streetwear) a tailored suit hand-cut from a beautiful fabric is like a superhero cape. Not only do I feel like the strongest version of myself, but people look at me that way as well.
What do you think is the "future of the suit"? Comment below.
Thanks for reading - and special thanks to Alan, Bruce, Ethan and David for sharing their thoughts.
Yours in style,