By: Simon Oates
Want to look less like Les Patterson in a suit and more like Ryan Gosling, Daniel Craig, Hugh Jackman or Jamie Foxx? Be a trailblazer on the blazer trail with these tips from EX’s resident style guru, Simon Oates.
In the local parlance of my native Yorkshire, I’m something of a self-confessed “Scruffy Get”. Despite having forged a near 20-year career in clothing and fashion, whenever I attempt to wear a suit, no matter how hard I try, it looks like I stole it (to paraphrase Billy Connolly).
However, 2015 is my 40th year, and it has been motivating me to take stock of my lifestyle and also take on a more mature approach to my wardrobe. I.e., it’s time to extend my daily outfit choices beyond my extensive denim, sweatshirt and sneaker collection, to include items of a more sartorial nature that reflect my advancing years (and to further compensate for my fading looks in the vain attempt to remain looking sharp).
With that being said, this style guide is dedicated to helping you (and me) make the right choices when selecting a suit – giving you advice on everything from fabric, fit and colour to the accessories required to nail tailoring to perfection, whatever the occasion.
It’s generally accepted within tailoring circles that “fit” is the most important factor to consider when selecting a suit. It doesn’t matter if you’re spending S$5,000 or S$50 on your threads: too tight and you can look like you’re wearing your old school uniform; too baggy and you’ll look like you’ve stolen your Dad’s. So if you’re going to drop some major currency on a suit, you’d better make sure it fits.
Pay particular attention to the chest and shoulders – a correctly tailored jacket should feel firm and like it’s holding you in. Most guys tend to buy a suit a size too big for them, so don’t be afraid if it feels slightly snug – although any straining buttons and you should go a size up or skip dessert.
Length is also crucial. Try to avoid overly long jackets as not only will this make your legs look shorter, but you’ll also look old fashioned as, thanks to designers like Thom Browne, the trend over the past few years has been to wear much shorter jackets. Beware, though: a jacket cut too short means you will end up looking like a matador. The modern gentleman’s jacket should finish somewhere near the bottom of his trouser pockets. The current trend is to go for two or – at a push – three buttons; the days of five-button suits or, even worse, the mandarin collar, are thankfully behind us!
For a timeless look that lasts, your trousers should be slim-fit but not skinny and tailored to lightly skim the shoe, keeping things simple and streamlined. Cuffed ankles are down to personal choice and both are acceptable; but, a cuffed trouser tends to look better with loafers, while a simple hem is better for lace-up shoes. Both can be finished with a discreet but brightly coloured Pantherella sock for weddings or a cocktail party – it’s even acceptable to ditch the socks for more relaxed summer events!
So far, so Mad Men – that’s the basics covered. Once you’ve got the fit right, it’s time to get serious about colour.
The fact is that 99 percent of men go for a suit in navy, black or charcoal – and these are all great for a timeless look, but the chances are that whatever event you’re attending most of the blokes there will look exactly the same as you. If you want to stand out from the crown without looking like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever, consider lighter blue tones or lighter greys; even stone or khaki are popular choices for the well-groomed these days.
It’s generally acceptable in the Sartorial Rule Book to mix and match jacket and trousers for all but the most formal of events, so if a sky-blue suit freaks you out, then pair the jacket with navy trousers to tone down the look while still remaining dapper. And if you do happen to choose a patterned suit, the keyword is “subtle”. Another golden rule is to let your accessories do the work for you. Don’t be afraid to inject a dash of personality with a brightly coloured pocket square, tie or even socks to give your suit a lift. Don’t overdo it though – think James Bond rather than Mr Bean.
Even in summer (which is more or less every day in Singapore), the majority of classically formal suits are made from a wool blend, and you might be surprised to learn that finely woven wool is one of the best temperature regulators there is. The wool also tends to give the suit better structure that you don’t get with other fibres. Just don’t go too heavy or fully lined for warmer climates, and try to choose a blend of cotton and silk or even linen.
If you’re happy with a more casual look, then by all means consider 100 percent cotton or linen. Even preppy seersucker can be fabulously cooling and comfortable, but again choose a slim cut. With something too baggy, you run the risk of looking like a hippy cult leader, and nobody wants that.
Finally, it may sound counter-intuitive, but to get the most out of your suit, don’t be afraid to experiment with dressing down. At more relaxed weddings, dinner parties and offices, it’s certainly acceptable to wear a suit with a finely woven t-shirt – think something refined like Sunspel and a pair of simple luxe sneakers.
Singapore has some of the best tailors in Asia with access to some of the finest European fabrics, coupled with expert local knowledge of the climate, so they can make sure your suit is made with temperature and humidity (and of course the ubiquitous air-con) in mind. For prime examples, be sure to take a look at CYC The Custom Shop.