Tag Archives: double pleated trousers

Let’s talk about suits, baby

3 Feb

Like my suit? Bogart Menswear, Toronto.

Do you know the difference between off-the-rack, made-to-measure, and bespoke suits? Want to learn about basic suit features so you’ll be a more efficient suit buyer? This week, let’s talk about suits, baby.

I’m inspired by the lovely bright navy striped suit I had made recently at one of my men’s stores. Not quite warm enough to run around in during a Canadian winter, but I’ll appreciate the lightweight wool in the summer.

During the process of deciding on how I wanted my suit to look, there were many things to consider. My first decision was how the suit would be created: by hand to my exact measurements, my measurements worked into an existing pattern, or something already made.

BESPOKE According to Savile Row tailors in London, “bespoke” is a 17th century term for cloth that was “spoken for” at tailor shops. Bespoke clothing is born of many individual measurements and a pattern created to fit only you. It is the most prestigious type of suit one can get, the most comfortable, the best wearing, and the best investment. True bespoke suits are hand-made in every way from seams to buttonholes; bespoke work is art and the epitome of clothing decadence (with a price point to match).

MADE-TO-MEASURE A made-to-measure suit takes your measurements and applies them to an existing suit pattern. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a made-to-measure suit, as you will have your choice of fabric, style, lapel, pocket, lining, etc., but it is not a bespoke garment and the proportions of the pattern may or may not work for you. Your tailor should be able to help here, as mine did.

OFF-THE-RACK When we buy off the rack, we get instant gratification – it’s already put together! We can wear it out of the store if we want to but try to take a pause between ringing up the sale and walking out with it;  most of you will not be able to wear an off-the-rack suit off-the-rack because these garments are built from patterns made of “average” measurements and so few of us are truly average. Also, humans are not symmetrical and the factory-made patterns are. The best thing to do with an off-the-rack suit is to take it to a tailor to have it hemmed and tweaked to our bodies. It isn’t going to fit as fantastically as having something made, but it will really make a difference.

When having a suit made, we become part of the design process and make design decisions that dictate what the suit will look like. This is the most fun part for me because I get to use my imagination.

FABRIC One of the most beautiful freedoms in dressing is choosing material for the garment we’re having made. For a suit, we have thousands of choices of wools in varying degrees of softness and weights, a billion colours, thin or wide pinstripes, chalk stripes, or tone-on-tone patterns woven into the fabric. My tailors tell me that the best fabrics come from Italy and Britain (i.e. Savile Row), and these bolts of wooly wonder are absolutely glorious to the touch and delightful to the eye. My suit fabric is very light, soft, and bright!

STYLE Single or double breasted, one, two, three, and four button jackets go in and out of style. Double breasted suits looked great in the 40s and the 80s, but are not so chic these days, though I expect them to have a future hey-day. Four-button jackets in the 2000s seemed a little severe to me, especially on the shorter man, but what the hell, I hope guys felt good in this short-lived style.  Personally, I went with a never-fail two-button single breasted jacket.

Youthful and thin?A skinny suit may be for you.

FIT Let’s be logical and proportionate here: if you’re stylish and slim, wear a skinny suit, if you’re average or heavy, don’t wear a skinny suit. It’s all about proportion: the small box of Grapenuts cereal we buy in grocery stores is relative to the size of the intended serving, and similarly, a man’s build should be relative to the cut of his suit. Dig?

Right now, the Mad Men-inspired skinny suits are very much in fashion and can come off looking youthful, very sharp and fashion forward, but these suits are a very trim cut with a high arm hole, making them suitable for you Slim Jims out there. A too-trim sausage casing may be uncomfortable on a larger man AND there isn’t a lot of room for your junk, if you know what I’m saying… again, Grapenuts.

Peaked lapel

Notched lapel

LAPELS Another nice thing about having a suit made is that you and your tailor can choose the shapes in your suit. In my case, I chose the more dramatic peak lapel, because I know I’m the type to pull it off, but this type of lapel doesn’t suit everyone.

A safe and common-place notched lapel is an alternative to the edgier peaked lapel. Notched lapels widen and thin over time, but the notched style has remained true since the creation of the suit in the 1850s.

I felt that my personality and my suit fabric complimented the sharp, peaked lapel style, so I’m rocking it.

VENTS Another decision that you and your tailor will make is what type of vent you want on the back of your jacket. I think a single vent from the center back seam is the safest way to go for most men’s builds, and this is what I went with.

Double, single, and no vent.

Double, single, and no vent

Double vents can be quite stylish on a slim man and gives more room to access what’s in his trouser pockets, but if you’ve got a prominent caboose, opt not for a double vent because your seat will make the vents gape. Also beware of jackets with no vent at all – this was the 1980s suit look: boxy, short, and closed. Depending on the style of your suit, this style may look dated, so be aware of that.

POCKETS There are different types of pockets to choose from on your suit jacket: flapped, unflapped, ticket pocket, and patch pockets, built in slanted or straight.

Flapped, unflapped, and patch pockets

Personally, the patch pockets are reminiscent of the 70s to me, so I generally avoid them; an unflapped pocket is nice and streamlined, and the most common suit jacket pocket, the flapped version, can easily turn into a unflapped pocket simply by stuffing the flap inside of the pocket.

LINING Another perk to having a suit built is that you have the freedom to choose your lining to accent your suit. This is where we make a splash on the underside of our fabulous suit. I went with a bold red lining and asked for extra inside pockets – phone, lipstick, business card folder, $, etc.  For more on lining, have a look at my lining post from September.

TROUSERS With suit trousers, there are several decisions to make: the cut, fullness, style, pocket type, cuffs, and pleats. I follow general rules of thumb:

1. Flat front trousers suit most men, have an updated look, and streamline the body; single pleats will add a little room in the leg, and double pleats I just avoid in general because they can give a guy visual weight.

2. As a design feature, I really like cuffs, but if you’re a shorty and you want your leg to look longer, don’t cuff your pants.

3. Slash pockets on the side seam and pockets of shallow angles may gape and give a “hippy” look if a guy is heavy and / or has wide hips to begin with, and especially if the fabric is thick (hello cotton twill Dockers):

1/8 Top Pocket

Pockets slanted at a deeper angle toward the front will prevent this, but don’t be afraid to try a non-linear style that eliminates the problem:

Western or jean-style

Full top

My jacket fits very well but the tailor wasn’t expecting me to have bulgy legs and cut the trouser tapered to the ankle – I could barely get them over my calves! They went back and opened the seams as much as they could so now they’re passable, but we learned that Leah can’t wear a tapered leg – we of the generous shank and booty need more space, so please lay some straight cuts, athletic cuts, or relaxed cuts on us.

A suit is an investment so it’s best to have an idea of what you’re doing. I hope this helps and inspires you to go find a tailor and have a gorgeous suit built that you feel fantastic in because when we feel fantastic, we do fantastic things.

Please pull up your pants

2 Dec

It’s finally moving away. The saggy, baggy trouser, embraced and sustained by the hip hop movement that has since flooded into the mainstream market.

In 1992, Marky Mark (Mark Wahlberg) posed with low-slung jeans to reveal his Calvin Klein undies, sparking chatter about Wahlberg as the originator of the look. Though I’m really not exactly clear on how and why the baggy look would have moved from prison into regular society, urban culture suggests that this style may have begun in prisons, where inmates’ belts are removed so they cannot be used as weapons against others or self, thereby sagging the pants. Research also shows that when in prison, sagging is also a way to send sexual messages to other inmates, if you’re into that.

I’ve scoured the internet for research on this saggy fashion topic and found a very interesting message board discussing baggy pants and whether there ought to be laws against wearing them, amongst other things (on Dr. Phil’s site, of all places).  I was amazed at the range of opinions about something as simple as a pant style.

Some goodies:

  • Personally, I think they look AWFUL. There is nothing more idiotic than watching someone TRYING to walk with their @ss hanging out, and holding up their pants at the crotch with one hand!
  • Any of the young guys I knew who started sagging were sagging because they came from poor families where they wore the hand-me-downs of an older brother or cousin that didn’t always fit (regardless of the belt). So even if their pants were pulled up to their waist, they would still look over-sized and droopy.
  • The LOWER your pants, the LOWER your IQ!
  • I am a retired Police Officer… Whenever I had occasion to speak with a young man who was wearing baggy pants, I was very concerned for my and my partner’s safety….  We did not know if that person was caring [sic] a concealed weapon (firearm or anything else).  We would not allow that person to touch their pants, or go near their pockets…. My biggest concern is that the young person would be wrongly shot being seriously hurt or killed because of a silly fashion statement.

Clothing styles move into extremes before changing into something else.

So the saggy pants hold different meanings for different people (how do you feel about them?), but like all fashion trends throughout history, styles begin small and grow to ridiculous proportions before morphing into something else. It seems to go in roughly 20 year cycles, and here we go again.

I’m delighted to find that designers are going the opposite direction now by skinnying their bottom pieces, though curiously, the illusion of baggy remains by setting the back pockets down the back of the thigh, giving the illusion of a low waistband. (Will that unto itself go into orbit until the day men realize that they’re crouching down to their ankles to reach their wallets? Let’s hope not.)

Though the silhouette in 2010 may look different from what it was in 1992, old habits die hard: I’m seeing young guys in skinny pants pull down their waistbands and trouser seats to look more “street” I guess, or perhaps they’re into the “I just filled my pants” look. Whatever it is, skinny clothing suggests a close fit, so I suggest that you pull up your skinny pants so they fit the way they were cut to fit – they’ll feel better too.

Restricted movement

Y’all know a little about me by now and of course you realize that one of my concerns is practicality, as it is for many men, and I’ll tell you, that unless you’re in the smuggling trade, wearing saggy bottoms is NOT practical.

Case and point: One guy I remember from a few years ago was all decked out in hip hop clothing: cutting-edge super fancy high-cut Nikes, the extra long t-shirt, bling in his ears and around his neck, the baseball hat worn on a tilt, and really baggy pants that sat around his knees and slowed him to a waddling sidewalk shuffle. Every few feet  he stopped to clutch at the top his jeans to keep them from saying hi to his ankles.

I sincerely hoped that he wouldn’t have to suddenly run to get out of the way of something because he’d be flat on his face in no time. I also wondered why he bothered wearing pants at all, since only his calves were covered… why he didn’t just break out the leg warmers and be done with it? At least that way, he’d have freedom of movement.

I know that when my clothing doesn’t fit right or moves around while I’m walking, I get uneasy and fussy about it, so it makes me wonder how could a guy, despite being in the coolest clothing known to his social group but presumably distracted by the threat of an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction, possibly operate with confidence? I wouldn’t think it feels good to wear something that’s half on and half off.

Where’s your butt?

I see a great divide when it comes to men’s and women’s clothing. Clothing designed for women seems to always be tight and revealing, leaving nothing to the imagination and essentially serving up our backsides on a plate, while men are wearing baggy, saggy, unflattering britches (shapeless khakis / double pleated trousers / baggy sweat pants), and somewhere in those fat folds of cotton twill is the guy’s ass – that we are not privy to.

Really readers, is this fair?

Style cycle

Every generation comes up with a new way to express itself to render it different from the last, and these sometimes outrageous ways of youth should never surprise us –  zoot suits for young men in the 40s, long hair and bell bottoms in the 60s, and acid-wash jeans and big hair in the 80s. (It’s been a hell of a ride, hasn’t it?)

The saggy trousers have been hugely embraced by Generation Y, but these kids are growing up now and they’re moving out of the XXX large clothing and into things simpler and less extravagant; garments that use less materials. A reflection on the fallout of the 2008 recession or is it the 20 year cycle change?

We’ll have to wait and see.