Reader Question: Suit For Work And Play

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Hsin Qin Tang: I have been following your blog for over two years now. I have learned many things and I would like to know your opinion on what to wear for an upcoming occasion. My eldest sister is getting married this August and the wedding dinner is going to be held in Singapore.

I am looking to purchase my first suit and I was hoping you’d be able to help me out. I will also be going to Brighton, UK this September to study. I was hoping the suit might be able to come in handy there as well. I would appreciate it if you are able to get into the details, down to the smallest one. I realise I have not included my budget. I’d like to hear what you say first.

This question from Hsin Qin was far longer in the original, and requested information on everything from material for buttons to belt loops versus braces.

Hsin Qin, I will try to be brief and so fit in as much advice as possible – but as a regular reader of the blog I’m sure you realise many of the things I leave out are questions of personal taste. And there is more extensive advice elsewhere on the site (use that search function until it breaks!).

Broadly, there are two options for a wedding as a member of the general party: traditional and summer. Today, most men wear linen suits, checked suits, loud suits. They wear suits that used to be worn for leisure – except that no one wears a suit on the weekend any more.

There’s nothing wrong with that, but traditionally a wedding would be a lot smarter than the working week, not less. So the lounge suit would be swapped for tails or a three-piece suit, perhaps a nice peaked-lapel stroller with a buff waistcoat. If these were not available, a man would wear the single smartest thing he had from his work attire. This would probably be a dark navy, single-breasted suit, with a crisp white shirt and a satin tie in silver or bronze. Top it off with a white linen pocket square and a boutonnière.

If I were you, Hsin Qin, I would go for this last option. Then you will also have a navy suit to wear when you move to these great British Isles. With a blue shirt and dark, striped tie, it will be perfect for interviews and such.

As to the other details, have it made bespoke in Singapore if you know somewhere good. Go for two vents, two navy horn buttons, notch lapels, dark lining, medium weight, side tabs, uncuffed, slanted pockets, one break, matching socks and no tie bar. These choices are all for versatility and the maximum in time-proof style.


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Simon Crompton is a journalist and a style enthusiast living in London, who blogs at permanentstyle.blogspot.com. He has too many suits.

Comments

  1. Dandy Dan says:

    As someone who wears a linen or cotton suit at weekends, weather-permitting of course (!), to walk the dog or take the offspring to the park, I’m a fan of the notion that, traditionally, the suit was originally an item of ‘leisure’ wear, and believe we should firmly continue this idea. Or maybe that says I’m finally passed all reason and help, and need counselling! Suits are for leisure pursuits as well as formal occasions.

    This web-site is surely amongst the finest in its niche on the internet; keep it up.

  2. Phil says:

    Hi Dandy Dan,

    welcome to the club of the truly insane. I am not just a member, I have been nominated as president as it would have interfered with my other activities.

    ;)

    But all kidding aside. I agree with you that there are people wearing suits for leisure. Just not the navy pin-stripe. The problem really is that to most people suit => navy/grey => very formal => not for weekends.
    In reality a nice cream linen on a sunny afternoon will not be recognised as a suit by most. A suit made of cotton will likely never have entered most peoples mind.

  3. Dandy Dan says:

    Dear President Phil!
    You’re right. I’ve read somewhere – probably on this site, in fact – that the lighter the suit, the more informal it is; and there is a similar sense with the fabric, worsted being the most formal, linen/cotton the least. It’s a matter of finding the right combination for the right occasion, it seems.

    Luck with your presidency; hope you’re attired suitably for the job!

  4. Paul Hardy says:

    “Suits are for leisure pursuits as well as formal occasions.”

    Well, there’s a manifesto which attracts, for a change.
    The Cocktail Party – never politically astute, but always appropriately attired. Long live President Phil!

  5. Simon Crompton says:

    Hi guys,
    I thoroughly agree with Phil, and thanks Phil for putting it so succinctly. To be honest, I think the first battle is just to get men wearing jackets again casually. Let’s win that one and then campaign for the suit!

    And Dan, yes it is a good rule of thumb that a suit is more casual the paler it is, the rougher the material is and the bigger its pattern.

    Simon

  6. Dandy Dan says:

    I read in a post on ‘Le Dandy (of North Carolina)’ back in February that ‘the suit is a formal garment and not very practical,’ which made me rather cross – I submit that neither premise is true, and that a suit is flexible enough to be both formal and informal, and is certainly highly practical. If it were not, it wouldn’t have continued to evolve, or perhaps even still exist, since the late seventeenth century. It has to be a functional garment – or perhaps that’s the pocket-loving-parent-dog-walker in me talking…

  7. Dandy Dan says:

    And here’s recent proof that at least one other person subscribes to this view as well!

    http://easyandelegantlife.com/2009/06/19/resorting-to-casual-wear/

    I can but aspire to this level of elegance, alas…