by Antonio Lilliu
The "physique du rôle" of the BUSINESS SUIT.
About the Business Suit for Men fashion journalism and its surrogate in the Internet age, the fashion blogs, are still floundering between a strictly prescriptive attitude and a kind of Laissez-faire, that definitely does not help to resolve the concerns of those who in the working-arena cannot or will not afford the luxury of being treated as poorly dressed.
To avoid the risks of such a humiliation male people can luckily count on the support of a wide range of Style Advisors: on the one hand you’ll find all those fashion Influencer looking for proselytes while digging up the made-to-measure tailoring art as well as commandments about classic elegance of a supposed golden age, unable to reflect the needs of more individuality and freedom of the modern man. Most provincial tailors and nostalgia sufferers, feeling to be called to keep alive the cult of Cary Grant and Roger Moore, embalmed in their double-breasted Hollywood-like suits, join enthusiastically to this fundamentalist movement. On the other extreme we meet a whole array of enfant terrible of fashion and experimentalists trying to revamp the appeal of forgotten menswear brands, or to stop the collapse of glossy fashion magazines.
Despite all the attempts to make the business dress-code more comfortable and individualistic, on a psychological level the business suit is for the modern man the equivalent of armor of the ancient knights, sharing with it many features besides, mutatis mutandis, the basic function of "battle dress". Although the real war has shifted from the battlefield to the business world, not for this it has become less bloody: so the business suit plays like armor a protective function, repairing the body from deadly shots, while still serving to impress the counterpart, emphasizing the prowess of the body. As the armor is a uniform, customized just enough to identify the membership of a professional army if not of a national one. Despite a lot of ambiguity it still has a function of rank and social status, as already had for the Roman knights who were recruited as part of the census of the same name.
The vision that forced gents’ business style into the bounds of Prince of Wales, Herringbone,
Pinstripes cloth, double or single breasted jackets with two or three buttons at most, has nothing to do with flashy luxury of medieval and Renaissance armors: in order to realize this, just visit the hall of armor at the Sforza castle in Milan or admire the portraits on battlefields of Emperor Charles V or of the French king Francis I. Menswear understatement began with the propagation of the principle of equality during the French revolution, and later with the apotheosis of labor’s Puritan ethic during the industrial revolution.
The history of men's fashion during the XX century from Saville Raw to Armani and Vivien Westwood is the reaffirmation of the values of imagination, versatility and vanity of man, that the society had denied him since the nineteens century. And after all, why not? If a healthy vanity has not prevented Julius Caesar, Czar Peter the Great, Napoleon, Thomas Jefferson, Albrecht Dürer and Baudelaire to become great politicians, artists and writers, why should it be denied to others?
Since contemporary man has regained the courage of his vanity both in dressing and body cult, the business suit must provide him the physique du rôle necessary to communicate the qualities of personality and competence, social and emotional intelligence required by any professional interaction. Few basic rules have to be kept in mind on this regard:
The dress is architecture: "Fashion is architecture, it’s all about proportions” said Coco Chanel, and this is true for female and gents fashion as well. Since jacket is the biggest sartorial challenge, the attention payed to its fitting will be never enough. Wearing a poorly cut jacket will let you look incompetent and ridiculous. When purchasing a jacket three "key fitting points" have to be careful considered: shoulder, waist and neck.
In terms of architecture the shoulders of the jacket are not the roof but the foundations. They must follow the line of the body, improving the angle between neck and shoulders where necessary: the more jacket’s shoulders form a right angle with the neck, the more this will look encased producing a Frankenstein effect. Over- and under-size proportions at the waist, neck and armholes will remember clown clothing and might definitely be a disadvantage in business unless you work in advertising or design.
The ace in the hole: A key design feature of the jacket are the two side slits on the lower back. These are a legacy of the “redingote” tails of the nineteenth century, necessary to confer flexibility and mobility while riding. Today, these slits have a purely aesthetic function, giving dynamic and volume to the lower back and making more easy to get your hands in trouser pockets. In the body language to have a hand in your pocket means holding a trump card, and although in the business world no professional is asked to be a cheater, the fact of having a solution for any eventuality is a highly appreciated skill.
Trousers: A pragmatic attitude to face the dilemma of their length is always to let the mirror decide. A length a bit shorter than normal can add a touch of personal style revealing a smart stocking under the “armor”.
The importance of not being ernst: To emerge from the multitude of well-dressed people demonstrating personality and style requires something more than just matching the right shirt to the right suit. It's a playful fashion attitude leading to choose "deliberately" a rash detail or even a wrong combination, and makes you prefer surprising rather than being predictable to boredom.
This is the philosophy of the tailors of Saville Raw in London, which for two hundred years have been renewing successfully the class Business Suit