E.1.g. The Two Types of Casual Suits
Casual suits are made from fabrics, done in patterns, and/or have stylistic features that move them toward the country/informal spectrum.
Their main utility for the beginner for whom a city look is unwise is their inherently greater informality combined with the possibility of incorporating a range of more casual accessories that are discordant or inappropriate with a city ensemble.
This overall informalization of suit and tie often synchronizes more easily with colleagues and friends who do not wear suits, or who wear coat and tie sporadically. Such men are often either intimidated socially or aesthetically by a smart city look, or are part of the increasing numbers who view the city look as generationally archaic.
From a beginner’s viewpoint, the wide range of variety among casual suits can be divided into two categories:
- Casual suits that can be combined with “city look” accessories.
- Casual suits that should not be combined with “city look” accessories.
The first group of casual suits overlaps with city look suits. The second does not.
The degree of overlap differs by place and culture. The overlap is a consequence of how much country was accepted into the city in the years after the lounge suit won its place of supremacy. There remain narrow contexts in which no overlap exists even today. Generally speaking, however, this mode of casualization is acceptable in most places.
The key concept is that casual suits in the first group can be made to fit in completely fine in a city look when combined with city accessories. Unlike a city suit, these suits can also be combined with more rustic elements successfully to dial back the whole look
to something more casual.
And that is what we are after if we want an easy execution of a coherent look.
In contrast, the casual suits in the second group—by fabric, feature or patterns—are never intended to be anything more than casual: they have no substitution value or intent for a city look. They are casual suits through and through.What are casual suits in this first group, the ones that overlap with the city suit?
The first attribute is that they are cut and “featured” exactly the same way as their city look cousins (no patch pockets, no throat latches, etc.).
The second attribute is that their fabrics are more rustic, in the following range:
- Blue, gray and brown flannel suits in solids or stripes (and the seasonal equivalent of flannels, such as frescos, hopsacks, etc.)
- Brown suits in city worsted solids or stripes.
- Blue, gray and brown worsted suits in urbanized country patterns: muted and small scale glen checks; houndstooth; etc.
How far one can get from the first to the third bullet, from week day to weekend, is a function, again, of place and culture. Fortunately, empirical determination is easy. If you find yourself in an environment in which a city look does not work, it is safe to say that you are not in an environment so formal as to inherently disqualify a casual suit in the first group as irredeemably informal.
City accessories will have no problems co-existing with these suits; neither will the more rustic types of accessories that we discussed in the previous posts in this thread.What are casual suits in the second group, the one that does not overlap with the city suit?
Well, the simplest way to think about this is everything that is not in the first group fits into the second. This includes:
- Suits in alternative fabrics such as cottons, silks, linens, tweeds real and faux, corduroy, (dare I say denim? It has been done), etc.
- Suits in explicit country, loud, or obvious patterns, or unusual colors.
- Suits with informalizing, sporting features, such as a jacket with three patch pockets, action or belted backs, etc.
In this second group, it is very difficult or impossible to make most city accessories look good. Casual suits in this category are the opposite of the city look when it comes to accessories: they look great with the informal accessories that typically look terrible with a city suit.
At one time, it was relatively difficult to find RTW suits in this group. Today, however, it seems that a lot of choice is available as a wide variety of alternative fabrics are marketed in the form of suits.
Suits in this category also essentially overlap with the next category that we will discuss as we move one step further toward the country/informal : coat and tie with the odd jacket.
Why should a beginner consider casual suit suits in this second category, then, if he can simply achieve a similar level of informality by wearing the familiar odd jacket and tie?
The most important reason is that suits are “easier.” The jacket and pants already are coordinated.
Do not underestimate the value of this simple fact, especially for you, the beginner.
Moreover, despite the overlap with the familiar odd jacket/odd trouser, the casual suit has a debonair pedigree that lends it a continuing debonair affect that can be appealing to men who like clothes well enough to think about them. That might also be you, despite being a beginner.
Just try to line up the range of formality of accesories, on one hand, to the type of suit, on the other, if you wish to achieve a coherent look more effortlessly.Edited by F. Corbera - Today at 4:20 am