Taking the Cloth

No, I’m not thinking of taking holy orders, I just want to talk a little about cloth – in particular suiting cloth. I think I must be entirely out of some kind of massive woollen loop but I’m slightly at a loss as to where the current trends in tailoring cloth are at the moment. Visit any of the more bumptious mens style forums and you will see a lot of two things: People effusively expressing their dismay at the kind of suits that the uninformed or *gasp* not enormously cash-wadded men of the world are wearing today, and people posting pictures of themselves in their bespoke suits.

I can appreciate the importance of style, cut and build-quality. I can see why people think that the River Island suit being worn by the person they just bought their new mobile phone from looks terrible, but to me the worst thing about bad, cheap suits is the thin, limp, shiny fabric that they’re made from. It is for that very reason that it baffles me (yes, baffles me!) that the suitorati of the internet forums seem always to be getting bespoke suits and jackets made up at the cost of several thousands of pounds in fabrics that look exactly the same!

With luck this won’t come across as a personal assault. I don’t have any particular people in mind, and for that reason I’ll just use as an example this person who is probably well-known in some circles and as far as I know not a forum user himself but is merely held up as a kind of paragon of bespokery:

shiny suit

The million-dollar tin foil suit. Perfect for wrapping your left-over takeaway in.

This is typical of the kind of thing one sees all the time. The cloth is probably woven by Holland & Sherry, and it’s probably super 10,000,000 merino wool and cashmere and beatified by the Pope and Bob Geldof, but to my eye, and yes I’m talking about my personal opinion, it looks cheap and despicable.

Now, this isn’t supposed to be a negative post. My point is supposed to be how excellent worsteds, flannels and gabardines look in suiting, and they don’t even need to be thick, heavy or inappropriate for summer wear. Here is an example of a double-breasted grey suit for comparison with the Tin Man pictured above, this time in flannel by Ede & Ravenscroft.

Ede & Ravenscroft Flannel

Even considering that this is photographed professionally on a model instead of on a Michael Winner's body double, the cloth still speaks for itself.

I don’t expect everybody to agree with me, but there is just something so much more dignified about that matte finish, and the way coarser woollens hang straight rather than crimping like tissue paper. The effect becomes even more pronounced with formal dress because, as far as I’m concerned, a black dinner jacket or morning coat can only look really good if it eats up as much of the light that touches it, rather than reflecting it back like a polished beetle carapace. For mind-blowing affordability, vintage is the best way to go to achieve this effect, and I’m bursting at the seams to sing the praises of good old reliable Montague Burton (before they went bad) for astonishing vintage value and downright amazingness but he’s really worth several posts all of his own.

For now, then, I’ll just sign off with the thought that no matter how you place your priorities, there is no escaping the fact that style is about appearance, and it doesn’t matter how super fantastic a suiting cloth’s credentials are, if it looks like it came from George at ASDA you might as well save yourself all those trips to Savile Row for fittings and buy your suit with your groceries.



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Filed under Cloth, Evening Dress, Morning Dress, Trousers

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