“Nudity is often thought to be the natural condition when we are most simply ourselves, but it is also the state when we can least well tell the social, intellectual, moral condition of the person in front of us. Roman culture, even more than modern society, was obsessed with visible signs of status, honour and position, strongly and clearly marked out. Nudity hides the clothes, jewels and other badges of office which let the world know who this citizen is. A shared space where nakedness in fact concealed a man’s status might well have produced anxiety. Clothes do make the man.” — Simon Goldhill, “The Perfect Body” (via ivorytowerstyle)

Ivory Tower Style goes through some of StyleFourm’s best threads, and gives some pretty funny commentary on each. 

Most useful thread? My vote goes to "Get Foofed." Most interesting? "Sartorial Mythbusting." Funniest? "Critique My Jantzen," obviously.

Where To Look First for a Suit (Part One)

Far and away, the most common question I get in my inbox is: “Where should I go to buy a suit, given my budget is X?” I usually try to stay away from such questions, as too much depends on the person’s specific needs. Where are you planning to wear the suit? What kind of styles do you like? What kind of climate do you live in? All these make it difficult to recommend something over email.

However, I’ve always thought it’d be helpful to have a list of recommendations for a broader audience. Something that’s painted with big, broad brushes. So, I reached out to some friends to see what they’d suggest, given different budgets, and added a few ideas myself. Of course, you might go to these stores and find nothing works for you, but at least you have a list of where you might want to look first.

For a budget of ~$500 and under

  • Suit Supply: A pretty good first stop. They have a wide range of styles to fit different tastes and body types. Jackets will typically be half-canvassed, and be made from fabrics sourced from respectable mills. Their lookbook styling is a bit fashion forward, but once you actually check out their stuff in person, you can usually find some reasonably classic designs.
  • Land’s End: Not the greatest in terms of construction, but impressive in terms of price. Check out their “tailored fit” and wait for one of their many sales.   

For a budget between ~$500 and ~$1,000

  • Brooks Brothers: Brooks Brothers has 25% off sales pretty regularly, and sometimes you can knock an additional 15% off by opening up a Brooks Brothers credit card (some sales associates won’t let you stack these discounts, but most will). That should bring the price down to under $1,000. Their newest cut, the Milano, is perhaps too trendy to recommend, but they have three good “classic” models. From slimmest to fullest, they go: Fitzgerald, Regent, and Madison. Note, you can sometimes also catch their premium Golden Fleece line on Rue La La for just under $500.
  • J. Crew: Their Ludlow series can be a good starting point for many men. Just watch out for the models with razor-thin lapels, which might look dated in a few years. 
  • Howard Yount: Very respectable half-canvassed suits that are, again, made from nice fabrics. They’re also styled fairly well.
  • Proper Suit: Made-to-measure suits for prices starting at $750. You can see our friend The Silentist review them here. If you go, bring along your best fitting jacket and trousers, so you can say what you like and don’t like.
  • Southwick: Classic American styled suits that start at $1,000 or so. You can find them at O’Connell’s or any number of classic American clothiers. They also have made-to-measure for around $1,200, give or take, depending on the fabric. A good option for someone with truly classic tastes.
  • Lardini: Terrible name, but nice Italian suits. Full retail price is north of $1,000, but you can easily find them on sale. Just check places like Yoox (and ignore Yoox’s terrible styling).
  • Benjamin: Great fabric, full-canvas construction, and nice detailing (e.g. discrete pick stitching). Their cuts are slightly fashion forward, but still office appropriate. Our friend This Fits owns their Classico and Napoli models and likes them a lot.

Come back tomorrow, when we’ll cover suits in the four-digit range.

(Special thanks to La Casuarina, A Bit of Color, This Fits, Ivory Tower Style, Réginald-Jérôme de Mans, and Breathnaigh for their help with this article. Also, credit to Suit Supply and Brooks Brothers for the two images above.)

The Artist/ Rebel/ Dandy: Men of Fashion Exhibit at RISD

Within the space of a few years at the turn of the 19th century, Beau Brummell revolutionized men’s fashion, replacing draped and colorful silk finery with simple, dark wool garments tailored close to the body. He found elegance in austerity, emphasizing fit and cleanliness over luxury and excess. The new style brought together the costume of horseback riding and the military to create a new urban fashion, and vaulted Brummell to personal celebrity. Brummell, and the legions of admirers and imitators that followed every fold of his cravat, became known as “dandies.” The Rhode Island School of Design’s recent Artist, Rebel, Dandy exhibit explored the history of the dandy, starting with the Brummell’s elegant simplicity and finally exploding into the extravagances that the word “dandy” calls to mind today.

Dandies aspired to “poise, a hint of disdain, even a touch of mischief,” as Hugo Vickers Muses describes the style of early 20th century dandy Cecil Beaton in the exhibit book. Others saw only farce. The exhibit includes caricatures from Brummell’s time that show dandies corsetting and cinching themselves into fainting spells to achieve the proper silhouette. But by the last half of the 19th century, Brummell’s revolution had codified into a set of rules that no proper English gentleman would dare violate.

The mid-to-late-20th century pieces in the exhibit show dandyism aging gracefully, experimenting with tweed suits from Luciano Barbera and the late RISD professor Richard Merkin, and plaid suits from with Italian industrialist Gianni Agnelli and Tennessee doctor André Churchwell. But by the time we reach the outfits of modern dandies, Brummell’s elegant simplicity has been completely inverted. The denouement is Sebastian Horsley’s red velvet suit, complete with matching two-foot-tall red velvet topper and bedazzled jumbo-knotted tie. Whereas Brummell proclaimed, “If John Bull turns around to look at you, you are not well dressed…,” Horsley warns that “the real dandy wants to make people look, be shocked by, and even a little scared by the subversion which his clothes stand for.”

Perhaps we should mourn that Scott Schuman considers the dandy “more obvious, more flamboyant, almost aggressive” compared to the “quiet seduction” of Luciano Barbera, whom he profiles in the exhibit book. It wasn’t meant to be this way. But sadder still is the idea that clothes so completely make the man. Horlsey believed that “dandyism is a lie which reveals the truth and the truth is we are who we pretend to be.” Clothes are a powerful vehicle for self-expression and self-discovery, as well as a sensual pleasure. At their best, they are our cover letter to the world. At their worst, they are a prosthesis, a false self to replace the one we don’t know or don’t like.

Though “dandy” may have become be a dirty word, male interest in clothing and style is currently surging. Artist, Rebel, Dandy shows all the beauty, elegance, and absurdity that could result.

Guest post by our friend David Isle, who authors the blog Ivory Tower Style. Photos from the Rhode Island School of Design.

"If theres anything that the online menswear community has inherited from the English gentlemen that gave us the coat and tie, it is an appreciation of the witty insult…"

(Full story at Ivory Tower Style)