I love suits, but California’s dress down culture means that I’m almost always in sport coats instead. Or casual suits, such as ones made from linen or cotton, which I admittedly still mostly wear as suit separates.
Lately, however, I’ve been wanting to get something in-between these two worlds – something dressier than a sport coat, but not as formal as a navy worsted suit. Tan wool gabardine is a good choice for this sort of thing. Gabardine is a tightly woven twill that’ll keep you warmer than tropical plain-weaves, and it drapes beautifully. The color tan here keeps things on the more casual side of the spectrum, although the weave is smooth enough that you’ll probably only ever want to wear this as a real suit.
Another great option is patterned flannel. Probably everyone is familiar with grey flannel suits (a movie was named after the style). In a solid color, they’re a great business option in the fall/ winter months. But if you want something more casual, checks and plaids are where it’s at (keep pinstripes in boardrooms).
The Rake recently published some really nice photos of Simone Righi, owner of the Florentine menswear shop Frasi, in his patterned flannel suits. The nice thing about flannel is that the nap keeps the patterns softer and more muted. In a traditional worsted, something like that windowpane can feel a bit dandy. In a woolen flannel, however, the lines become a little friendlier and fuzzier. The key to getting these right: aim for slightly bolder patterns – ones you wouldn’t necessarily wear in conservative office settings.
If you’re looking for options, start with Suitsupply. They have a few options this season that could be just the thing if you want a suit without looking like you just got back from the office. No Man Walks Alone also carries one of my favorite ready-to-wear brands for tailored clothing, Sartoria Formosa. Really conservative patterns, such as this Prince of Wales check or grey puppytooth, still feel a bit business-y for me, but they can do custom orders once you know your size (you’d just choose a fabric out of a swatch book). Some of my favorite patterned flannel fabrics are from Fox Brothers. In fact, I’m hoping to get this made up one day as a double-breasted.
(photos via The Rake)