The Post Pandemic Black Tie Suit
What a time we are living in! So much has rapidly changed in such a short space. Nobody is going to work. Hardly any weddings have been taking place. We have gone in and out of lockdown. We have had anxiety about how things may play out. In between there are short patches of sanity and tranquillity – a walk through a park, a horse ride in the country, camping in the country. These sort of simple pleasures that can be enjoyed in the between moments. And what happens after we come out of lockdown? What will it all look like? Articles appear in magazines like The Economist announcing the end of commercial real estate and the downfall of the modern workplace and city office. There are reports that workers refuse to go back into the workplace… Nobody, it seems, wants to get out of their athleisure wear.
But in my experience of life so far, whenever a trend is heading in one direction, the seeds of the alternate direction are being sewn. The demand for something else, the pendulum swing. This is perhaps what I am writing about. Prior to the GFC the world was wanting jeans and t shirts and urban wear. After the GFC we had the renaissance of the suit, the desire for men to seek out good tailoring, bespoke or made to measure. This phenomenon coincided with the rise of blogs and quality writing on the subject of menswear, the rise of the somewhat narcissism of humans wanting to show the world what they were wearing, the street style blogger, Pitti Uomo and finally, to some extent sadly, the rise of Chinese factories willing to make relatively good quality suits MTM for a fraction of that of the bespoke tailor. And let’s face it, they really got good at it.
But now what? We’ve been through these ebbs and flows and we arrive at the heyday of athleisure. It’s well and truly in the thick of it. I am a victim. I can’t bring myself to wear anything nice when I am going between the office, the supermarket, the pharmacy and my apartment. Cutting silks, frankly, is a bitch to do in wool. The strands of silk seem to stick like magnets to shirts and trousers.
But I am over athleisure. And I am looking to a post double vaccinated world where the swing of things comes back and we once again can safely, presumably, RSVP to a wedding knowing that we will in fact be able to go with far more certainty.
In this world, what will happen to black tie? My opinion – it will thrive again.
As I wrote on an Instagram post yesterday evening – black tie is the elegant equalizer and yet concurrently a wonderful example of a meritocracy. The code is set and within that set of rules is the myriad of choices you can make and how you wish to express your own style.
Breaking down those choices will be as follows:
Shirt: Collar, Cuff, Bib (Marcella, Plissé), Cufflinks?
Jacket: Double Breasted, Shawl, Peaked, Fabric (Weave, Fibre)
Trousers: Stove, Cuff, Fabric (Weave, Fibre)? Suspenders?
Shoes: Patent, High Shine Black, Oxford, Whole Cut, Pitch, Welted, Blake Rapid?
Waist Covering: Waist Coat, Cummerbund, No waist covering.
Tie: Bow Tie, Shape, Fabric
When all this is locked in it is then about going collecting these items over time and refining your choices as you go along.
For example, my first dinner jacket was by Pal Zileri for Lane Crawford bought in Hong Kong in the mid 1990’s. In fact, it started as my father’s jacket, but it fit well, and it was a wonderful hand me down. Over the years I have experimented in tailoring with jacquard fabrics, velvets, colours of wool from black to navy and so on and so forth. In my efforts I have arrived at certain tastes that I seem to have locked in. For example, I really don’t like wing tipped shirts. I have never in my time managed to make them work. I also find French cuffs somewhat annoying when I am in a rush to get ready. And shirt studs.
So, to my mind, what does black tie look like after we get through the bulk of this pandemic?
Functionality and ease of use.
Since this business started, I no longer wear a traditional wristwatch and I have converted my phone to tap and go payments like most of my friends. I also find myself taking photos, like the rest of society in general, a lot more frequently, and like most other humans I know, I can’t see myself using my phone or computers any less. We now live in a world where my revenue stream and my supply chain relationships are directly linked to our technology. If I don’t take that photo, if I don’t answer that phone call and if I don’t check my messages in the middle of the night, I may miss sales and I may miss supply opportunities.
So that being said I set about on my new dinner suit in June with a goal. To make something relevant to the world in which we live in today. A world where I most likely won’t be carrying my keys with me because between Uber connected to my phone and my keypad to enter my apartment, I see no point. A world where I won’t need a wallet on me because between my apple watch and my iPhone I can handle payments for all other expenses. And finally, if athleisure has taught me anything, it’s the convenience of being able to slip things on an off.
Accordingly, this is what went into the new tuxedo I made with my tailor Guy. A three-piece black-tie suit with a generous peaked lapel, a single silver internal clasp to close the jacket with one single patch pocket on the front of the jacket to easily access my iPhone as needed. Will this technology change? You bettya. But I can’t see us doing away with mobile phones for the present time and to my mind, the main concern will be changes in the side and depth of phones so I have made an allowance for this in the design.
The choice of materials was an easy one to make. Barathea, to my mind, is one of those muted cloth weaves that has a great deal of old-world elegance. And so, I wanted a rather big contrast in tones and textures between the opulent sheen of our house Mogador satin silk used on the peaked lapel, with the depth of stony black that was offered by the barathea.
The result, which will be ready this week, is something I believe will resonate with the locals and visitors to the Studio. I will be offering to make them for our clients but unfortunately, we cannot compete with our Sydney friends that offer MTM suits. The price will be $7500.00 AUD and of course, it requires three fittings at the Studio.
For all matters related to black tie and if you want to pick my brain about anything at all – text +61413140994.