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Uniform Gets The Respect It Deserves

EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT FROM ALAN FLUSSER´S “DRESSSING THE GENTLEMAN"IF A MAN runs for president, interviews for a high-level job or needs a good table at a smart restaurant, chances are he´ll be wearing a suit.The tailored jacket with matching trousers remains the uniform of official power, suggesting civility, diplomacy and physical self control.Suits have a way of looking superior.

While the context and connotations of men´s suits have changed, their basic form hasn´t. For more than one hundred years, through periods of extreme social up heaval the dress suit´s insistent longevity testifies to the dynamism of its unique composition. No one has yet been able to devise any surrogate garment or ensemble that affords such a complete envelope for the male body.

The Peacock Revolution accelerated the movement away from tailor dictated taste to designer inspired fashion ability as the basis of men´s style. The popularity of the Pierre Cardin hourglass suit in the ´70s, followed by Hugo Boss´s airplane shouldered power suits and Giorgio Armani´s low-gorge swathing in the ´80s, transformed the business suit form the standard bearer of conformity and membership into a vessel of currency and fashionable energy.

By the mid´80s, having established itself as the contemporary clothier´s high profile calling card, the designer suit saw sales begin to eclipse both national brands and the top retailers tended to pay allegiance to one suit shape and dressing style. By the end of the go-go´ 80s, fashion´s newest exponents began to experiment with clothing silhouettes the way women did with makeup, thinking nothing different bewteen designers in three different suit cuts.

For the most of the past century, the corporate uniform virtually guaranteed the suit an ever widening audience. However, the latest work place freedoms have encouraged more comfortable and collegial styling by removing strict codes. Casual dress now shares the office with the tailored uniforms.

Despite the suit´s current bad press and steady suits were usually three buttons, mostly with notch lapels and always vested. Following the lines of its two progenitors, the riding jacket and later on, the morning coat, the single breasted lounge suit made the transition from country to city when its curved front were cut away below the waist button. As the curve prevented the bottom button from fastening, the top button was worn undone to balance the trio, giving the lounge suit a distinctly degage air.

An alternative mode of wearing the three-button coat was to fasten its top two although the lapels had to be designed to roll high enough to permit the top button to be closed. Compared with the openness of Gary Cooper´s single button fastening, this arrangement closes up the coat, somewhat formalizing the presentation. Its two upper buttons also form a vertical line in front, promoting a more up and down dynamic, thought to add length to a man´s torso.
Warm weather found men removing their vests, and over time the matching vest´s high “V” front began dropping lower and lower. Not surprisingly, the three button jacket´s high button stance was likewise lowered, ushering in the two button suit model. Ultimately eclipsing the three button in popularity, the two button with its open front not only exposed the wearer´s furnishings to better advantage, but its darts and defined waistline gave occupants a trimmer look. Who says that the conservative two button business suit necessarily stifles self-expression?

The Double-Breasted Suit Prior to World War II, single and double breasted suits sold in almost equal numbers. As the driving force behind tailored mens wear in the´ 20s and 30s,the double breasted suit´s most popular rendering was the six-on-two button front, with broad lapels marking a high waist and straight vent less tails hugging cylindrical hips. Long wide trousers supported this column like shape, serving as the base of an athletic silhouette that came to define masculine elegance throughout the period.

When America´s elite adopted London´s famous drape cut as their own, new double breasted versions emerged. One model in particular spirited itself to the top of the charts, the six or four button front with lapels designed to roll down below the waist and fasten on the bottom button. Known as the “Kent,” it was named after the Prince of Wales´s younger brother, Prince George, the Duke of Kent, who was generally credited with its introduction in the late´20s.Because it´s longer lapel line extended through the waistline, less emphasis the wearer an illusion of height. Not only did the Kent seduce the superbly proportioned; its stylish swagger curried particular favor with the short and stout.

Men are creatures of habit. When servicemen returned from World War II, they opted for the single breasted suit, having become accustomed to its comfort and ease during their military service. As a result, the ´50s witnessed the popular decline of the double breasted suit. With the exception of a few random periods of limited renaissance, the double breasted´s principal proponents have been the custom tailors and their style conscious clientele. Although its appeal comes and goes, as long as men regard the dress suit as a symbol of male elegance and authority, the double breasted suit will always justify its inclusion in the echelon wardrobe.




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