A Brief Story of the Suit (And Why Men Shouldn’t Fear Dressing Well)

8 min read

(This article is by Javin They, founder of Common Suits, and has been edited for length and clarity.)

Some men fear dressing well. I don’t blame them. Naysayers whisper into their ears that dressing well means losing one’s masculinity, appearing vain or spending a lot of money. These misconceptions stay in the mind and harden into facts. Isn’t that how fears are made?

 

So it’s always my dream to see fearful men try on some good suits. In barely 10 minutes, they turn into fearless gentlemen. Their anxieties melt away. They have a look of wonderment. They straighten their backs. They walk differently. Magic in mere minutes? That’s exactly what a good suit should do.

 

This isn’t a pipe dream. It happened to me. I was in university, slated for a presentation in a few weeks. At the time, I decided to invest in a bespoke suit. As I donned it and looked in the mirror, it clicked: I discovered the power of dressing well.

Image source

 

The suit made me feel secure, confident. It was as if I had put on an armour. I was ready to take on the world. Needless to say, I aced the presentation. I had worked hard, but the well-made suit was the final boost that helped me deliver my presentation with conviction. From that eureka moment on, I was convinced of going on a journey to craft well-made suits for men. I started Common Suits. That was four years ago. I haven’t looked back since.

 

The Suit as a Symbol of Masculinity

double breasted suits
The roped shoulders expression creates the appearance of the broader shoulders. Image by CommonSuits

 

The feeling of wearing a suit as if it were a piece of death-defying armour is not unusual. After all, the suit has its origins in military wear, particularly those of 19th century European armies.

 

It was a time of such long wars in the region that many continental and English tailors eventually became experts at outfitting soldiers. Their craft soon found its way into civilian clothing. In fact, the mecca of bespoke tailoring, London’s Savile Row, was initially occupied by military officers. Once the wars were over, the tailors continued making clothing with their military wear skills.

Street view of Savile Row London in 1944. Image source

 

If suits have their roots in military style, it’s also because of what they can potentially represent: power and might. The French and Russian armies of the Napoleonic-era were so reputable that their outfits became prestigious symbols desired by the masses. Their army wear inspired the three-piece and double-breasted suit that we know of today. We rejoice that the fashion has lasted. And not the wars.

 

It’s hard not to see dressing well as a worthwhile and masculine endeavour when we examine the history of the suit. As I came to understand its different aspects, I knew that I wanted to be a part of its deep tradition: wearing a well-tailored suit has now become a way in which I express myself meaningfully. A good suit is also what I enjoy making for others, especially when every suit can differ to honour and celebrate each individual’s unique masculinity.

 

The Suit as a Mark of Self-Respect

Featuring our MTM safari jacket in Mocha wool silk linen. Image by Common Suits

 

The effects of donning a well-tailored suit are undeniable. We feel the difference almost anywhere. In a shopping mall or restaurant, the service staff are more respectful and polite when faced with a man in a suit. At work, employers are impressed. On the streets, strangers turn their heads for a second glance. Don’t get me started on the women.

 

Do we live in a superficial world? The answer is yes and no. Yes, because good-looking and well-dressed people often receive better treatment. No, because looking clean and smart is ultimately a mark of inner respect for the self and others.

 

Our outer being reflects our inner self and state of mind – and vice-versa. When we feel organised, balanced and in control, we’re inclined towards well-thought-out clothes that complete us, inside out. We take pride in a professional and an attractive image that is comfortable, assured and self-possessed, so much so that our clothes become our second skin.

 

Image source

 

Just think of Barack Obama, one of the sharpest and most stylish presidents of the United States, second only to JFK. We can’t imagine him without his suit. This man’s well-made navy piece is not only ingrained in the global consciousness, it has also got its own name: the Obama Suit (a two-button, single-breasted jacket and single pleated pant with inch-and-a-quarter cuffs; 97% worsted wool, 3% cashmere blend). Obama is the suit, and the suit is Obama. They fit each other so well that they are one. Magic.

 

The Suit as an Investment

Clean lines and a masculine silhouette for one of our clients. Image by Common Suits

 

Coming from a modest background and a single-parent family, I’m constantly reminded to stay rooted and humble. When I first got into the craft of bespoke menswear, I often wondered if it would go against the values I was brought up with. Would it be an expensive undertaking? Would it appear indulgent?

 

Along the way, I picked up style principles that addressed those concerns. For example, to ensure the longevity of a piece of clothing, I now assess two primary factors: quality and style. A piece of high quality clothing with a style that stands the test of time is expensive – but the piece can last more than 10 years. This means I get more mileage out of it, so it’s cheaper in the long-run.

 

I also focus on wardrobe-building. A man essentially needs just a few staple pieces. These will create multiple combinations that make him feel brand new every day of the week. So here’s a tip: Before buying a piece of garment, don’t decide on it just because it looks nice on its own or with a certain outfit; instead, consider whether it’s a good fit in your entire wardrobe. There’s a systematic way to do this, and I’ll share it in another post.

Image by Common Suits

 

When I started Common Suits, I had my grandparents’ voice in my head: “Be humble and stay true to your values.” I continue to keep this close to my heart. A suit carries the symbols of power and might; but the maker behind it – the tailor or stylist – works in humility and service to the wearer, personalising it to embody the wearer’s values.

 

Indeed, what excites me about the craft is how the suit is a piece of living, breathing tradition – it’s ever-evolving, yet timeless in sensibility. While the suit has a long history, its future stories are for all of us to tell.

 

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9 dreaded style mistakes: Fix them before it is too late

9 min read

You’re busy at work. You live a hectic lifestyle. You fall into your comfort zone, where habits and patterns keep your anxiety down and make the daily grind a little easier.

However, if you’re snuggled too comfortably in your warm and fuzzy status quo for too long, blind spots may develop. And before you know it, you’re too set in your ways, reluctant to change even though you acknowledge that change is for the better.

So anytime (how about now?) is a fine time to take a good look at your style choices. What gaffes are you unknowingly making? Check out these nine style mistakes; if you’re committing these offences, rectify them before it’s too late.

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How to look taller with the help of dress pants

Gkurkha trousers
6 min read

Amongst a man’s arsenal of clothing, dress pants are one of the most underrated pieces. People usually dismiss dress pants and pay little attention to them, but as long as you know how to, a well-chosen pair of dress pants is able to not only make you look extremely presentable but also exceptionally flattering (i.e. making your legs look longer).

In today’s article, we have selected 5 simple and easy-to-do hacks that will help you look taller effortlessly!

1) Avoid low rise pants

If you don’t know what “low-rise” or what “rise” means, we have the definition and sample image for you below:

How low or high a “rise” is referring to the distance from the top of your waistband, all the way down to the crotch.

different types of rise
Different types of rise. Image source

In recent years, “low-rise” jeans have been gaining traction in terms of their popularity, but the main and glaring issue is that they’ve applied these same rules to dress pants as well.

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Dress Code Guide 101

7 min read

For many of you reading this, hearing the term “dress code” can either bring out a sigh of confusion or a groan of despair. In fact, most people end up using Google to see what each dress code means only to become even more confused as the definitions are too broad and often not defined by the host.

You’ll see websites giving you different definitions that contradict one another while also not fully answering the queries you might have. We hope to provide you with both! From our personal experience, you’d want to take note of these 4 most commonly used dress codes:

 

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How to choose the colour of your suit according to your skin tone

7 min read

Choosing your suit colour can be a dilemma, we got you.

Alan Flusser, the eminent American menswear designer, once said: “One of the most important – but least understood – functions of male attire is to lead the viewer’s eyes toward the face … When the face is surrounded by tonalities that invigorate and illuminate its presence, its ability to provoke immediate and marked reactions is amplified.”

You probably think that as long as the colours in your outfit complement one another, you’re fine. That’s what “matching” is all about.

Think again.

One thing you may have overlooked: the colour contrast between your facial features (including your hair). To look your best, it’s important to identify the contrast level between your facial features and create a similar contrast level for your outfit. Most of us at some point in time in our sartorial journey, probably would have thought to ourselves – The guy on Instagram looks amazing in that outfit. I wonder if I can pull it off too. Thankfully identifying your contrast level isn’t as daunting as you think it is (it is in fact quite mathematical).

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How to wear a suit without looking like an amateur

9 min read

You’re going to attend a business event. Be it a networking party at a trade show or a gala dinner at an upscale hotel, you’ll want to look professional and sophisticated.

Many men, while brilliant in their professions, might stumble over style matters. We feel their charisma can shine through better if they turn up dressed tastefully at business events. Think of all the opportunities they might have missed because of their shabby attire!

And the worst thing is, in Asian culture, people tend to be more reserved; most likely, they won’t tell you that you look awful.

So we’re here to help you. Here’s how you can suit up for success – and not look like an amateur.

 

#1 No tight fit, please.

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Charcoal Suit: Why Every Man Should Own One

3 min read

For every gentlemen, there will be a point in life where he has to purchase and own a suit. Alike many others, having their very first tailored suit done may pose to be a vexing process.

Furthermore, the pressure increases as he finds himself faced with the challenge of deciding on the perfect suit best tailored to his needs, and how to achieve the most mileage of out it.

After all, a suit is the essential outfit in every men’s wardrobe. Getting a suit is in fact a long term investment, and not just a mere decision to be taken lightly.

He will have to take into consideration the potential functionality of his suit and how in the various possible occasions where the need for it arises before the purchase.

And if you haven’t already guessed, the determining factor which greatly attributes to its practicality is the colour. Despite so, the fit, type/style and design are just as crucial and should not be neglected in the selection process.

Following on, this prompts the question:

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