Mastering the rules of formalwear requires a certain degree of restraint. Certainly for those of us with true passion for clothes, we like to use fashion as a means of self-expression and to show our good taste (and yes, often our commitment to spending good money on our clothes).
The ability to truly stand out while wearing formalwear is vastly limited; suits have an undisputed tendency to standardise your overall appearance. This ‘greyishness’ can be countered by focusing on perfect fit, being aware of your proportions and through the use of subtle accessories (shoes being of primary importance here). It is the small details and pursuit of perfection that will allow those of us working in professional environment – where certain dress codes will always be set in stone – to fulfil our sartorial aspirations.
Think office suit and the ‘rules of the game’ will prohibit you from picturing anything other than a two or three button version. Double breasted suits offer a beautiful military alternative, but their cut simply does not put enough emphasis on your shoulders; something which many men have spent endless hours working on in the gym, in order to achieve that desirable ‘V’ shape.
So what is the alternative for those men looking to stand out in the office during 2012?
Traditionally, one-button suits were associated with high fashion and seen as a beautiful, yet in the realm of real life, impracticable choice. However, we now live in a different age. Men are increasingly opening up to fashion in its more radical forms and designers are recognising this. The likes of Prada and Dolce & Gabbana have recently been seen relaxing their traditionally smart aesthetic, pushing men’s pumps as the hottest trend for this summer.
In this world of sartorial laissez-fair, it is time to take one-button suit more seriously, and think of it as a very capable addition to our formalwear options.
Several things need to be kept in mind though. One-button jackets have a tendency to resemble evening wear, as their cut is derived from the tuxedo, which usually carries only one button and has an elongated jacket shape. It is precisely this elongated shape that makes one-button suits desirable – it puts all the emphasis on shoulders rather than hips, in turn creating a wide-shouldered and muscular, manly look.
Rather unfortunately, this also makes it a curse for those who may not have the body shape for the cut. The lower positioning of the button and a much bigger open area in front draws a lot of attention to stomach, which means that carrying even a little bit of extra weight makes them look rather unflattering.
For those of you who tick the box in terms of a body type, there is no better way to draw attention to your slim figure and wide shoulders. The lack of extra buttons in the lower part of the jacket avoids the slightly oval shape that you get with two or three button suits – and this nipped waist, combined with the deep lapels, gives you a longer, thinner look.
There is also an inherent practicability to the one-button jacket. You would only ever button the upper button on your two-button suit, therefore it makes sense to only have the fastening you need – as is the case with one button suits. Wearing clothes that achieve a perfect unity with your body while streamlining the extras that are unnecessary, is the essence of sartorialism.
As always, it is important to first seek inspiration before buying into the trend. With this in mind, it would be a disgrace to talk about one-button suits and not mention Dolce & Gabbana. The two Italians have created some of the best examples of this suit cut, and the one-button suit is a mainstay in their collections, year on year.
In my humble opinion, no other design house is more capable at epitomising what ‘Italian’ and ‘tailored’ should look like. It is, therefore, Dolce & Gabbana’s lookbook that we should turn to for our primal point of inspiration:
Extremely narrow lapels, an elongated shape, a slim tie and avoidance of anything even slightly superfluous, Dolce & Gabbana allows their tailoring to speak for itself. One button suits are part of Dolce & Gabbana’s Gold and Martini collections each year, and it is the quality of material and the perfection in cut that make them so special.
However, achieving a similar look may be easier than you think, as the high street now offers a variety of one-button options. For example, Marks & Spencer and Reiss currently offer a great variety of slim fit one-button suits. (Our selection of one button suits can be found in the product picks at the end of this article.)
Using the expression ‘minimalist’ is entirely on point in the context of one button suits. Their streamlined slim cut that hugs the body begs for careful choice of accessories and avoidance of anything superfluous.
Although the fashion world has grown a little tired of skinny ties, and wider ties have recently grown in popularity, going skinny is still the best option when wearing a one button suit. As demonstrated on some of the Dolce & Gabbana looks, this is the best way to keep the overall outfit simple and draw attention to the fit and proportions.
With one button suits, a tie should merely be a component of the overall aesthetic, rather than a statement piece that shouts for attention. This does not preclude you from adding a bit of colour – however, you should avoid any wild patterns.
Other accessories should also be toned down, to let the minimalist character of a one button suit speak for itself. Avoid extras such as pocket squares, collar bars and lapel pins. Instead, use the minimalist character of a one button suit to your advantage by playing with subliminal details and adding a little sprezzatura.
As mentioned countless times before, no matter how good the quality of the clothes you buy is, it is the hands of your tailor that will push your look that one step further towards perfection. This is particularly true for us young and aspiring professionals with high sartorial standards – our wallets are only half-full, but we have the option to spend less on the suit and make a few key alterations to truly make the look our own.
You might have noticed on the recent runways that the industry now prefers much shorter suit jackets. This compliments the slimmer suit cut and makes the overall look much more contemporary. However, this applies to two and three-button suits only.
The elongated triangular shape of a ‘one-button’ jacket allows you to opt for some extra cloth. In fact, going longer is desirable with this style, as this only puts more emphasis on the wide-shouldered, lean look. Being too short is a common flaw with some of the one-button suits offered by high street retailers. Shorter cut one button suits give off a 1960s rock’n'roll aesthetic, which is rather less elegant and not as suitable in an office environment.
Although you may well be sure of your sizing, and there is nothing wrong with simply opting for a ready-to-wear one-button suit from a high street retailer, making a few alterations is never a bad idea if you have the courage, some extra time and a good tailor that is prepared to listen to your demands.
As controversial as it may sound, my personal preference is to buy a longer jacket (but your normal sized trousers). This makes sure that the front open area is larger and the button is lower, which accentuates the nipped waist look. Buying a longer jacket, however, begs for a few alterations.
For starters, your tailor will need to nip the sides of the jacket and shorten the sleeves. Shortening the overall jacket length may be a consideration as well. What initially sounds like an unnecessary complication will help you to become an owner of a suit that you will truly love. Remember that fit is the king and that investing that extra bit of your time and £50-100 of your pocket money is a one way ticket to the land of haute couture.
Living in this age when men are increasingly becoming fashion-forward and spend much more of their time and money on sartorial pursuits, it is time that one button suit steps up as a real office wear choice for a young professional.
When buying into the trend, we need to be vigilant and dwell on details. It is the perfection in cut that will make your look stand apart, which is why getting the help of your tailor is the best solution if you want to own a suit that you truly love, feel confident in and that forms a unity with your body shape – a truly custom, ‘haute couture’ piece of clothing.