A Formal Statement
It’s not breaking news that prints, colours and patterns are making their presence felt within current menswear collections. Although regularly embraced during the spring/summer months, as we transition into autumn you may be fooled into thinking that bold hues and vivid motifs would give way to the safety of dark, neutral colours – especially when it comes to more conservative pieces such as tailoring and suits.
However, it seems that menswear is not ready to let go of its infatuation with print and pattern just yet – and as a result, one developing new trend for AW14 is the statement suit. Not something that is appropriate for true formal occasions, designers have applied everything from checks and stripes to spots and graphics to this bastion of menswear, clearly with one eye on party season…
The most popular take on the statement suit this year saw the continuation of a popular cold-weather pattern trend: checks.
Checked tailoring is hardly revolutionary, after trending for the past two autumn/winter seasons, but these types of suits are undoubtedly more adventurous than banal, neutral versions that can be spotted in any financial district during the working week. The good thing about check suiting is that it’s completely timeless, and there is a huge array of designs available to the modern gent – from traditional Prince of Wales checks to oversized windowpane squares, men can choose to make as much or as little of a statement as they feel comfortable with.
One of the biggest supporters of the statement check trend for AW14 was Etro, with its Great Gatsby-inspired collection. Here, classic three-piece suiting came in a number of different check patterns, in various shades of cream, brown and beige – a palette typically associated with spring/summer collections rather than autumn/winter.
The first look set the scene well: a three-piece cream suit with accompanying coat, gloves, tote bag, shoes and tie, all in the same windowpane check – head-to-toe dressing in the extreme.
Similar checked suits followed in various hues and tones, again with matching accessories. Other looks made use of larger checked patterns in darker, autumnal shades of orange and mustard, as well as a muted houndstooth check in beige-brown.
The overall aesthetic was a little overbearing due to the matching accessories, but Etro managed to demonstrate that bold checked tailoring is able to make a strong yet sophisticated statement:
Checked tailoring played a key role in Patrick Grant’s collection at E. Tautz too. The designer applied a black and white oversized houndstooth check (along with a similar motif that contained a blue element running through) to blazers and trousers for a smart and refined feel.
E. Tautz went on to showcase a broken geometric check that utilised Tetris-like squares across a suit and matching oversized overcoat in black and slate grey tones:
Also worthy of a mention is the collection from Alexander McQueen, which added a punk twist to its checked suiting by making use of bold, oversized motifs in black, white and pink. The punk influence came in the form of kilts in the same check pattern being worn over the trousers, and this look was accentuated further by the make-up and hair accessorised with black crow feathers.
McQueen went on to feature suits in an alternative, but just as popular pattern: stripes. Coming in a tonal monochrome palette, these stripes were chunky and oversized and applied to both blazers and trousers:
Stripes & Pinstripes
Again, pinstripe suits in menswear are not particularly ground breaking and are actually quite common in the financial/corporate sectors. However, this season several designers gave this classic motif a contemporary twist in order to make their suits stand out.
Salvatore Ferragamo was an extremely prominent advocate, with the brand’s first striped suit featuring a wide, chalk stripe pattern in a double-breasted cut – reminiscent of those adopted by ruthless Wall Street workers during the 1980s, complete with echoes of Film Noir.
Those suits from the eighties had a reputation for being ill-fitting and unflattering, but Ferragamo demonstrated that when applied to well-cut tailoring, there is no reason why the thick chalk stripe can’t take on its pinstriped counterparts this season.
The brand’s use of stripes became even more ambitious with the introduction of a ‘broken stripe’ pattern, which was applied to a double-breasted jacket in both brown and navy blue. These jackets were cleverly teamed with plain trousers to avoid the pattern becoming too overbearing.
Yet Ferragamo’s most eye-catching statement suit was a striped version in burnt orange and brown – certainly not one for the faint-hearted. Although clearly not appropriate for all occasions, it would be a bold and brave choice for the confident male who isn’t afraid to show a bit of their personality.
Although the thought of an orange suit may initially seem intimidating, the brown stripe complemented the base tone perfectly and it could easily be anchored with brown accessories/shoes and a simple white dress shirt:
Other designers chose to make use of less conventional prints and patterns within their tailoring collections.
Dior Homme featured polka dot suits in black and white, including one variation that featured tiny white stars instead of traditional spots.
The brand also showed that florals are likely to continue into winter by featuring a grey suit with an all-over floral print in white and green, as well as a grey pinstripe suit featuring a large squiggle motif, reminiscent of a blossoming flower:
Elsewhere, Dolce & Gabbana took a religious approach by featuring images of churches, suits of armour and religious iconography across their suits, while Etro applied their signature paisley print to suiting in various colours, including a bold orange and blue, and more muted grey-on-grey colour way.
Valentino continued to champion the camouflage trend by featuring an all-over camo print suit in classic shades of khaki, green and brown, and Issey Miyake was fully inspired by the cosmos, as well as the notions of fire and ice. As written on Style.com: “Some pieces shone with the glow of the Northern Lights, others flared with magma.”
The suits showcased in the Issey Miyake collection fully embraced the influences outlined above, which led to multi-coloured prints representing the cosmos and colourful strata lines creating an almost ‘forked lightning’ effect:
How To Wear
Obviously, a statement suit is designed to do exactly that – make a statement – so this trend is definitely not for classicists, the faint-hearted or those men who are not confident enough to pull it off. You should be aware that this trend will undoubtedly attract attention, so you need to have the self-confidence and devil-may-care attitude to handle that.
If you want to dip your toe into the trend without going the whole hog, then the great news is that you can very easily try out patterned separates (whether trousers or a blazer) matched with plainer, block-coloured pieces.
For example, ASOS are currently stocking a velvet floral print blazer in blue and red by up-and-coming tailoring brand Noose & Monkey, which would look superb combined with a simple pair of black jeans/trousers and a plain shirt this party season:
- Noose & Monkey Floral Velvet Blazer In Skinny Fit
- Reiss Driver Twill Cotton Shirt
- Nudie Jeans Slim Jim Slim Fit Dry Black
Alternatively, why not dress down a pair of patterned trousers, such as Topman’s green checked take, with a neutral jumper and white trainers? Effortless off-duty dressing with an edge:
- French Connection Textured Chenille Jumper
- Topman Green Checked Cropped Trousers
- Fred Perry Hopman Trainers
For those of you bold, brave and confident enough to wear the trend from head-to-toe, our only advice would be to try and anchor your chosen suit with plain accessories and shirts, in order to stop the overall look becoming too busy and fussy.
Below you will find a selection of patterned suits and separates available on the current market:
- Asos Slim Fit Suit Jacket In Fine Stripe
- Suitsupply Jort Blue Check
- Suitsupply Havana Brown Check
- Topman Light Grey And Burgundy Check Suit
- Valentino Slim-fit Woven-wool Suit Jacket
- Ovadia & Sons Plaid Brushed-wool Suit Jacket
- Asos Slim Fit Blazer In Tartan
- Topman Noose And Monkey Floral Blazer
- He By Mango Slim-fit Check Wool-blend Blazer
- Ted Baker Tavada Wool Patterned Blazer
- Ted Baker Canne Wool Check Jacket
- Polo Ralph Lauren Tartan Wool And Cashmere-blend Blazer
- Selected Tartan Cropped Trousers In Skinny Fit
- Topman Ultra Skinny Floral Trousers
- Ted Baker Flortro Floral Paisley Chino
- Alexander Mcqueen Check Wool-twill Trousers 204265
- Ami Hounds-tooth Wool Tailored Trousers 213155
- Valentino Slim-fit Woven-wool Suit Trousers
Any sane man will realise that a statement suit is not appropriate for all occasions. But there is no reason why we cannot be slightly more adventurous where situations permit. Patterned tailoring offers a great way to get noticed, while injecting some fun and personality into a traditionally stuffy form of dress. What’s more, there is never a better time to try it out than party season.
The good news is that the statement suit spectrum is wide enough to allow men to be as adventurous as they like. As GQ write: “Pattern-wise there are no rules on what you should go for next season (although stand-outs include Salvatore Ferragamo’s stripes and Etro’s checks), so go for whatever feels right to you.”
But as always, we want to hear the opinions of the masses. Is the statement suit something you would attempt to wear? Or do you think that the suit by its very nature should remain subtle, refined and discreet?
Please leave your thoughts and musings below…