The latest book by Bernhard Roetzel: A Gentleman's Look Book
published by H.F.
Ullman on 31 July 2017.
You ve often heard the proverb You don t get a second chance
to make a first impression And why? Because it s true. Appearance counts! And
the appearance of a gentleman is his stage. In A Gentleman s Look Book,
menswear and style expert Bernhard Roetzel presents stylish combinations fit
for every occasion from elegant to casual chic. For this book, the author has
summoned the best dressed men from the fashion scene to share their favorite
looks. What does a man wear to a business-lunch, over the weekend, or on
special occasions? From the tie to the shoe, from the shirt to the tuxedo
everything a man needs for a stylish appearance is shown in exquisite color
photos and diverse, elegant outfits. In the business look, the gentleman
appears in a classic and formal outfit, which has many advantages. Bernhard
Roetzel: The classic look is timeless, independent of fashions and trends so to
say. It is however timeless in the sense that you can wear classic clothing at
any age. The look of the casual gentleman is well suited for day-to-day life.
On the one hand, the wearer demonstrates timeless taste; on the other, he shows
himself to be finely dressed, despite a certain casualness. The wardrobe for
festive occasions shows the gentleman in striking, yet discreet elegance.
For over 400 years the tailored suit has dominated wardrobes
the world over. Its simple forms, inspired by royal, military, religious and
professional clothing, have provided a functional and often elegant uniform for
modern life. But whether bespoke or tailor-made, on the street or in the
office, during times of celebration or of crisis, we typically take the suit
for granted, ignoring its complex construction and many symbolic meanings.
The Suit unpicks the story of this most familiar garment,
from its emergence in western Europe at the end of the seventeenth century to
today. Suit-wearing figures such as the Savile Row gentleman and the Wall
Street businessman have long embodied ideas of tradition, masculinity, power
and respectability, but the suit has also been used to disrupt concepts of
gender and conformity. Adopted and subverted by women, artists, musicians and
social revolutionaries through the decades – from dandies and Sapeurs to the
Zoot Suit and Le Smoking – the suit is also a device for challenging the status
For all those interested in the history of menswear, this
beautifully illustrated book offers new perspectives on this most mundane, and
poetic, product of modern culture.
Be as in love with your jeans, sweatpants, or flannels as
you want, it’s hard to refute the sumptuous feel of a finely tailored suit—as
well as the statement of power that comes with it. For over a century the suit
has dominated wardrobes, its simple form making it the go-to attire for
boardrooms, churches, or cocktail bars—anywhere one wants to make an
impression. But this ubiquity has allowed us to take the suit’s history for
granted, and its complex construction, symbolic power, and many shifting
meanings have been lost to all but the most devout sartorialists.
In The Suit, Christopher Breward unstitches the story of our
most familiar garment. He shows how its emergence at the end of the seventeenth
century reflects important political rivalries and the rise of modern
democratic society. He follows the development of technologies in the textile
industry and shows how they converge on the suit as an ideal template of modern
fashion, which he follows across the globe—to South and East Asia
especially—where the suit became an icon of Western civilization. The quintessential
emblem of conformity and the status quo, the suit ironically became, as Breward
unveils, the perfect vehicle for artists, musicians, and social revolutionaries
to symbolically undermine hegemonic culture, twisting and tearing the suit into
political statements. Looking at the suit’s adoption by women, Breward goes on
to discuss the ways it signals and engages gender. He closes by looking at the
suit’s apparent decline—woe the tyranny of business casual!—and questioning its
survival in the twenty-first century.
Beautifully illustrated and written with the authority a
Zegna or Armani itself commands, The Suit offers new perspectives on this
In the 1984 film of the Talking Heads concert “Stop Making
Sense”, singer David Byrne cheerfully bops along to the band in an oversized
grey two-piece suit that ripples like water with every flex of his gawky frame.
As dress historian Christopher Breward observes, the absurdly proportioned
blazer lampoons both the ostentations of yuppies and the monstrous egotism of
artists; there are allusions, too, to Japanese Noh theatre and the laconic
installations of Joseph Beuys.
The Beuys is a nice touch, since Breward’s book The Suit has
its own spare, modernist elegance. It presents a decisively uncluttered history
of menswear, cutting a clean line through 18th-century French military uniforms
to dandies, Pasolini films and 20th-century Italian tailoring, all the while
insisting on the suit’s “all-pervasive influence in modern and contemporary
Breward’s conception of what constitutes a suit —
long-sleeved buttoned jacket, long trousers, sometimes a sleeveless waistcoat —
allows for an expansive approach. He politely amends the conventional dress
history that cites the origin of the suit in Charles II’s championing of the
“cassock” (avidly recorded by an agog Samuel Pepys in 1666), noting prior debts
to Arabian vests and military-wear. The suit variously symbolises
post-Reformation sobriety, aristocratic models of governance and the moderation
of mercantile classes, but it also owes a debt, he asserts, to the invention of
the tape measure and tailoring techniques developed in the 1820s that allowed
the idea of the civilised body to be mass-produced.
Along the way, Breward nods to all the usual smartly dressed
suspects: Beau Brummell, Thomas Carlyle and Oscar Wilde make appearances, and
diligent discussions of mods, Mao jackets and zoot suits follow. When the late
cultural theorist Stuart Hall crops up, querying the decency of the suited and
booted “free born Englishman”, the objection reads like a dyspeptic peeve next
to Breward’s encomium to fine threads, and although the author concedes Hall’s
point, he also demurs, mildly defensive, suggesting how readily the fabrics and
fashions of empire have permeated English style.
There is, perhaps, a kind of gallantry too in Breward’s
efforts to extend to a more global perspective: he attends to the Chinese
Zhongshan zhuang, or Mao suit, with its high-buttoned collars and patch
pockets; the closed-neck coat, or Nehru jacket, modelled on the Indian
sherwani; and, most fascinatingly, the austere chic of Japanese iki style, whose
clean lines have had an astonishing afterlife in the work of designers Kenzo
Takada, Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto.
Breward takes unmistakable pleasure in his subject.
Specialist textiles are lovingly itemised: “smooth worsteds, soft Saxonies and
rough Cheviots”, rich with heritage and mystery. What’s missing, perhaps, is a
sense of something darker and unhappier that also lingers in the suit. The late
historian Anne Hollander is quoted observing that there is a kind of
“irritating perfection” here, a completeness at odds with the jagged edges of
modern life. Breward acknowledges this but prefers to dwell on the suit’s
ability to establish “a code of human and social relations”. He notes the
shamefaced bankers shuffling out of Lehman Brothers in expensive sportswear
after the bank’s collapse in 2008: “Nothing could have symbolised better a
collapse in public trust,” he writes.
More alluring for Breward is the natural sympathy he spots
between suits and architecture, the connections to the clean and rational
aesthetics of Loos and Le Corbusier. And there is something profound and
arresting in the unspoken suggestion that we might think of the suit too as a
kind of habitable structure in which life takes place. Breward’s is a book with
all the buttons neatly done up, persuasive in its assertion that the suit and
the “human civilisation” it signifies will endure. And yet, oddly, it is in
moments of disarray or deviation that the suit seems most provocative. How
telling that in a handsomely illustrated book, the most striking image of all
is of a woman, photographed by Helmut Newton, cropped hair slicked back and
cigarette in hand: silent and unassailable in her Yves Saint Laurent tuxedo.
The Suit: Form, Function and Style, by Christopher Breward,
Reaktion, RRP £18/$27, 240 pages
Shahidha Bari is lecturer in Romanticism at Queen Mary
University of London
evolution of men’s suits
Despite its classic appeal, the suit
is constantly evolving. Christopher Breward measures up its sartorial impact
and wonders how it will next reinvent itself
Formal suits are one of those overlooked but enduring
elements of modern life. For almost 400 years their presence in public life has
been constant. Despite predictions of a demise in their popularity, their
unobtrusive contours still clothe the bodies of men and women in all walks of
life and all regions of the world. And beneath the monotony of appearances
there is a poetry to their simple forms. The very fabrics and weaves of the
suit’s construction read like an ode to the traditional landscape: Saxonies and
Cheviots in plain or Panama, hopsack or Celtic, Mayo, Campbell or Russian
twill, Bannockburn, Eton stripe or Glenurquhart check.
Aside from its status as an icon of unchanging heritage, the
suit has also adapted itself subtly and cleverly to change. Indeed, there are
many fashion journalists who now look to this staple of menswear for signs of
creativity and innovation that have been lacking in womenswear for years. The
financial crisis, environmental concerns and a generation of consumers attuned
to questions of ethics and quality have created a space in which a vibrant, if
niche version of contemporary sartorialism can thrive. In this context, the
longstanding values of perfect form and fitness for function attached to the
cult of the suit have endured, prospered and look set to continue.
An evolving form of technology in its own right, the suit
offers a canvas for those in the clothing industry who have become neophiles,
championing future possibilities. In the present and coming marketplace, suits
made to measure through the precision of body scanning and produced by digital
printers, engineered to resist staining and creasing or to preclude the need
for wasteful and damaging dry cleaning are either familiar items on the shop
rail or at prototype stage.
In the realms of science fiction and experimentation the
suit has lent itself to investigations of everyday clothing as armour against
violent attack and surveillance, as a communications device for the
transmission of big data, and as a membrane for medical and psychological
intervention, feeding drugs to the body or enhancing mood. Its adaptability has
ensured its survival as an icon and vehicle of modernity.
In just the past century then, the suit has been used for
the purposes of trade, politics and nationalism. It has been adapted by
mainstream designers and subverted by subcultures. Its currency has held value
for the established professions – the lawyers, bankers and undertakers – while
inspiring artists, writers, musicians and film-makers.
And in the more mundane circumstances of everyday life,
though I find myself reaching for the tweeds and denim of sad middle-aged habit
too often, the charcoal suit does still emerge from my wardrobe on occasions
that demand more careful observation. In that sense my wardrobe habits have not
evolved too far from those that dictated appearances for my father and
grandfather’s generations. In all of this I find some reason to hold out hope
that the suit will endure for another 400 years, provided those values of
reason, democracy, beauty and progress that characterise civilisation endure
The Suit: Form, Function and Style by Christopher Breward is
published on 18 April (£18, Reaktion Books )
The new sapeurs
Look alive: sapeurs
in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo.
Look alive: sapeurs in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of
Congo. Photograph: Per-Anders Pettersson/Corbis
Inspired by the revolutionary ideas of André Matsoua in the
1930s and fuelled by the cosmopolitanism of pan African music and dance that
thrived in the 1950s and 60s, returning emigres from Paris fuelled a revival of
political dandyism in the 1980s and 90s. Now the young men of Brazzaville and
Kinshasa assert their aspirational styles as a form of ownership of the means
to freedom. Suits were never made simply to conform. The Société des
Ambianceurs et des Personnes Élégantes and its followers, the Sapeurs, have
promoted a vibrant revival of the suit in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The Burton classic
Three men training as
tailors looking at the inside of a suit jacket
Tinker tailor: a team of tailor trainees at the Burton firm
in Guisborough, Cleveland, in 1960. Photograph: Walter Nurnberg/Getty Images
Montague Burton founded his suit business in Chesterfield in
1903 and it grew to become one of Britain’s largest chains of clothes shops.
Our understanding of the suit as a badge of healthy, respectable British
manliness owes much to Burton’s ethos. Between the 1920s and 1970s most British
men would have passed through Burton’s doors to purchase their first suit,
imbibing as they did its military precision, moral rectitude and quiet taste
that informed a reassuring sense of what was normal. Loud colours, extreme cut
and any tendency towards unsporty softness were viewed with extreme suspicion.
The 1940s Edwardian
Man holding gloves
and an umbrella, wearing a bowler hat and a tight-waisted suit
Fancy dress: the New Edwardian style. Photograph: Woolmark
There is something so satisfyingly elegant about the New
Edwardian suit, that aristocratic fad that hit the streets of Mayfair and
Chelsea in the late 1940s and early 1950s. A revivalist fad among ex-guardsmen,
aristocratic loafers and interior designers, its wasp-waisted outline set
itself against the baggy hang of the demob suits that served for the majority
of the male UK population. The style’s accessories – bowler hat, polished shoes
and umbrella – provided regimental glamour, while velvet collars, embroidered
waistcoats, ticket pockets and covered buttons recalled the bonhomie of
racetrack and music hall: suit as fancy dress.
The Armani gigolo
Richard Gere in
American Gigolo wearing a suit, shirt and tie, hands at his waist
‘Armani suits signalled a sense of femininity’: Richard Gere
wearing Armani in the 1980 film American Gigolo. Photograph: CinemaPhoto/Corbis
Giorgio Armani deconstructed the suit in the 1980s, sloping
the shoulders, lowering the buttons and adopting lighter fabrics. His suits
signalled a sense of femininity, an abandonment to the caressing feel of fabric
on the hard surfaces of the male body. This was a frisson celebrated in his
designs for the lead character Julian, played by Richard Gere, in American
Gigolo. Julian’s narcissism became the signature theme for a decade’s
flirtation with style.
The Japanese minimalist
Man with an Afro, hand
casually in pocket, in open-necked shirt, long-sleeved jacket and loose silky
Sleek chic: a model wears Yohji Yamamoto AW15 for Men’s
Paris Fashion Week. Photograph: Sipa/Rex/Shutterstock
‘Iki’ is the ancient Japanese understanding of understated
elegance, a concept that has proved useful in the translation of the rules of
the European and North American suit to other contexts. In the 1970s Japanese
designers brought a hybrid interpretation of East and West to the Paris
catwalks. Kenzo Takada, Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto developed an austere,
decentred suit. Beloved of architects, avant-garde film directors and
advertising moguls, it proclaimed all the sophistication that Savile Row
The Regatta Enclosure is situated on the Berkshire bank,
just downstream from the Stewards' Enclosure. It is open to competitors,
supporters and the general public. The Regatta Enclosure offers seating
alongside the river and in an open grandstand. There is also an excellent
covered restaurant, an outside dining area and a bar.
Regatta Enclosure badges are valid for the whole day and
must be worn at all times within the Enclosure. Badges are also valid for entry
into the Boat Tent area .
The enclosure situated on the Berkshire side, adjacent to
the last part of the course and the finish line. It comprises two covered
grandstands, a restaurant marquee, several bars, a bandstand and so on - all
set in immaculately prepared lawns. It is only open to the Stewards of the
Regatta, members of the Stewards' Enclosure and their guests. Overseas
competitors are also given the opportunity to purchase tickets.
The Stewards' Enclosure as understood today, an enclosure
open to members (elected by the Committee of Management of the Regatta) and
their guests, came into being in 1919 with a membership of 300. This grew to
704 in 1939 and 1,500 in 1956. In 1980 the Stewards set a ceiling of 5,000. The
waiting list for membership of the Stewards Enclosure is now several years
long, although preference is given to people who have previously competed at
the regatta. The waiting list has grown rapidly since the 1970s, when
membership could be applied for and granted on the same day.
The social position of the event means that some in the
Stewards' Enclosure (and elsewhere along the course) may have no interest in
the actual rowing.
The Stewards' Enclosure is also known for a strict
enforcement of its dress code. Men are required to wear a "lounge suit,
blazer and flannels, or evening dress, and a tie". Women are required to
wear a dress or skirt that covers their knees, and are "encouraged to wear
a hat" (although women wearing hats is often frowned upon in higher rowing
circles). Anyone not suitably dressed can be refused entry, no matter their
prestige in rowing or elsewhere. Mobile phone use is also prohibited.
The regatta prizegiving takes place in the Stewards'
Enclosure after the conclusion of racing on Sunday.