As far as the rules of clothing are concerned, t-shirts have always fallen under the category of casual, while suits are very much part of the formal pantheon – dressed as they are with classic tie and a smart pair of shoes. Rules though, as we all know, are there to be broken and never has this old adage chimed truer than fashion in the early part of the 21st century.
These two unlikely bedfellows have in the past couple of years formed a bond that has seen them become something of a unique partnership. Frequently will you now see dapper young men and suave old crooners kicking back in a suit with a t-shirt underneath that well-crafted jacket. It’s not just the full suit either; smart trousers and shoes are now worn with t-shirts minus the suit jacket while contrast blazers and formal trews are now de rigueur for any spruce-up man about town.
You only need to take a quick look at some of the street style snaps from the major fashion shows and Italian trade show Pitti Uomo this summer (may we be so courteous to suggest Tommy Ton’s www.jak&jil.com and Jonathan Pryces’ www.garconjon.com?) to witness the emergence and amalgamation of smart tailoring and casual elegance.
From the hip kids of Swedish clothing store Tres Bien to the likes of model Oliver Chesire and rapper Tinie Tempah, this smart-meets-casual look has become a key component of modern menswear. Thanks to the relaxing of sartorial rulebooks, no longer do us gents have to spend the summer months sweltering in shirts and ties, we can look smart, debonair, cool and sophisticated without having to don the usual formal attire.
Just because the rules of fashion are breaking new ground, this does not mean there are not certain rules we should still follow when putting this look together. So without further ado, here’s a few tips for how to get the most out of this suave yet contemporary take on the way we dress for the modern age.
The first thing to say is that you don’t have to wear a suit, it could just as easily be a contrast blazer / trouser combination or, if the climate allows, you can leave the jacket behind and simply pull on a well-tailored pair of trousers. As with all suits, and this really should go without saying but I’ll say it anyway, make sure your suit fits. I know that sounds like common sense but so many folk get this wrong keep your trouser slim through the leg and shorter rather than longer in length in order to show off those ankles (and immediately gain points with the hipsters) this summer.
This is possibly the most essential part of getting this look right, wear an inappropriate t-shirt and the whole outfit shall fall apart. Keep your t-shirt unadorned; this is a look that should still hold true to the good old-fashioned rules of formal wear – sophisticated, stylish and refined – you are not trying to make a fashion statement with your t-shirt. Plain white is perfect but any plain colour will suffice and if you do decide to venture from this path, stick to Breton stripes or anything that still retains a sense of tact and decorum.
The beauty of this look is it enables a broad spectrum of footwear to work with the outfit. From the more formal side of things i.e loafers (MFM’s personal preference), brogues and derbys, to trainers and hi-tops from brands such as Converse (hi-top), Nike, New Balance and if you’re feeling a little flush, Common Projects, your choice of footwear is entirely up to you. Essentially go by the unusual rule of the more formal the occasion, the smarter the shoe.
SOME FINAL WORDS…
As the word suggests, trends, especially in this changeable age we live in, come and go in the blink of an eye but this new merger between t-shirts and formal wear might just be here to stay. This is a look that transcends clothing genres and brings with it a certain sense of playful style helping to cover a multitude of social occasions. The beauty of this look is that while it certainly incorporates a more relaxed, contemporary ‘feel’ to the way we now dress, it still retains a sense of dignified style and any trend that manages to merge modern fashion with traditional style and can be worn by people of all shapes and age can only be a good thing.