The REAL Traditionalism
Lately I’ve found myself more and more drawn to tailoring that breaks the rules, defies the classifications, and by that I don’t necessarily mean ultra-loud or assertive tailoring. Call it more of a “broad stroke” traditionalism. I like spread collars too much to forgo wearing them with my Brooks Brothers tweeds, and I love to wear my Mercer buttondowns with my Belvest suit, which has a fairly Neapolitan look to it. Is it “Ivy”? I don’t give a damn.
The other day I acquired this old Southwick suit that broke the world wide open:
It’s an American-made whipcord suit with natural shoulders, lapped seams, swelled edges, a rolled three-button, plain-front slacks. The color I can only describe as tannish-olive-grayish. Sounds “Ivy” enough to me, so I wore it with a Mercer chambray button-down and navy knit. But it also has a great deal of Anglo detailing. Hacking pockets, ticket pocket, side vents, yes, but also that delicate shape to the waist and slight swell of drape at the chest.
I almost couldn’t believe it was a Southwick, and it didn’t seem so Ivy anymore, it seemed more like an English country suit. The trousers have a full cut and a high rise, and seemed to demand a strong cuff and a good break.
So I tried the same suit with a spread collar tattersall in brown on ecru, and a chunky wool challis from Drakes. Doesn’t get much more English country than that.
But then I noticed that with the generously draped sleeves, high gorge, and beautifully rippled waterfall shoulder, I could potentially get a Italian traditional, Luciano Barbera-esque vibe from this thing, so I grabbed a Borelli shirt with a high, soft spread collar and a Rubinacci ancient madder tie.
The point, finally, is not to classify this suit, but to enjoy the lack of classification and the freedom that it brings. Get too hung up on this stuff and it’s too easy to end up looking like a J.Press catalog cutout, or an extra on the set of Mad Men, or a “Fucking Polo Window” or a Hackett ad. The details make sense and coalesce together in a way that is uncommon without being jarring or seeming forced. They’re all traditional, even if they don’t all point to the same tradition, and combined on the same suit they’re harmonious, not disparate.