A pair of black oxford lace-ups. A standby white T-shirt. A suit. There are some menswear staples that transcend time and trends. But a suit might be one of the most interesting ones to explore—especially since the rise of streetwear- and athletic-inspired fashion has led some declare its imminent death. No chance. The suit lives on, and will continue to do so.
Still, while the suit itself is timeless, the styles, silhouettes, and fabric are distinct over time. For hundreds of years, it’s been the single outfit a man could wear that meant you were dressed in a way that was polished, professional, or formal. Evolving from constricting three-piece suits and ruffled undershirts, the modern suit is not at all what our founding menswear fathers used it as.
What about the suits you can wear today? Options extend far beyond black, gray, and navy. There are bright colors, whimsical prints, and fabrics previously reserved for at-home sweatpants. In a time of complete personalization (and increasingly lax dress codes), it’s no wonder a new and varied suiting landscape has sprung up. We looked to the menswear experts—a stylist, a buyer, and a brand director—to break down what it means to wear a suit now.
It’s Not So Stiff Anymore
For years, suits were synonymous with reservation. You wore a tux to a black tie wedding; a black suit to a funeral; a gray or navy one to the workplace. But it wasn’t just the situation that was formal—the suits themselves were, too.
“Go back five to ten years, and you were either wearing a suit with a tie and a formal shirt or you were wearing casual wear, with no in between,” says Sam Lobban, Mr Porter’s Buying Manager. “Those two lines have blurred a lot more. We’re seeing suits being worn in a much more casual way, like with a crewneck sweater rather than in this super-formal, buttoned-up way.”
Ilaria Urbinati, a celebrity stylist—she’s to thank for Donald Glover’s brown velvet jacket and basically everything Chris Evans has ever worn—helps interpret the causal approach to a suit in her work. “There are just so many ways to play now—with fabrics, with colors, with proportions,” she says. “Guys are also incorporating athleisure into their suiting—wearing sneakers instead of dress shoes, wearing polos and T-shirts instead of dress shirts.”
Lawrence Schlossman, brand director at Grailed, emphasized the updated approach to a traditional piece of clothing. “This idea of wearing a suit or being buttoned up used to be restrictive,” he says. “But there’s this other type of beautiful suiting out there; it’s focused on construction, quality, and longevity while still bringing comfort. Wearing a suit now is about comfortability more than anything else.”
Is the Athleisure Movement to Blame?
It’s impossible to talk about the more comfortable approach to suiting without talking about athleisure—the movement that has influenced and informed every trend in modern menswear.
“Because of this shift towards casualwear, people aren’t just wearing suits because they have to anymore,” says Mr Porter’s Sam Lobban. “They’re choosing to wear it, and because of that they’re thinking more about the function or how it’s going to fit in their wardrobe since it’s more of a desired purchase than a necessary one.”