It’s tricky to know where to begin with this one. Perhaps the best thing to do is to report the barefaced facts. So, here goes nothing…
At the Spring/Summer ’19 catwalks earlier this year, where the big designer brands showcased the summer collections now coming into store, one styling decision had me spluttering into my industry-standard iced oat milk mocha with hazelnut syrup more than any other.
For some unfathomable reason, a plethora of influential designer brands – I’m looking at you Dior, Roberto Cavalli, Acne, Dries Van Noten – chose to send their models down the runway wearing suits without anything beneath them. No shirts, no knitwear, no T-shirts, not even a string vest. Nothing, nada, niente.
Now, I appreciate fashion design is a creative art, and a form of personal self-expression for many people – I wouldn’t choose to wander about in pink jackets or wide-leg trousers if I didn’t subscribe to that view – but even by my own weird and wonderful standards, wearing suits without clothes beneath them is a confounding exercise. Of course, the catwalks are there to put forward an aspirational, glamorised vision for men’s style and I understand that innovating is important, but I fear brands forget the most important thing about fashion: men like you and I are meant to be able to wear it.
“By writing this I feel like the fashion industry’s equivalent of Winston Smith, thinking the unthinkable under Big Brother’s judgmental gaze.”
When are we all supposed to wear our shirtless suits, pray tell? To a shareholder meeting perhaps? Or maybe as the best man at your brother’s wedding? ‘It’s so lovely to see you all here on this special day. I hope you won’t mind but I decided it’d be best to simplify my outfit and catch some rays outside the vestry – very à la mode, this bare-chested lark.’
The weird thing is, with so many brands toting this trend, by writing this I feel like the fashion industry’s equivalent of Winston Smith, thinking the unthinkable under Big Brother’s judgmental gaze. Yet I don’t buy the idea that something is fashionable just because a designer brand does it. Menswear is meant to be flattering, wearable and appropriate to the environment you find yourself in. I struggle to think of any context where I’d be comfortable presenting myself to the world bare-chested beneath a double-breasted jacket.
In fact, I’d go so far as to say that this trend is a prime example of the men’s fashion industry divorcing itself from reality. For the best part of 120 years, men have worn the suit because it’s reliable, masculine, and elegant. Wandering down Bond Street with your nipples peeping out definitely isn’t any of those things, even in 30-degree heat.
So, if you’d like to lighten up your tailoring this summer, heed my advice and wear your suit with a T-shirt. Choose a nude-coloured one if you wish. But don’t for heaven’s sake bare your chest. You live in the real world, not on a catwalk, and in the real world, humans wear clothes.
That said, there’s one good thing about the shirtless suit trend; by this logic I’ll be able to get away with walking the dog sans trousers before too long. I’m off to give it a try – it’s all the rage in Paris, you know…