Facts About Suits That Might Surprise You
There’s not much you really need to know about suits, with Henry A. Davidsen’s Philadelphia-based image consultants at your disposal. We have a knack for understanding exactly what cuts, colors, and styles will flatter each individual’s physique while commanding the right kind of attention in the boardroom, ballroom — or even down at the corner bar. Our master tailors take care of every detail so you can build a wardrobe that works.
The fact that you’re here with us means you share our appreciation for the classic sophistication of a fine suit. In that spirit, we’ve put together this list of fun facts about the suit that might surprise you, or at least come in handy during your next cocktail party conversation.
The English word “suit” evolved from the French word “suite,” which meant “to follow.” There’s no official record of how that evolution occurred. While etymology can be difficult to trace, a suit’s characteristic matching jacket and trousers can be said to “follow” each other up or down.
The term “bespoke” is widely misused in the menswear industry and beyond. A “bespoke cocktail,” for example, isn’t really a thing.
In the early days of custom tailoring on London’s Savile Row, shops stocked large bolts of cloth instead of the fabric books we use today. When a client had decided on a cloth for his custom suit, it had “been spoken for,” and was thus unavailable to anyone else. The word “bespoke” is a natural etymological development from that phrase.
Nowadays, the definition of “bespoke” is pretty muddied, but know that it always refers to a fully custom garment.
Beau Brummell: The Patron Saint of Suits
The original dandy, George “Beau” Brummel was an arbiter of men’s style in Regency England (1795-1837). At the time, stylish men wore powdered wigs, high-heel shoes, makeup, and extremely bright-colored clothing.
Beau Brummel changed all that. His relatively simple personal style of dark, sober colors and impeccable fit ushered in a new era of menswear that we’re still in nearly 200 hundred years later. His friendship with the Prince Regent (future King George IV) garnered him great influence and fame, but he died penniless and alone in France after they had a falling out.
To Button or Not to Button?
Leaving the final, bottom button on a suit jacket unbuttoned is not a lazy oversight. It allows the top button to act as a fulcrum, balancing the jacket on the wearer and giving a pleasing, symmetrical look.
Decorum also dictates that jackets’ top buttons remain buttoned while you’re standing up, and only when you’re sitting is it acceptable to unfasten them.
Most tailored jackets have one or two vents (openings in the back). Referred to as “center” or “side” vents respectively, the center vent jacket has fallen largely out of fashion, but it actually has some historical significance in the British equestrian tradition.
If we think about functionality, center vents make sense while on horseback. You can ride without the jacket rumpling, making the experience more comfortable. Sport coats, in the most traditional sense of the term, are those worn for outdoor “sport” such as riding, fox hunting, or shooting, and they all traditionally take a center vent.
Even with this knowledge, the custom sport coats we make at Henry A. Davidsen typically take side vents, as we feel this flatters more body types.
It’s fascinating to see the extent to which centuries of tradition have influenced today’s modern menswear and how little has really changed, even as technology has taken over the globe and people’s tastes have evolved.
Now that we’ve stoked your love for suits, it’s time to come visit us and get fitted for some of the finest made-to-measure clothing in Philadelphia and the surrounding region. Schedule an appointment by giving us a call or filling out a contact form on our website today.