9.9.21

The Casual Tailoring Movement

The past two years have taken what we know of the world and turned it all on its head. Work life? Drastically different. Family life? Topsy-turvy. As Bob Dylan sang, the times they are a-changin’, and so it is with our wardrobes too. We talk a lot about the casualization of our clothes on this blog – and given the events of the past couple of years, how could we not? Also known as “soft tailoring,” casual tailoring movement is upon us.

What Is Soft Tailoring?

man in brown sport jacket and custom jeans

Permanent Style’s Simon Crompton in a soft tailoring classic combo – jeans, button-up shirt, and sport coat.

Sometimes the easiest way to understand something is in relation to its opposite. We’ll take this approach as we get into soft tailoring.

Traditional tailoring – which you could call “hard tailoring” for the purposes of this discussion – derives its aesthetic from severity of line. One reason a well-made (that is, fully canvassed) suit jacket makes a man look good is that it utilizes clean, crisp lines that drape from the shoulder. These clean, crisp lines impart many positive attributes to the wearer – handsomeness, strength, reliability, competence, and so on. The concept holds true similarly for shirts, trousers, and other items.

Soft tailoring, on the other hand, takes these lines and, well, softens them. There’s a flowiness to softly tailored garments that you don’t see on traditional ones. On paper, this borrows from womenswear, which tends to prize softness and flow over severity and hard lines. With that in mind, men can wear softly tailored clothes and still maintain a fully masculine look.

How do we achieve this? In a nutshell, you take traditional custom garments like suits, sport jackets, and shirts, and defang them, so to speak. Still tailored, still custom, just more relaxed.

How To Incorporate Casual Tailoring Into Your Wardrobe

 

man in hat and cardigan sweaterDeconstructed custom sport jackets, custom joggers, button-down shirts with soft collars, and custom sweaters all contribute to a look that’s tailored, handsome, put together, and laid back. Not only are these items physically quite comfortable, they’re also more in line with what a lot of our clients’ offices now require of them from a dress code standpoint.

Here are a few items we suggest as a “casual capsule wardrobe.” These form the base of a soft-tailoring wardrobe and will offer maximum versatility for the investment you make:

  • Sport jackets. A deconstructed sport jacket gives you the tailored look of a traditional coat, but its lack of canvas gives it a soft, casual feel and look. We love ours with a spalla camicia pleated shoulder, but we offer various shoulder expressions to suit various tastes. A versatile sport coat like this will pair beautifully with any garment you throw at it.
  • Jeans. If one garment has stood the test of time and this stupid, tiresome pandemic, it’s denim. We have hundreds of denim swatches in hundreds of washes, and we can make them simple and dark or ripped up and blasted. You’ve always needed some jeans in your wardrobe, but they form part of the bedrock of the softly tailored wardrobe. Same goes for custom twill pants, or khakis.
  • Sweaters. As fall is right around the corner, you’d be wise to double-check your sweater collection. A few good sweaters, be they cardigans, v-necks, crews, or even turtlenecks, are extremely versatile. They’ll pair just as easily with jeans as they will with dress trousers, lend a little business casual gravitas to your look (insofar as “business casual gravitas” is a thing), and be soft and comfortable.
  • Casual shirts. We’ve been making custom dress shirts for as long as we’ve been around. We make casual shirts as well – think button-down collars, contrast fabrics, and unique specialty buttons. Traditional oxford weaves make for good soft-tailoring shirts, as do plaids and darker-than-business-white-and-blue colors.
custom mens button down collar shirts

Button-down collars with an elegant roll.

There are, of course, many more casual items to consider when adding to a softly-tailored wardrobe. The aforementioned ones, though, provide the best starting point for most men and will pay dividends in versatility, ease of wear, and overall enjoyment.

General Advice

Some other things to note as you incorporate soft tailoring into your wardrobe:

  • Gravitate towards texture instead of plain weaves. Texture adds softness and casualness – don’t be afraid of linen, chambray, flannels, heavy herringbones, and the like (depending on the season of course).
  • Ties aren’t out of bounds. Just be sure they’re not very shiny, and their positive effect is magnified when you wear them casually (i.e. with jeans and a button-down collar shirt instead of a suit).
  • Bright colors are bold and attention-getting by virtue of their brightness. While fun, this is antithetical to the soft tailoring ethos. Gravitate towards earth tones and/or darker, more muted colors.

Conclusion

man wearing tan suit and plaid shirtThere will always be a place in a man’s wardrobe for traditional tailoring, but fleshing out the casual side of your wardrobe with some soft tailoring staples is worth a second look in your closet. Ready to talk about some softly tailored garments? We’re here to help. Give us a call at 215-310-0219 or email info@henrydavidsen.com to start a conversation.

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