The return of the suit

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:09 pm

The cycle has come full circle in menswear. Though it has been years since retailers have seen the kind of enthusiasm that precedes sweeping change, the evidence is clear and men are once again investing in appearance and self-image. They are not just buying clothing – they are investing in wardrobes – a real investment that yields solid returns.

I spoke at length with several retailers and buyers during a recent buying trip to New York. All were quick to inject positive reaction to what was occurring across the country.  The sales results bear witness that men are buying suits, sport coats, dress trousers and accessories with a purpose.

Menswear markets are now focused on merchandise selection for spring/summer 2008.  We are halfway through the buying period which concludes the end of August. Store owners and buyers have carefully tracked sales in dollars and units, looking for trends and change. Both retailers and manufacturers work six to nine months ahead of the selling season to plan, buy, produce and deliver fresh merchandise that will be presented to consumers the next season. To add to the challenge, specialty retailers are styling and coloring suit and jacket fabrics with mills around the world that will be included in our presentation for fall 2008.

Men 30-to-60 are demonstrating a change of attitude in the workplace. Sure, some cities are moving faster than others but movement is occurring everywhere. It’s no longer a wardrobe centered around untucked shirts and rumpled bottoms. The interest is in quality, neatness and in many cases building a wardrobe with items that have not been considered before.

For years we all thought it was just young men entering the career path that were the challenge. But time quickly changed that notion and the menswear industry saw the shift to casual and beyond span all demographic ranges. The race was on to find “the next big thing” in fashion that would grab somebody’s attention.

I have always believed that there are certain principles that one must maintain in the fashion industry in order to ensure longevity. The operations side of business is another subject that demands the same high standards, but I am referring to the creative side.  

I believe in quality. The market for luxury continues to grow. This does not simply mean expensive, although quality does come at a price, but it means the best yarns, the best producers, fine workmanship and attention to detail. Consumers will not always notice these fine points at first. But, as is the case with fine wine or gourmet food, after a time the palate becomes educated. Ownership of quality apparel becomes apparent over time.  I recommend to men that beginning this transition from an informal wardrobe to a dual-purpose wardrobe with attention to tailored clothing and accessories requires a plan.  New entries into the business environment as well as those seasoned veterans of the professional marketplace should apply the same disciplines as the move to a dressier workplace continues.

Look in the close and determine what items in your wardrobe are tired, tattered or simply don’t fit and get rid of them. Usable items should be cleaned and donated. 

Next, determine a budget and a timeline that makes sense to begin rebuilding your wardrobe. Include the essentials in your plan. This is not simply buying a new suit, but repackaging you for the marketplace. 

Then, find a clothier that is equipped to meet your needs.

What I have learned from the business casual experience is that a new hybrid wardrobe concept has been established. The strict rules of the past no longer dictate how a man dresses. The fundamentals remain, good taste prevails and style is created with a new confidence that acknowledges that getting dressed for work and our ever-changing lifestyles can be enjoyable and rewarding.

Wonderful fabrics, new colors and a more flattering approach to design have ignited the flame of menswear once again.  Stores are excited, designers are excited and the consumer is responding in big numbers. Menswear is ready for “the next big thing,” an interested buyer. Everybody wins, and the results look good.

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