At the end of the 19th century, trade journal Tailor and Cutter dispatched a reporter to Charing Cross tasked with counting the number of suits on display compared to more old-fashioned morning and frock coats. After a couple of hours this street-fashion pioneer had counted 530 lounge suits, 320 morning coats and 150 frock coats.
Over a century ago the suit, largely as we know it today, had already asserted itself as the dominant form of polite male dress. Since then man has been to the moon and back, fought two world wars and countless smaller ones, lived through numerous political revolutions and at least one sexual revolution, and undergone all manner of social and technical change – yet the suit remains the default apparel of any man trying to convince you of his seriousness. Granted, today’s dress codes are less formal than they were when Tailor and Cutter was counting suits and frock coats, but across much of the world, for business meetings, court appearances, superpower summits, funerals, weddings, parliamentary sessions, reading the news on television and much, much more, the dark suit is worn like a uniform or a set of overalls.
However, if Christopher Breward is to be believed, while the suit ‘survives in barely modified form’, the standards of commentary and debate around menswear have deteriorated. Invoking the writings of the architect, design pundit, polemicist and menswear theorist Adolf Loos, a sort of Stephen Bayley of the Austro-Hungarian twilight, Breward