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The Suit: It’s not that simple

People tend to think that choosing the right suit isn’t a complex decision and the suit that you wear is entirely dependent on the matter at hand. The Summer Ball, for example, states the dress code is ‘black tie’ which, for many, means a trip into town or pulling up ASOS to find the tuxedo that captures the zeitgeist of yesteryears. To an extent, that’s fine – it gets the job done, doesn’t it, it satisfies the requirements. But do you really want to just satisfice? Yes, the event sets the tone or picks the genre, but your personality, your position on aesthetics, what you want to say – that’s what should be the starting point for choosing your outfit. As Frank Ocean said, average is something to fall back on.

So, black tie. I’m not a crazed traditionalist but what does that even mean anymore? Even the SU don’t seem to know and quite frankly, I don’t blame them. The official guidelines for dress code state: ‘This is a black tie event – this means dinner jackets, tuxedos (smart suits are also ok)’, indicating to me that, if there’s a tie, it’s probably alright. Essentially, there is more or less free roam within the formalwear department of fashion, and that leaves a lot of doors left open.

Having said that, there are classics for a reason – the black tuxedo can be the best option. ‘Black is not sad’ (Ann Demeulemeester) and can easily be the most elegant thing in the room/parade. But when choosing something so classic, I think it’s fundamental to focus on the details. The cut, the silhouette it gives, the fabric of choice, the subtleties of the collar – these things become more important than ever. While Donald Glover’s black, velvet tuxedo from last year’s Vanity Fair Oscar party is perhaps too laidback and cool for the high energy atmosphere of the Summer Ball, it serves as a good example, accentuating the characteristics one should look for in good formalwear. As Glover’s slightly falls into the next category, examples/inspo of fantastic, traditional black tie are: Rami Malek’s Givenchy or Ricky Martin’s Berluti tux, both at the 2019 Golden Globes, or Andrew Garfield in Tom Ford at the 2017 Oscars – a picture speaks a thousand words.

Not wanting to portray this as a binary decision but fully aware that I’m blackening pages like a Russian romantic, I’ll turn to highlighting what to look for in something less traditional. White jacket is the traditional flamboyant I suppose, but it’s not for the faint of hearted. Frank Ocean dressed in Givenchy at the 2014 Met Gala pretty much sets the standard here – the finish and drape of that jacket are both perfect. Whilst personally I feel that midnight blue is a little too played out – Bond’s was Tom Ford if you’re interested for inspo or willing to drop a few grand – suits of that shade and lighter are always a safe way to stand out. I cannot for the life of me find out who designed it, but Chris Hemsworth’s suit from his latest appearance on Kimmel was gorgeous – more than can be said for Downey Jr.’s. That suit in particular was more of a throwback in terms of both cut and colour, and is definitely a testament to the fact that a drainpipe silhouette is not always necessary. Having said that, for after-dark-decadence, look no further than anything designed by Hedi Slimane or his successor at Saint Laurent, Anthony Vaccarello, for something more flamboyant – a tasteful take on the skinny silhouette.

So, to wrap up, take heed of the advice given by Chloe on the other page, particularly numbers 1 and 2. Shop around, buy second hand if you want something specific or adventurous. Accessorize but, personally, I’d veer away from over-accessorising. Finally, in the words of perhaps the greatest, Christian Dior – a man responsible for a fashion house equating to 5% of France’s GDP in 1957 – ‘You can never take too much care over the choice of your shoes’, but that’s a whole different conversation.

The names I’ve mentioned above are, likely well above the price range of a student budget, so look for hints of them in more affordable options. Please don’t just buy the first suit you see on ASOS. You’re better than that.

Matt Kemp

Matt is a final year Politics and Economics student and Deputy Editor (Online) for 2020/1.

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