Sometimes you don't need a business suit, you need a suit that means business.
Suits do not need to be a formal piece of clothing that you wear every day to work. I hate how people think that putting on a suit means serious business and that it is office-only attire.
Being a New Yorker, I am exposed to cultural diversity and differences in perception. When you wear a suit, people tend to treat you differently. There is a reaction— almost instantaneous — to a suited man; he commands authority.
We think of this man as someone with responsibility: a person with stature often construed as status, a person of wealth. Wearing a suit is a beautiful thing, and it does not need to be worn nine to five. We can project the same things during our off hours with casual suits.
When we think of suits, we usually think of dark, solid-colored fabrics: navy, gray and black. We wear navy and gray to the office and black to a funeral.
The fabrics of casual suits are usually less formal: more rustic and more colorful, with different patterns. The main fabrics of casual suits this fall are tweeds and plaids. My favorite fabrics are plaids or, as the Scottish call them, tartans. There are an infinite number of combinations in a rainbow of colors. You can find crazy tartans featuring green, red, yellow and blue; you can also find more subtle tartans in multiple shades of gray. One of my favorite suits from this season is from Isaia: a gray double-breasted “shadow” plaid suit (pictured, right).
Personally, I add elbow patches on the jacket to casualize the suit even more. Casual suits do not have to be in outlandish colors and patterns; they can also be solid with patch pockets (a pocket that is outside of the garment). This pocketing technique can add a casual touch to any suit.
Boglioli, an Italian company, is noted for creating unstructured jackets. They eliminate the canvas fabric holding the outer material together and remove the shoulder pads, thus avoiding the “armored” look of most suits; one only has to think of some of our heroes of movies past — Bogart and Gable, for example — to picture this more formal look. The removal of these two elements creates a very relaxed silhouette. This Italian house would also drip dye their jackets and wash them multiple times to give that lived-in effect. I would also recommend considering some of their navy/cashmere suits — super soft and luxurious.
This season, Brooks Brothers Black Fleece made one of the most noteworthy suits I have ever seen: a gray suit with triple patch pockets on the jacket and cargo pockets on the pants. This could be the ultimate casual suit. Suits do not need to be formal; you don’t need to reserve a suit for a special occasion. You can still project yourself as a man of mark, as Winston Churchill used to say, in your off hours in a casual suit.
Austin Wong is a men’s fashion blogger based in New York City. Raised in Manhattan and Singapore, he curates the best products - in quality, workmanship and style - for his readers; and is known to answer life’s sartorial questions. You may have seen him walking the streets of New York or in various street style photographs. Check out his blog why-youmad.com.