Boris, Macron, Biden, Trudeau – there they all stand, the leaders of the free world, suited, booted and... tieless. And they think they look so debonair. But, they’re wrong. In fact, all these men – along with the other male leaders at the G7, equally naked of neck – are missing the big fashion note of the season, which is that ties are back.
In fact, suits, in their original, undeconstructed form – matching and accompanied by a proper shirt and tie – are all the rage again, at least if you take last week’s Milan men’s fashion week as your guide, where it was clear that there’s been a shift from slouchy to smart. And believe me, what appears on the catwalks there will eventually trickle down to the average man’s wardrobe.
Indeed, it already had in Milan itself, where everywhere you looked was a man fabulously dressed in pristine tailoring despite the baking temperatures.
At Prada, Miuccia gave us narrow-as-a-whip suits (skip breakfast, perhaps), cut in the leanest of proportions. Giorgio Armani’s two-pieces by contrast came soft-structured and loose, a cool balm in the heat of the city in June. At Brioni, the heritage Italian house that’s a peerless example of luxury tailoring (its Abruzzo artisan workshops involve dozens of tailors handcrafting garments), we saw impeccable suits in lightest linen and silks.
And if anyone can convince a certain kind of High Net Worth man to lose the slovenly sweatpants of the pandemic years, it’s Brioni. Likewise at Canali, where the heritage house created a series of light suits in a stretched variety of cotton to give them a suppleness, worn with polo shirts.
Ermenegildo Zegna’s classic suits have been worn by Italian power players for decades. Under the stewardship of designer Alessandro Sartori, how to reboot the suit has been his preoccupation. For his new offering, the designer created a series of soft structured, loose, flowing numbers. “I think there’s a way to do tailoring that’s effortless, I believe a suit should have the comfort of a cashmere sweater,” he said
British designer Paul Smith, at 75 something of an elder statesman of British tailoring, also re-emphasised his position as a suit maker par excellence with neat, sharp versions in vivid hues. Dolce & Gabbana put their emphasis on that staple of men’s wardrobes, the white shirt. Their option was classic, lean on the torso and with a proper collar. Fendi, too, highlighted shirts - big, exaggerated collars worn with soft, fluid jackets, a distinct move away from the athleisure wear the house has hitherto been focused on.
What to wear with those shirts? A tie, of course. Brunello Cucinelli paired a handsome knitted version with striped shirts (proper collars, not the grandad version) and princely blazers in soft corduroy, as well as sumptuous evening wear. On the Paris catwalks, even the archly left-of-centre Dries Van Noten zeroed in on shirts and ties, worn with cropped, boxy suits jackets and voluminous trousers. A tougher look to pull off but definitely the way to wear a suit for the younger generation.
At the risk of sounding like a dated late millennial, it was truly refreshing to see clothes for men that are a bit more grown up. Call it a backlash against the super-casual dressing of the pandemic years, call it a desire to dress up and show off again, call it cash to burn after two years of nothing to spend on – whatever the reason, getting suited and booted is now very definitely a thing.
That fashion is returning to traditional form and function and styles that are inherently masculine is also a sign that older men are being catered for again.
And there’s something pleasantly subversive about the suit. In recent years, ties, shirts and suits have effectively been “cancelled” as fashion clamoured to accommodate Gen Z. But the tables are turning. Last week, controversial Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary said: “l was at the cutting edge of being un-corporate by refusing to wear a suit. Now everyone’s doing it. If you want to be a disruptor now, turn up in a suit and tie.”
As for whether I’ll ever manage to wear a suit as well as an immaculate Italian, only time will tell.