Reboot for the linen suit: how Tom from Succession became a style hero
Just one year after men’s suiting was declared “dead”, retailers are now reporting its resurrection. John Lewis says tailoring is up 70% on last year while the luxury e-tailer MatchesFashion has seen sales increase by 15%.
Television shows such as Succession are also fuelling the appeal. John Lewis says its tailoring boom is being driven by linen suits, which have grown in triple figures since last year.
Call it the Tom Wambsgans effect. In the opening series, the aspiring billionaire is teased for his poor taste in boxy suits, with Roman Roy likening him to a “divorce attorney from the Twin Cities”. However, as the show progresses and Tom infiltrates Logan Roy’s inner circle, his style evolves. When he makes his ultimate power move and betrays his wife, Shiv, he does so in a cream linen suit from Ralph Lauren.
The revival of the suit comes just 12 months after it was removed from the basket of goods used to calculate the UK’s annual inflation rate, where it had been since the measure started in 1947. The Office for National Statistics explained that the removal was a knock-on effect of the pandemic and the trend for working from home.
In 2023, 56% of people in the UK split their work week between the office and home. Many workplaces have also relaxed more traditional dress codes. However, not everyone wants to dress like Mark Zuckerberg and his tech bros in T-shirts and hoodies. Instead, retailers are seeing a strong demand from workers for suits that reflect their new hybrid lifestyles, something that is smart yet casual. According to Damien Paul, head of menswear at MatchesFashion, its hero linen brands including 120% Lino and Albus Lumen are proving popular.
Elsewhere, Marks & Spencer is now offering two- and three-piece linen suits. Its top 30 stores have dedicated suit-fitters, and in April it is expanding its “sell by sample” initiative in which a single suit is displayed that customers can then order in their size.
Separates also appeal to those customers who have become more cautious about spending due to the cost of living crisis. “Men are looking for styles that can be appropriate for multiple scenarios in the modern wardrobe,” says Paul.
Linen is adaptable – it can be worn in the city during a heatwave or to a destination wedding. The menswear editor Finlay Renwick describes the trend as “Italian cosplay”.
“The suit will never die, it just evolves,” adds the tailor Oliver Spencer. “I think we’re beginning to shrug off this very English idea of suiting as some kind of armour. Now we are adopting a more southern European approach to our tailoring – it’s an extension of our casual wardrobe.”
Tom Saunders, menswear lead at John Lewis, says its new offering focuses on softer silhouettes. “It’s less structured. The goal is to look smart but to feel comfortable.”
“It plays into the idea of quiet luxury. It’s not shouty. We chose not to have a logo and have opted for muted tones.”
The John Lewis bestseller is a two-piece single breasted suit in a stone colourway. Very Wambsgans. But while his Succession suits come with four-figure price tag, the jacket from John Lewis costs £150 and the trousers £70.
And while linen often connotes advertising’s Man from Del Monte or even Boris Johnson dancing in a crumpled suit at his wedding party, Renwick says there are plenty of polished examples to look to.
He cites Jude Law in The Talented Mr. Ripley alongside the actors Alain Delon, Steven Yeun and Daniel Craig as “wearing the fabric well”.