Do Suits Still Matter in 2024?

The common thread here is second-hand threads: people buying cheap used suits because there’s so much supply relative to demand. What about companies selling them new? This is something that Britain is supposed to be very good at. In Mayfair, there is a 270-meter stretch of pavement where, for more than 200 years, you would go to buy a very, very good suit: Savile Row. At the very top of that street is a pub called The Windmill. On a late Thursday afternoon, none of the white-collar types hanging around with pints outside are wearing suits—they’re in jackets, chinos, gilets, and desert boots.

Two-thirds of the way down the street is one of its oldest tailors, Dege & Skinner. This is a traditional outfit, with royals from Windsor to Bahrain on its books. A salesman, wearing braces that pull his trousers up to a chin-tickling height, explains that their customers are mostly high-flyers who “will very rarely stay in this country for six months.” These guys tend to buy suits whatever’s going on in the world, he says. “Our business doesn’t falter when times are bad.”

Next to Dege & Skinner is Drake’s, where colorful ties and scarves are laid out like taxidermied butterflies. These, and other suit-adjacent accessories, are what the brand specialised in when it was founded in 1977. In recent years, though, its own tailoring has caused a stir. Its Games range of suits are made with heavy cottons, corduroys and other rugged fabrics, and styled with a workwear flavor: a two-piece sandwiched by a baseball cap and boat shoes, say. Rather than being treated as a purebred, heritage piece of menswear, the suit is dropped back into the mainstream.

This couldn’t have come at a better time. Michael Hill, the Drake’s creative director, has noticed tastes progressing towards relaxed suiting “that is relatively unlined and unstructured,” particularly among younger customers who are just getting into tailoring. People still buy suits for work, and for special occasions like weddings, but the rules “have definitely softened,” he says. “They can be worn with t-shirts and caps, or with a shirt and tie, which is almost a subversive act in 2024.”

Though maybe not as subversive as it would have been a few years ago. Despite the apocalypse in the workplace, the suit has been sidling back into the capital-F Fashion world, as the decades-long dominance of streetwear starts to crumble. Brands of all statures—Louis Vuitton, Dior, Wales Bonner, and Bianca Saunders among them—are getting strange with the format, covering suits in loud prints, and assembling them in skewed, almost Cubist cuts. But then again, more traditional suits, especially the unstructured Italian school, are also doing well. Giorgio Armani’s most recent collection leant so far into the relaxed tailoring of its ’80s pomp. Canali, another Italian perennial, is in its third generation of family ownership, and making handsome profits by continuing to produce the refined, understated product for which it’s always been known.

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