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The New Suit: A Buyer’s Guide

We break down the 12 brands drawing the blueprint for the new C-Suite dress code.

luxury menswear suits Photo: Courtesy

It’s easy to fall into the nostalgic trap of pining for the past, for a time when you could rely on the holy trinity of suit, shirt, and tie to look sharp for most any occasion. So simple. So civilized. Today’s uniform is not so straightforward, as “office-appropriate” has come to mean anything from light wash denim and sloppy sweatshirts to sharp trousers and cashmere blazers. And while being freed from the shackles of the suit is liberating for some, it leaves others feeling overwhelmed by all of the new options—and with work wardrobes that still reflect the dated divide between sober work suits and casual off-duty attire.

Thankfully, a new generation of tailored clothing, and a new kind of uniform, has emerged to bridge the gap between Gordon Gekko’s textbook power-dressing and Mark Zuckerberg’s perpetual casual Friday. Where suits of yore tended to conform—think of the sea of navy and grey emerging from offices at rush hour—today’s suiting offers personality alongside polish, and plenty of room to play with texture and color without looking like you’re trying too hard (the death knell of the modern man’s wardrobe).

So, whether you’re running a VC or launching a start-up, read on to discover the 12 brands, both new and old, that are your best sources for suits tailor-made for 21st century living.

Ermenegildo Zegna

Signature Style: Classic, with a mix-and-match, tech-driven attitude.

Z Zegna suits

Suits from Ermenegildo Zegna Couture (right, left) and Z Zegna (center).  Photo: Courtesy of Ermenegildo Zegna

Ermenegildo Zegna, a bastion of old-school tailoring has made strides in reimagining the suit for the modern man. In the fashion-minded Couture collection, designer Alessandro Sartori has championed what the brand calls “broken suiting,” where jackets and pants don’t match exactly, but are subtle variations of the same color or pattern. Bomber jackets, anoraks, and cargo pants are all rendered in the same exquisite fabrics as the suits, allowing one to toe the line between dressed-up and casual. The sportier Z Zegna collection takes this philosophy one step further, splicing tailored blazers and trousers with athletic fare like track pants and windbreakers.

And beyond its thoroughly modern aesthetic, Zegna is also at the forefront of tailoring’s turn to technology. And given its origins as a textile mill, the brand has developed some of the most innovative materials on the market. Their performance Merino wool looks and feels like a classic worsted but wicks moisture, regulates body temperature, and is available in a completely machine washable suit—wearable tech at its finest.

 P. Johnson

Signature Style: Traditional tailoring, with a casual, Down Under feel.  

P. Johnson suits

P. Johnson’s relaxed take on tailoring.  Photo: Courtesy of P. Johnson

Founded in 2008, Australian brand P. Johnson is a relatively young player in the menswear world. But it’s that fresh perspective that lends its tailoring a sense of contemporary cool. While the construction keeps things classic, celebrating traditional Italian craftsmanship with lightweight silhouettes using textiles from the esteemed mills of Biella (where Louis Vuitton and Gucci also source their wool). It’s the styling flourishes that are decidedly modern: think suits worn with shirts and ties in the same fabric for a sleek monotone look and classic blazers replaced with sportier safari jackets. The label’s finely knit sweaters are often layered with tailored attire, imbuing the suiting with a laid-back ease. Eschewing busy patterns or harsh colors, the collection exudes a clean, minimalist aesthetic that never borders on stuffy. An added bonus? All of the suiting is made to measure, with a hand-stitched, floating canvas model—a painstaking construction that allows your jacket to move fluidly with you—at the top of the line.

Isaia

Signature Style: Sharp sport coats with an aesthetic that never takes itself too seriously.

Isaia suits

Isaia’s modern Neapolitan suiting.  Photo: Courtesy of Isaia

Naples is known for its distinctive style of tailoring, and Isaia is the standard bearer of that dolce vita aesthetic. The brand is dedicated to riffing on its hometown’s signature unstructured, extremely light, gently rounded cut. What all of this adds up to is a jacket that is flexible and fluid, never stuffy—an instant antidote to looking like you walked out of the 1980s C-suite.

While the construction may be traditional, Isaia’s combination of bold colors, dynamic patterns, and contrasting textures keeps the suits unmistakably modern. Here, more is more: violet flannels and cobalt plaids mingle with emerald tweeds and burnt orange hopsacks. The label’s array of sport coats and trousers provides even more opportunity to play, with options ranging from neutral to daring. To get the full effect, go for a layered look with everything from jacket to pocket square in an assortment of different fabrics, though be sure to keep it all a little bit imperfect to channel a bit of Italian sprezzatura, or effortless flair. The collection’s infinite combinations—herringbone jacket, gingham shirt, micro-floral tie—makes getting dressed an invitation to color outside the lines.

Tom Ford

Signature Style: Unabashedly sexy, figure-flattering silhouettes.  

Tom Ford suits

Figure-flattering suits from Tom Ford.  Photo: Courtesy of Tom Ford

In his tailored menswear, Tom Ford often mines a particularly British hybrid of eccentricity and elegance—think a mix of Lord Snowdon, Mick Jagger, Michael Caine. It’s an artful balance that’s anchored by the slick, body-conscious cut of his suits. These proportions are where Ford plays most artfully, and his latest proposition is a longer jacket with a nipped waist (complimented by broad, shoulder accentuating lapels) worn with high-waisted trousers culminating in trim, tapered legs. It’s a flattering silhouette that is hip without veering into trendy, meaning you’ll be able to wear it for at least a decade to come. He further modernizes the suit by crafting the whole look in a tonal palette that emphasizes pattern and texture—think a brown glen plaid suit paired with a tan silk shirt, a brown houndstooth tie, and topped with a pair of Ford’s chunky tortoiseshell shades. While it may sound like a lot for one outfit, the total effect is suave sophistication.

Brunello Cucinelli

Signature Style: Ultra-luxurious fabrics loosened up with utilitarian staples.

Brunello Cucinelli suits

Brunello Cucinelli dresses down classic codes of tailoring.  Photo: Courtesy of Brunello Cucinelli

When it comes to suiting that seamlessly blends board room propriety with real world wearability, Brunello Cucinelli is king. The quintessentially Italian craftsmanship—lightly constructed, soft, flexible—is tempered with casual touches, yielding tailored clothing without a whiff of pretension. Case in point: the fabrics, like cashmere corduroys and glen plaid wool-silk-linen blends, are discreetly sumptuous. The cut is fitted, but not too skinny, with strong shoulders defined through stitching rather than padding.

And though we are always fans of this kind of discreet luxury, Cucinelli’s most inspiring trait is the unexpected mix of high and low the brand nails season after season. Its website and boutiques are filled with styling inspiration: prime examples include a windowpane-checked suit paired with a denim chambray dress shirt, a corduroy suit layered over a cable-knit sweater, a wool bouclé blazer casually thrown over a t-shirt. Employing a palette of muted neutrals dotted with rust reds and loden (a type of thick, waterproof wool) greens, even the most traditional combo of suit, shirt, and tie feels distinctly modern. 

Dior Homme

Signature Style: Runway-ready silhouettes, made wearable for every day.

Dior suits

High-fashion Dior Homme fall (right and left) and spring (center) suits.  Photo: Courtesy of Dior

Christian Dior revolutionized post-war Paris with radical new women’s silhouettes, and that legacy continues to inform the house’s menswear. Dior Homme (which has recently become just “Dior” under new creative director Kim Jones) excels at tweaking the proportions of a traditional suit to create new forms that nod to the classics, while still being firmly in the here and now. They range from mod-ish skinny suits, with jackets sculpted like a second-skin and drainpipe trousers, to roomier silhouettes with boxy blazers and fluid, wide-legged pants. This meticulous tailoring gets a youthful kick from accessories (something you can easily carry into the office), with sneakers in place of derbies, and duffle bags in place of briefcases.

At his first runway show for the brand in June, Jones debuted the new Dior Homme look: a unique cut with a single-breasted closure that buttons off-center—a sly twist that marries the clean lines of a single-breasted jacket with the softer drape of a double-breasted. They’re a testament to tailoring’s power to transform the body with the shift of a few millimeters.

Giorgio Armani

Signature Style: The power suit made modern by fluid fabrics and comfortable cuts.

Giorgio Armani fall suits

Giorgio Armani’s fluid power suiting.  Photo: Courtesy Giorgio Armani

Armani made his name in the 1980’s by quite literally knocking the stuffing out of suits, proving that business attire could have a sensuality all its own. The look, free from the stiffness of horsehair canvases, still endures. Lately, Giorgio Armani has updated that power-suit silhouette with soft structure by way of an eight-button double-breasted model that defines the waist and broadens the shoulders. He’s also rendered it in drapey silks and velvets, cut slightly oversized, lending what could be something overly formal all the casual ease of a cardigan. Worn with wide, cuffed trousers, Armani’s suits have a rakish, nonchalant charm that is far from your dad’s nine-to-five dress code. His favored palette of putty greys and inky blues are neutral, keeping even the most laid-back styles office-appropriate and endlessly wearable. Styling them with accessories like lug-soled combat boots and knotted silk scarves adds another hit of hint of boho rebellion.

Ralph Lauren

Signature Style: The relaxed, 21st century take on the three-piece suit. 

Ralph Lauren suits

Ralph Lauren’s modern prepster suits.  Photo: Courtesy of Ralph Lauren

Where the Italians gravitate toward soft, unstructured silhouettes, Ralph Lauren favors the strong shoulders and crisp polish of classic English suiting. The sharply-cut, fully-canvased jackets are his strongest model, exuding C-suite authority with their dramatically peaked lapels, but it’s Lauren’s layering that keeps things fresh. He remixes the codes of traditional power dressing with a slightly cropped double-breasted pinstriped blazer worn atop a banker stripe shirt and boldly patterned tie. And breathes new life into the basic gray suit by combining sport coat, vest, shirt, tie, and trousers in varying fabrics of the same charcoal hue. All the individual elements throwback to dapper Gatsby-era tailoring but, when combined, the volume is turned up.

In addition to Lauren’s Purple Label seasonal collections, the brand offers made-to-measure suiting in a dizzying array of fabrics from Harris tweeds to water- and wrinkle-resistant techy textiles so you can build your new office wardrobe to fit your tastes exactly.

Corneliani

Signature Style: No frills, always flattering suits to wear everywhere.

Corneliani suits

Endlessly versatile suits from Corneliani.  Photo: Courtesy of Corneliani

Earthy colors and fuss-free silhouettes lend Corneliani’s suits versatility and an effortless appeal. Matte washed silk, linen and wool are garment-dyed for a unique depth of hue that highlights the materials’ natural textures; and the palette of sepia tones punctuated with dusty pinks and blues refreshes familiar shapes. The brand’s lightly structured jackets come in a range of shapes designed to suit most builds, ranging from a slim, single-breasted style to a retro-leaning double-breasted with broad lapels, and its trousers are cut trim, with a single pleat to elongate the leg.

The brand’s signature ID jacket is its most modern, marring formality and functionality by paring a classic single breasted shape (patch-and-flap pockets included) with a removable lining that gives the illusion of a zip-up track jacket layered underneath. Wear this, or any of Corneliani’s other suits with turtleneck sweaters, knit polos, or mandarin collar shirts—it’s a nice break from the expected dress shirt and tie that lightens the whole look up.

Dolce & Gabbana

Signature Style: Over-the-top fabrics made office appropriate.

Dolce & Gabbana suits

Dolce & Gabbana makes outré tailoring wearable.  Photo: Courtesy of Dolce & Gabbana

This Sicilian duo behind Dolce & Gabbana are expert tailors—their pants are cut with razor sharpness and their jackets lend mortal men the physique of Adonis. But these aren’t the Savile Row breed of exquisitely cut suits, as they come complete with a hefty dose of irreverence. The brand prefers a more baroque brand of masculinity, favoring all manner of brocades, velvets and laces over demure tweeds. Its suits often mash-up the conservative with the outré—think a three-piece pinstriped suit complete with double-breasted waistcoat topped and finished off with an elaborately patterned bomber jacket thrown on top. And though we wouldn’t suggest rocking up to your next meeting in the full look, when deconstructed, it offers beautifully-made pieces for both work and weekend. The label also makes a case for sporting evening wear fabrics in the light of day, softening the formality of a brocade suit by swapping the blazer for a topcoat. It’s a look that still telegraphs decorum, but with a strong sense of streetwise swagger.

Canali

Signature Style: Minimalist design that puts craftsmanship on full display.

Canali suits

Canali’s pared-back take on Italian tailoring.  Photo: Courtesy of Canali

Since its founding in 1934, Canali has been a proponent of modernist menswear. What’s most compelling about the Milanese brand’s tailoring is what isn’t immediately apparent. There’s a quiet poise to each of its collections that doesn’t overwhelm the man wearing it. Instead, the emphasis is all on subtle details: especially rich shades like burgundy and lavender, and supple blends of cashmere and mink or linen and silk. The silhouettes are always clean and timeless, as in a streamlined, single-breasted blazer and pants with a higher waistline and slightly tapered legs—both of which are as easy to pair together as they are to throw own with dressed-down separates.  It’s a pared back look that doesn’t require the frills of pocket squares or neckties, utilizing sweaters or dress shirts worn casually—distilling contemporary suiting to its purest form.

Thom Sweeney

Signature Style: Classic Savile Row style with a laid-back attitude.

Thom Sweeney Suits

THOM-SWEENEY  Photo: Courtesy of Thom Sweeney

Between Regency-era dandy Beau Brummel and Savile Row, the Brits essentially set the template for modern menswear. That heritage finds a 21st century steward in London-based Thom Sweeney. The brand does natty with a light hand, balancing the strong, close-cropped structure of traditional British tailoring with the softness of Italian suiting. Thom Sweeney’s signature jacket is cut with high armholes, wide lapels, and a nipped waist—a formality that’s tempered with the ease of a relaxed shoulder. Light, supple fabrics help keep things feeling fresh, updating old classics like herringbone and Prince of Wales check with a subdued palette of navy, grey, and brown. In addition to a range of ready-to-wear suits, the brand also offers made-to-measure and full bespoke—providing all the precision of Savile Row without the outdated pomp.

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