By Joshua Fairweather

With your closet stacked full of basic black, grey, blue, and of course the classic navy business suit, it may be time for a change.  Spice up your wardrobe this season with bold patterns, large checks, pinstripes, and traditional plaids.  Keep in mind, though, that wearing bold patterns is not for the faint of heart – you have to carry yourself with confidence and swagger!  These looks will definitely get you noticed, and are a great way to let your personality shine and make a statement this season.

What patterns should I choose?

There are so many choices when it comes to patterned suits.  I recommend three easy-to-wear and more widely recognized patterns you commonly see today: Stripes, Glen Check (Prince of Wales), or Windowpane and checked patterns.  These are perfect to get you started!

Stripes

More often than not, you will see stripes in suiting as this has been men’s choice for decades. There are different varieties of stripes, with the most common being the Pinstripe – a style that made its debut during the roaring 20’s and is still going strong in the business world as the power suit!

Pinstripe is simply a pin-sized dot that is woven into a worsted textile to form a stripe in the fabric. There is also the infamous rope stripe, which has a spiral effect to the stripe and looks exactly like its name, the “rope”.

However, if you want to be on par with what is currently in Vogue this season, a chalk stripe suit will be your best go-to option. More commonly woven on flannel wool fabric, it is a series of fine threads used to create a stripe. The flannel fabric gives the stripe the appearance of “tailors chalk” (hence the name “chalk striped suit”). This is not only a style for the old school gangster persona – it also has a definite place for business or play.

Glen Check (Prince of Wales)

Glen Check is a plaid that came out of Scotland. The original term “Glen Plaid” didn’t appear on the scene until the 19th century, but was made popular by the Duke of Windsor when he was the Prince of Wales.  Today you will see “Prince of Wales”, a more commonly used name for “Glen Check”.  Even though Glen Check and Prince of Wales are considered to be one and the same, there is a slight difference between the two. While both are designed with small and large check patterns and traditionally use black and white colour combinations, the Prince of Wales has a small thread of colour (typically blue or orange/red) running through to set it apart.

This pattern can be as bold or subdued as you wish. Nowadays it comes in a variety of colours to choose from.  If you really want to step out of your conservative shell this season and change up your look, a Glen Check/Prince of Wales patterned suit is definitely the way to go.  Warning:  you will love this look so much you may never go back to anything else!

Checked Pattern

When you think checked suit, you probably revert back to an unfortunate vision of a greasy car sales man with tinted glasses and comb over. Retro is back!  It’s not only making an impact in suiting fabric, though:  from jackets, topcoats, pants, and shirts, men’s fashion is covered in checked patterns!  However, what brings this pattern from retro back to modern day attire is its clean lines and tailored fit.

Checked clothing has been an American favorite – even in the 1870s, it was a standard jacket pattern in most gentlemen’s clubs.  It’s from this influence the term “gingham check” made its mark.  American designers (including Ralph Lauren) have used patterns like these and kept them very much alive as a current basic trend.

When selecting a checked suit, there is considerable variety: anything from small checks to large windowpane patterns are available in an assortment of colours and sizes.  Choose what best fits your personality and preferences.

How to dress it up: 

You may think that dressing up a patterned suit is a difficult feat. It actually is simpler than you think. If you don’t have a clue how to coordinate with bold patterns, then stick to solid basic shirts and conservative ties as these solid and subdued patterns will easily work.  Of course, colour is always acceptable too, so don’t be afraid to experiment and mix colours and patterns in your shirts, ties, and pocket squares. Try and pull some colour influence from the suit pattern if you can. As men, we have a tendency to play it safe with colour. Let the colour in the outfit be your form of expression.

Here is a quick tip: it used to be a fashion faux pas to mix multiple patterns in an outfit. Now, mixing two to three or even four patterns in an outfit is acceptable. A good rule of thumb: stick to two colour schemes and your multi-patterned outfit will have a flow.

If you are still not convinced that wearing bold-patterned suiting is for you, then start your own mix and match program. Take that bold suit jacket or pant and pair it with a solid piece. This will tone down the look and allow you to take baby steps until you are ready to embrace the full
pattern ensemble.

How should the suit be styled?

While a two-button, single-breasted suit jacket is still very current, there is a surge in three-piece and double-breasted suits making a comeback. Trick-up your suit with a peak lapel, roped shoulder or ticket pocket and, of course, functional cuffs to add a little flare. The narrow lapel is fun, but as retro makes a comeback so does a wider lapel.  I am definitely seeing this in Vogue, but it soon will appear at a retail level.

Pants are tailored with a narrow bottom with the length cut a little shorter to rest just on the shoe with no break (showing off a little sock is acceptable). However, just as you are getting used to flat front pants, pleated trousers are just around the corner.

If you have any interest in a three-piece suit here is how you can take the vest to a whole different level:  add a lapel to the vest and make it a full back with the fabric. When you take off your jacket in the office it will stand-alone. Also, designing it with multiple pockets or even a double-breasted vest would be cool. However you choose to design it, be a little more liberal:  after all, you are already a rocking this eye-catching bold pattern suit fabric, so you might as well go all the way!

If you are on the hunt this season for the suit that will change up your look and you are not finding what you desire on the racks, don’t fret!  I highly recommend that you venture out and try having a custom suit made. The selection is endless and you can design it exactly the way
you want.

Be bold and be loud this season. Make a statement with a patterned suit!

Personal Clothier /Style Consultant

joshuafairwearther.ca