The “tradition” in Traditionalists refers to the established canon of how a gentleman should dress in every occasion, pieced together over generations of tailoring first amongst aristocrats and then gentlemen of the social upper classes in Europe. The canon has gone through a deal of evolution, from the fancy court garbs now seen only in paintings of kings and noblemen, to the present-day duopoly of traditional British tailoring and traditional Italian tailoring. Traditionalists, by extension, are men who reverently follow the rules laid out in each or both of these traditions.
Revered as the ultimate dress code for any man who deems himself a gentleman, British tailoring has its modern mecca on Savile Row in London. From James Bond to the more recent Kingsman, the ideal man has always been dressed in British-tailored bespoke suits. It is more severe than its counterpart in Italy, which had taken British suits, deconstructed them, and created their own, lighter version. Therefore when a man wishes to stay traditional yet have some flair (see The Godfather), Italian tailoring comes to the fore. Basically speaking, one question sums up the Traditionalists’ ethos – what does a gentleman wear in this occasion?
A TRADITIONALIST’S PROFILE
A traditionalist is often easy to spot – he’s always impeccably dressed and there’s a classy throwback feel about him. He may come across overdressed sometimes, seen most often in a tailored jacket or blazer, and sticks to his guns about dressing like a gentleman and how the culture has become too casual. He knows the best tailors in town and bandies the word “bespoke” about quite a lot.
Traditionalists are often seen in suits. In the most formal of events he may turn up in white tie or a tuxedo, and slightly less formal ones in at least a three-piece suit. Being a gentleman doesn’t mean shying away from patterning – just not too flamboyant. A Traditionalist may wear any pattern on his suits, from pinstripe to windowpane, glen plaid to houndstooth. Of course, the pattern must suit the occasion, and the cut of the suit reigns supreme. Typically in British tailoring a formal jacket must have defined shoulders, high armholes, stiffer material to create structure, double vents, paired with trousers that sit high on the waist and long enough to create a small break with the shoes. In Italian tailoring the formal jacket is “destuffed” to make it lighter, the silhouette is more hugging, the lapels are higher, the pockets are flapless and the overall look accentuates the V-shape of a man’s back. This is paired with trousers that are tapered down the waist and hugs the hips snugly.
Another rule for Traditionalists is to maintain masculinity and modesty; hence the use of colors and prints are usually conservative, and the cut is always fitting and never skin-tight or effeminizing. Even casual wear has rules – never an untailored shirt and never tucked out, and pants must always be fitted. Shorts should never be above the knees, and toes must never be uncovered. Along with the rules laid out here there are many others, including how a jacket’s sleeve should always be shorter than a shirtsleeve, how a jacket should be long enough to reach between the wrist and the knuckle of the thumb, how pants should be pressed to form a line that goes no further than mid-thigh, how only silk socks are appropriate for a tuxedo, and how brogues should never be worn with a formal suit.
WHO IS IT FOR?
If you find yourself most often in formal settings, and have a knack for learning and following rules, the Traditionalist archetype is a godsend – especially if you find rules to be comforting and liberating. With all its rules, it’s pretty hard to go wrong; the main question is whether you’re dedicated enough to learn them. Of course, tailoring can be a huge expense so this may not be for those watching their budget, but once you find a good tailor you’ll realize what good returns you get from your investment. Just imagine a wardrobe in which every single item fits you to a T.
TIPS TO GET YOU STARTED
Even within the many rules there is space for you to express your personality, whether through the cut, the patterns, the lapels’ size, or the pocket square you carry. If you have a chance to visit London, hop down to Mayfair and visit a Savile Row tailor. Different tailors have different specialties – Norton & Sons for two-button single-breasted suits, Gieves & Hawkes for their military-inspired double-breasted suits, Huntsman for their tweeds.
BRANDS TO EXPLORE
- Gieves & Hawkes
- Norton & Sons
- Richard James
- Hugo Boss
- Brunello Cucinelli
- Giorgio Armani
- Calvin Klein