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Style Advice

Making a case for the unexpected suit

Making a case for the unexpected suit

A black suit, a crisp white button-down, a pair of shiny brogues. It’s a look we all know and feel comfortable with, and we’re asking you to erase it from your mind – at least while we make a case for something less tired: the unexpected suit. A shift towards casual dressing has transformed suiting from essential to optional attire, and it’s resulted in people turning up to work, weddings, and special events in a range of personality-driven styles. Because it turns out when people wear something because they actually want to, and not because they’re expected to, things get interesting. We’re talking about suits worn to stand out instead of blend in. What a concept.

We should clarify that we’re not encouraging you to wear anything too ostentatious. There are subtle style choices you can make to show personality that don’t involve neon colours or wild prints, and fabric is a great place to start. Most suits are cut from wool and cotton, but linen and seersucker are smart alternatives in warmer months, and they have benefits in terms of both style and practicality. Both are lightweight, heat-friendly, and can easily be dressed up or down with the right shirt, footwear, and accessories. But because suits made from seersucker tend to be unstructured and wrinkle-prone, stick to a slim fit so you still look put-together. And instead of reaching for the classic blue-and-white seersucker your mum used to dress you in on Easter Sunday, try a solid take in a less predictable colour, like salmon or tan.

Speaking of colour, it’s time to unconsciously couple from your standard blacks and navys. Suits in pastels, whites, and creams are great for summer, while jewel tones add richness come autumn. Even a light grey can be a nice departure from your standard charcoal. Another way to jazz up your suit is by embracing patterns. A check or pinstripe pattern in a subtle colour, like a trusty blue or grey, can add a bit of dimension to your look, which means you don’t have to veer from your classic fits to make a statement.

If you do decide to play around with untraditional fits, keep the colour more pared down to avoid any overkill. A longer jacket can add a rock-and-roll edge, while baggy trousers lend a relaxed vibe. But the key is to make sure you don't look sloppy. No matter how expensive your suit is, if it’s unintentionally ill-fitting, it’ll look cheap. So pay attention to fit and tailoring to avoid standing out for all the wrong reasons.

Having trouble seeing beyond the suit’s stuffy reputation? Consider an unstructured jacket (one that isn’t lined). It’s looser, more casual, and a godsend during summer scorchers. And while we’re on this casual kick, your shirt choice can also make a huge difference. The classic oxford is no longer a requirement — in fact, styling a t-shirt underneath your jacket is a cooler, modern alternative that’s widely accepted in offices. If you do go for a button-down shirt, style yours sans tie to help dial down the formality.

You can also keep things more casual with your shoes. Trainers are practical, comfortable, and a bit unexpected, yet a popular enough choice that they won't be deemed too bold. Sandals are another way to freshen up a suit – particularly a linen one in peak summer. And in autumn and winter, swap your Chelsea boots for rugged hiking or combat boots. They’ll add a cool edge to your look with very little effort.

And the ultimate finishing touch for your more daring suit? The right attitude. We can’t emphasise enough the impact it makes. Confidence can be the difference between pulling off a bolder suit and veering into ridiculous territory. It’s the secret to nailing a checked pattern, a lavender colour, and a double-breasted silhouette. Everything but a baroque jacket. That you should leave to rock n' roll royalty. 

Words: Allison Pavlick
Photography: Jon Cardwell
Styling: Alexander McCalla
Styling assistant: Toby Standing