The suit is the modern gentleman’s armour.
This is a snippet of dialogue uttered by Colin Firth in the movie, Kingsman: The Secret Service, which is being reshown on TV in the UK as I write this.
The words are uttered as part of a plot that helps perpetuate the gentleman spy theme started by 007 back in the early ’60s. In the more up-to-date 2015 film, the Kingsman agents have their “bullet-proof” suits specially made in the Savile Row tailors of the same name which acts as a front for their clandestine secret agent organization.
Of course, it’s all far-fetched, but enjoyable, tosh.
However, the concept of a well-made suit defining a modern gentleman is not so far-fetched – in my opinion!
Today, it’s not uncommon for folk to try to play down the value of wearing a suit. “Don’t like wearing one,” they say with the arse hanging out of their jeans and with deliberately placed holes revealing kneecaps, thighs and other parts of the anatomy.
There’s nothing wrong with these items of clothing by the way – in the right context. But I would contend that there are times when only a suit will do. Times when you feel under-dressed and simply uncomfortable and not part of what’s happening if you are not wearing one.
Of course, all the above comments apply to the ladies also. Though convention seems to dictate that a lady usually only wears a suit for business. On other occasions, such as weddings and funerals, a fashionable dress is perfectly acceptable, probably even preferable.
It’s my assertion that the times I feel most comfortable and confident in myself are often when wearing a suit. The idea of attending a meeting to pitch for new business with people you have never met before, to me, suggests you should wear a suit. You can always dress-down if you discover that the others in the meeting feel it’s okay to dress casually.
Jacket off, loosen the tie and turn up the cuffs on your shirt. It was a look made popular by the TV character Eddie Shoestring, the radio station Private Ear/eye played by Trevor Eve back in the day (late ’70s, early ’80s). I adopted the look, but didn’t go as far as copying the mustache. As a result, friends dubbed me Bootlace, bad play on words for Shoestring. I’ve had a few dodgy nicknames in my time – a lady of my acquaintance in Pattaya liked to call me Garfield after the cartoon cat, but that’s another story.
My point is that if you turn up for a meeting in a golf shirt and shorts, you might find yourself on the back foot before you even open your mouth. You can dress down retrospectively, not so easy to dress up if you haven’t left a suit in the car just in case – another old ploy of mine.
Why risk missing out on business because of a misjudgment?
I think it’s important to conform to the accepted dress code of the country you are in.
For example, I worked for a year (1978) in Hong Kong. There it was – and maybe still is – perfectly acceptable to attend business meetings in a safari suit … short-sleeved khaki jacket, tailored khaki shorts, long socks and brown brogue shoes. “Oxfords, not brogues” is an important line in the Kingsman first film. But, in HK’s case, the shoes ought to be brogues, not Oxfords.
Those that know me will be aware that physically I don’t conform to a set shape or size.
I could no more find an off-the-peg suit to fit me from Marks & Spencer than I could win a limbo-dancing competition in a village of pygmies.
I have to have suits made to measure. No choice. But, actually I’m pleased that that’s the case. I like the rigmarole of being sized up for a suit and going back for fittings. It makes the item seem more valuable and, therefore, valued.
I have had a few suits made for me in Pattaya. Still have them and very well made they were/are, too.
And not expensive! I don’t know the price of a made-to-measure suit in the UK but I would be confident that one would cost hundreds of pounds.
A suit made in Pattaya is much better value and maybe even quality. I recall wanting a dinner jacket and trousers to attend Spectre, the James Bond movie (bit of a liking for Bond – my email address even includes the numbers 007). A group of us had decided to go to the cinema dressed Bond-style and caused quite a stir when a dozen of us walked down Soi 6 in DJs later the same evening.
But the point I’m getting to, in a roundabout way, is that the cost of the DJ and trousers was very reasonable. I didn’t wish to spend a lot on the suit because I was not sure how many times I would get to wear it – and I wasn’t disappointed price-wise.
I’ve also had lounge suits made in Pattaya. Indeed, I may snap another one up when I’m next over. Sure, the tailor will try to persuade you to buy more and encourage you to also avail yourself of a few silk ties, but I don’t mind that.
They might also ask if you want some inexpensive tailored shirts. I still have about half a dozen of them. Having a shirt made to my own spec is very satisfying. I like the button-down collars style with a breast pocket that has a separate “channel” for slipping a pen into. But you have to be sure the pen lid is on properly.
The Huntsman tailors in Savile Row was transformed into Kingsman for the feature film of the same name. Huntsman had movie links long before Kingsman. Gregory Peck was a fan, wearing their creations in films such as The Million Pound Note and a tweed overcoat in The Omen. Clark Gable was also a customer having Huntsman make his costume for the big-game-hunter movie Mogambo.
I don’t go for the full airline pilot style of shirt, believing the epaulets to be a bit over the top. But, I’m 100 per cent confident that, had I wanted them, I could have them.
If you have a favourite shirt take it to a tailors for more to be made. Following a style (copying, to you and I) is, of course, a skill Asians possess in abundance.
So go on, treat yourself to a suit and custom-made shirts. Prove that you are a modern gentleman (or lady)!
By Dave Buckley