Has the Suit Finally Gone Too Far?

Menswear is no stranger to experimentation, but there’s an important distinction between bending and breaking the rules

April 26, 2022 7:30 am
Justin Bieber in a grey Balenciaga Suit on a pink-green-yellow collaged background
Crazy tailoring is commonplace, so can a suit still be too much?
InsideHook/Jeff Kravitz-FilmMagic

Perhaps you didn’t catch Timothée Chalamet in all his Louis Vuitton two-piece, sans-shirt glory at the Oscars. You could have also missed Simu Liu’s cherry-red ensemble. But it would be impossible to suggest that you didn’t see Justin Biebers’s egregiously large suit at this year’s Grammy Awards. The Balenciaga-designed outfit was simply too comically massive to overlook. 

If you are shocked and appalled by the Canadian pop star’s oversized look, take solace in the fact that we, along with the rest of the internet, are too. But undeniably, this menswear moment indicates that we’re at the precipice of a new era: the dawn of seriously insane suits.

The Biebs’s red-carpet foray, however bad it might have been, wasn’t an isolated event — quite the opposite. Serious star power flaunting daring, new-age tailoring has become commonplace, a litmus test for menswear’s embrace of the trending craziness. Gone are the days of the simple black suit, the gentleman’s navy blazer. Menswear has been raptured into a melange of wild hues, oversized blazers and not-so-formal formalwear.

It would be a gross exaggeration to describe this phenomenon as a wholly new endeavor. Perhaps you can think back to a time when David Byrne was blowing minds in a getup of equally enormous proportions, or when the psychedelic-inspired passions of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band imprinted on the culture? 

Still, it seems like more and more often the suit as we know it is reinvented, often to great laudation. Legacy publications were quick to defend the Bieber suit spectacle as a stroke of misunderstood genius. Vogue pointed out that while “you may think Bieber’s two-piece suit is several sizes too large…that deliberately lax silhouette has quickly become one of Balenciaga designer Demna [Gvasalia]’s signatures.” 

And at face value, founding father of menswear Pierre Balmain’s iconic mantra “Good fashion is evolution, not revolution” rings as seemingly appropriate advice. After all, modern takes on the centuries-old style have become the standard time and time again. Yves Saint Laurent and Hedi Slimane’s iconic slender black uniforms influenced a generation, as did Giorgio Armani’s broad-shoulder masterpieces. Even recent contributions by the likes of Thom Browne are universally applauded as steps forward for the suit. 

But with the flux of crazy tailoring becoming sartorial bread and butter, it begs the question, has out-there suiting indeed gone too far? And vexingly, maddeningly, annoyingly, the answer we’ve come back to, time and time again, is simply, “No.” 

At the heart of this question lies its own conundrum: What exactly is the suit for? The style’s history suggests a function rooted in a formal, buttoned-up demand. There are those, like Fear of God, who may disagree, but there seems to be some consensus that no matter how casual a suit skews, it’s still an inherently dressy look. Will we be wearing Dior’s new season to a funeral? Not a chance. But we can accept that a highlighter-green blazer or dragging set of trousers still counts to denote a special occasion.

However, forgoing your own personal taste and that of certain celebrities — chic versus gauche, “over the top” or “not enough,” liking chartreuse a bit too much — it’s important to remember that there are definitive, universally accepted measurements of what makes for good tailoring. Proportions are there to be played with, but fit is king. Pastels and crazy colors are available to you, but an appropriate palette is critical. Experimentation and idiosyncrasies are embraced, as long as they have a point. There are cornerstones that must be respected here, folks.  

a collage of Robert and Justin
Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images for Warner Bros., Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

Case in point, Bieber’s aforementioned suit, at face value, displays similarities akin to another star’s recent getup: Robert Pattinson at the Batman premiere. Both suits are intentionally oversized, both are dressed up with handsome marled grey fabric, both are worn casual, as is in vogue, without a tie (or collared shirt, for that matter). 

But while Bieber’s Demna Gvasalia vehicle looks outlandish and effectually sloppy, Mr. Pattinson’s suit (designed by the queen of understated luxury, Jil Sander) is a tour de force, and not just because it houses his smoldering British looks. Pattinson’s oversized digs still fit him impeccably, with an inch-perfect sleeve length, appropriately long break and shape to the jacket that helps fill out his frame, rather than drown it. 

So perhaps the recent eccentricities aren’t a bridge too far for menswear, but some of them sure are bad. Take it as a cautionary tale for those interested in the Wild West of cutting-edge tailoring: sacrifice the laws of suiting at your own peril.

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