Dear Trump White House: Here's how a men's suit should fit
March 12, 2017 12:00 AM
Stephen Crowley/The New York Times
President Donald Trump's extra long red necktie is secured with transparent tape.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer wears boxy suits and neck-pinching shirt collars.
Getting it right: Justin Timberlake arrives at the Oscars in style in February.
By Sara Bauknecht / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Donald Trump's unorthodox approach to politics has been called into question by many during his first weeks as president — and so have his sartorial tastes.
Oversized suits seem to be his signature look. (“I wear Brioni suits, which I buy off the rack,” he penned in his 2004 book “Trump: Think Like a Billionaire.” “Some people think it’s best to have custom-tailored clothing. I don’t recommend it unless you have an oddly shaped body, and unless you have a great deal of time.”) Photographs of him on more than one occasion — including at his inauguration — have captured his extra-long red necktie billowing in the wind with the tails secured with transparent tape.
Some of his staff’s fashion finesse hasn’t fared much better. Press secretary Sean Spicer’s boxy suits and neck-pinching shirt collars have become fodder for “Saturday Night Live” skits. Meanwhile, chief strategist Steve Bannon appears to switch between casual checkered button-downs and Polo shirts and a suit and tie.
With an administration filled with so many fashion faults, what is the anatomy of a proper men’s suit — and why does it matter?
“Before people hear what you say, they see what you’re wearing,” says Zach Barzanty, branch manager at Surmesur Pittsburgh, a Canadian-bred, made-to-measure menswear company that opened its first U.S. location here Downtown last summer.
In this case, what Trump and his employees are wearing are just way too big.
“The tie is probably the most noticeable thing on [Mr. Trump] that’s incorrect,” he says. “The widest part of the tie should sit right at the top of your belt loops.”
And it goes without saying that the transparent tape fixes are a flop! Tie tacks and bars are more elegant alternatives to keep tie tails in place.
Here are some more tips from menswear experts:
• Find the right fit: “If the shoulders don’t fit, then you have a real problem,” says Craig Arthur von Schroeder, founder/CEO of Philadelphia-based Commonwealth Proper Clothing, which specializes in domestically made well-tailored suits. (It plans to open its first Pittsburgh location this year.) “If the shoulders are too wide, it’s out of proportion.”
• Black vs. blue: The former should be saved for special events, nighttime wear or funerals. A dark navy or charcoal are better suited for daytime wear.
• Tie width: Have broad shoulders? Try a wider tie to keep it in proportion, Mr. Barzanty says. (Also, watch out for tie patterns that are too busy. When in doubt, stick to solids.)
• Coat length: Once again, think about proportions. The distance from the shoulders to the bottom of the coat should roughly split the body in half. Another way to eye the right length is if the middle thumb knuckle hits the bottom of the coat when a man’s arms are at his sides.
• Lapels: The width of the lapel should appear to be proportional to the spread of the collar and the width of the tie. However, don’t be surprised to see some slightly wider lapels coming into fashion, thanks to trendsetting designers such as Tom Ford, says Jacomo Hakim, CEO of BookATailor, a technology-focused bespoke suiting company with nearly a dozen showrooms across the country.
It’s not surprising that the public has been tough on the Trump White House’s wardrobe looks. There’s been more interest in general these days in menswear. In 2015, the Council of Fashion Designers of America for the first time rolled out its formal Fashion Week in New York City focused on men’s clothing and accessories.
Menswear is booming beyond the U.S., too. By 2020, it’s expected to contribute $460 billion to the global clothing and footwear market, according to Euromonitor International.
Plus, this is by no means the first time a male politician has been ridiculed for his fashion picks. Remember the outcry when Barack Obama wore a — gasp! — khaki suit back in 2014? Speaker of the House Paul Ryan also was called out for swimming in an over-sized suit during his days as Mitt Romney’s vice presidential running mate in the 2012 election.
Mr. Trump reportedly does care what his staffers wear. A source who’s worked with him told Axios.com — a media company recently created by a co-founder of Politico — that he allegedly judges men’s and women’s appearances alike and pays close attention to men’s tie choices. (The Trump dress code also incited backlash for telling female staffers to “dress like a woman,” a source who worked on the campaign said — but that’s a column for another day.)
A source also told Axios that Mr. Trump was disappointed in Mr. Spicer for “not dressing fancy enough” for his briefing-room debut. According to New York’s PIX11 news station, he got some new suits soon after thanks to BookATailor, which has its own production facility in Bangkok. Mr. Hakim declined to comment on that report or confirm it.
The experts interviewed for this story offered some names of men in pop culture and the media who might be able to provide some fashion inspiration. Justin Timberlake, Ryan Gosling, Pharrell Williams and Jesse Waters of Fox News are a few who consistently get it right, they say.
There’s still hope for Mr. Trump and his staff’s style, too. After all, it’s only been seven weeks since he took office.
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