An upscale local tailor wants men to dress down just a tiny little bit, writes Aznim Ruhana Md Yusup
THE song Down South by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers evokes an image of a man — currently not in the best circumstances of his life — driving down a rural US road in a beat up truck, passing by moss-covered trees near swamps infested with alligators. The air is so thick and muggy that it’s hard to breathe.
Petty comes from Florida, which has a humid, subtropical climate so it’s not hard to imagine the scene behind the song’s protagonist on his bittersweet homecoming.
He’s determined to make amends, he wants to start fresh and he’s thinking that he can make a good impression by wearing “seersuckers and white linens.”
A suit made of seersucker fabric carries an image of respectability and tradition in the American southern states. There’s even a National Seersucker Day celebrated by southern senators in the US Congress in Washington DC to highlight how important the fabric is to their identity.
The thin, cotton seersucker makes a lot of sense in Florida, where the average summer temperature is 28 degrees Celsius.
Not as hot as Malaysia but the creative director of Lord’s Tailor Kenny Loh reckons Malaysian men could do with wearing a seersucker suit too.
“The seersucker fabric with the vertical stripes is purposely puckered so it doesn’t need pressing, ever,” says Loh as he shows a sample at the Lord’s Tailor corner of Robinsons department store at the Four Seasons in Jalan Ampang.
“This suit we made has no lining or padding so it’s not bulky. When you travel, you can fold it inside your luggage without needing a garment bag. It’s also suitable for wearing outside in our climate, like if you have an outdoor wedding.”
EASY SUNDAY MORNING
Suits can be tricky in Malaysia, simply because there’s no practical necessity for it.
In temperate countries, a suit keeps you warm but what’s the point of layers in 30 degrees heat?
Everyone knows this, even fashion influencer and suit enthusiast Wak Doyok, resulting in his passive aggressive Instagram hashtag, #AkuYangPakaikoYangPanas.
But wearing a suit is special. It shows that you mean business, that you’ve put thought and effort into looking presentable.
A matching trouser-jacket combo is the closest that some men have to a uniform, so they put it on with no great discomfort inside their air-conditioned offices.
That said, a seersucker suit with its light colours (it’s typically light blue and white) and unstructured cuts is definitely a casual suit option.
It is not meant for boardroom meetings or formal events. It’s a suit for when you probably don’t need to wear one but you want to nonetheless.
Lord’s Tailor has several casual suit options. Fabric choices include linen, cotton, cotton seersucker and wool or a wool mix.
The main difference is in the construction of the suit, and perhaps the way it is styled. Colours for casual suits are still subjective, with some suits in pastel shades.
“A casual suit has no padding like on the shoulders,” says Loh. “It’s only partially lined, meaning there’s no inner layer at the back. So the jacket is less structured and lighter. One reason for lining is because of scratchy fabric, but these days even wool is soft and superfine so there’s no need for that.”
Loh prefers not to line his suits, even the wool trousers that he sometimes wears — although Lord’s customers can still expect theirs to be fully lined.
There’s something quite luxurious about the feel of soft fabric which you won’t get when the garment is lined, he says.
TYING UP LOOSE ENDS
Just because it’s a casual suit doesn’t mean you go easy on the styling. It’s just that you don’t need to be so persnickety about the rules. The pocket square doesn’t need to match the tie, and you can go sockless.
“Some people find not wearing socks weird,” admits Loh. “But it would also depend on the shoes. If it’s a lace-up shoe you should still be wearing socks but I’m wearing loafers so it’s fine. You can also pair sneakers with suits in line with the streetwear trend. That might not work in some occasions but it’s an option.”
Meanwhile, a good trouser cut does wonders to show off the wearer’s footwear. In line with the casual approach, trousers are more relaxed. It’s a bit fuller in the leg and seat area, before tapering down to the ankles.
You can wear a casual suit with a T-shirt but a formal shirt can still work. Pocket squares and ties in fun patterns will carry forward that easy feel. So do cufflinks in delightful designs. Designers like Tom Ford has released knit ties with a flat, straight bottom instead of pointed that works well for a less formal look.
“Malaysians want a suit that they can wear for every occasion, both formal and informal,” says Loh. “But it doesn’t work like that. So our suggestion is a sport blazer in linen or seersucker fabric as your casual jacket, and then a suit for important occasions.”