Monday, September 5, 2011

The White Suit


Well, Summer's over. Doesn't bother me too much, really, since I'm more of an Autumn/Fall guy anyways. But now that Summer's done, it seems white clothes (or at least white shoes) are as well. I never knew about this rule until relatively recently, thanks to my seasonal style barometer, Karen Finlay. So, in honor of Summer's temporary death and the pause on white clothing, today let's celebrate the white suit!

According to Eric Musgrave, in Sharp Suits, the white suit was seen as "a symbol of gentility, an artistic streak, or a dandified attitude to dress." And indeed, there is a certain mystique that still surrounds the white suit. Me, though, I just dig the dandy side of it!

Of course, when you think white suit, Mark Twain is probably the first guy to come to mind. He's most likely the first public figure to popularize that look, despite the fact that it wasn't until his later years that he adopted the style. But let's take a look at some other great white suits throughout the 20th century.
Perhaps not famous, but definitely hip in white.
Peter Wyngarde in an episode of 1966's The Saint.
For anyone familiar with the Mods book, I apologize for cropping out the guy in the ill-fittin' suit.
Obi-Won Kenobi doesn't need the Force to keep his white suit clean.
Sold on the look yet?
The most popular, contemporary white suit guy would definitely have to be Tom Wolfe. He's actually my favorite:
I may not dig his politics, but I've always been a fan of his writing, his illustrations and his style. After all, this is the guy who wrote 'The Noonday Underground' in The Pump-House Gang and The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby! (If you've not read 'The Noonday Underground,' hunt it down for a great write-up on the dandified Carnaby Street scene of the mid-1960s.) Wolfe adopted the white suit look in 1962 and has used it as his trademark look every Summer, Autumn, Winter, and Spring since.

Me, I've always wanted a white suit, mainly thanks to Tom Wolfe (and Barry Gibb). Well, this Summer, I finally did it! This week, I picked up a white suit from Al's Tailors:
I may have opened myself up to Kentucky-Fried Chicken jokes.
Rounded edge on the pockets.
Rounded lapels to match the pockets.
Attention to detail.
Unfortunately, I picked this up too late as Summer is done and no more white after Labor Day. Aw well... some fashion rules are made for breakin'!


  1. That's a gorgeous suit! It's better to wear white when no one else is! The Colonel never looked that good!

  2. Ha, thanks for the link, and WOW! The suit is amazing! Al is fantastic. A few years ago I saw him wearing a denim pea coat. That sounds awful, but he looked sharp as all get out, and he made it for himself. I want one!

    Hey -- have you read the story "Gear" by Tom Wolfe? I read it in high school for a New journalism type thing and haven't found it since. It made a huge impact on me, all about this kid who was obsessed with Brian Jones. If you ever find it, let me know... And maybe I got the title wrong but I am almost positive that's what it was. But be sure and skip Mr. Wolfe's last novel. TERRIBLE.

  3. White suits are 'iffy' at best. I celebrate their existence but it just screams Novelty. Unless you're Rocardo Montalban. Then it's Strictly For The Playas.

  4. Thank you guys! Very excited about the suit, even though it'll only used sparingly.

    Karen, I am on the hunt for that story. And thank you for the advice, yesterday, to skip his current writings!

    Ah, David, but see that's the great thing about a white suit... people tend to avoid them which makes them that much more special. (Also, it's really off-white... my wife advised against going stark-white with this thing.)

    But I did think about the Fantasy Island thing too... the overall plan is to mix&match the white jacket and pants with other color vests. Or different colored jacked with white vest and pants.

  5. Rock on with your white suit! I don't think I've ever had the desire to own one but seeing as how nasty my white jeans wind up I think I'd worry about evil stains!

  6. Love it! More power to you! The red stiching on the working cuff is a superb touch. I might just have to steal that detail. ;)

    I found a white vintage Fred Perry 3-button jacket a while back. I believe it was a tennis official's jacket since there's a name tag above the inside pocket.

    I think white suits look especially nice with a turtle neck. You can see a photo of me wearing it here.

  7. I found it -- well, I found the correct info after 25 years, if not the actual essay. It was only anthologized by Tom Wolfe, and actually by Richard Goldstein. I'll keep looking for it, but so far, no luck.

  8. PS, my captcha was "Wella." As in how some people pronounce Paul Weller's last name. How's THAT for mod? You even get mod captchas!

  9. Using the suit as separates is a great plan! Good investment Carlos. I never see white suits that nice vintage or RTW. Long live bespoke!

  10. I find white suits only really look good in old photos. However, if you mix and match the jacket/pants with other suits, you've got some great building blocks to play with

    And I must add I applaude your audacity : )

  11. Just to echo Bill's response, what really bums me out is that I won't be able to drink red wine in this thing!

    Patrick, I just saw your Fred Perry blazer. Great find and it looks like it was cut really well! And how stoked are you that it fit perfectly!

    Karen, shoot me the title. I'll hunt it down too!

    And thanks Todd & David!