Flanderian

Connoisseur
It's an I-gent shibboleth that black suits are only appropriate for evening. And while I don't particularly wish to wear them, and have even joined in the fun :oops:, it really doesn't appear to be historically accurate. Ignoring for the moment that the rest of the world has really never abided by any such proscription, the pages of vintage Esquire are chockablock with illustrations of various types of black suits being worn for common day time business. And many of these are striped, often with a typical grey stripe, but also multicolored.

I was reminded of this coming upon the photo below. If somewhat austere, I think the fellow in this black striped suit both handsomely turned out, and dressed in a manner in which he will find himself well suited for work in most professional environments.

Bespoke suit by B&Tailor.


 

Flanderian

Connoisseur
I like it. The stripes definitely make all the difference.
I agree. And while I don't have an example handy, those with suitably muted multicolored stripes can look even more relaxed and interesting.

I guess that's because black offers such strong contrast with many colors.
 

Matt S

Connoisseur
Are solid black suits in the old Esquire pages? I was taught by my father before the internet that black suit (solid black) are only for funerals. It’s not just an iGent thing. But I never was aware that anyone extended this to non-solid black suits.
 

Flanderian

Connoisseur
Are solid black suits in the old Esquire pages? I was taught by my father before the internet that black suit (solid black) are only for funerals. It’s not just an iGent thing. But I never was aware that anyone extended this to non-solid black suits.
I can't recall seeing them except as part of evening wear, but there may be examples. I can't swear there are no other exceptions. Unfortunately, the archives are just graphic images and aren't searchable. Should I encounter any, I'll post them, but they're contained among several thousands of pages which can only be viewed two at a time.
 

Shaver

Suspended
Are solid black suits in the old Esquire pages? I was taught by my father before the internet that black suit (solid black) are only for funerals. It’s not just an iGent thing. But I never was aware that anyone extended this to non-solid black suits.
Indeed. My father, my uncles and my grandfathers reserved their own black suits solely for the solemnity of funereal proceedings.
 

Matt S

Connoisseur
I can't recall seeing them except as part of evening wear, but there may be examples. I can't swear there are no other exceptions. Unfortunately, the archives are just graphic images and aren't searchable. Should I encounter any, I'll post them, but they're contained among several thousands of pages which can only be viewed two at a time.
Thanks. It would be interesting if you found a solid black suit that wasn’t illustrated for a funeral. I see nothing controversial about a black striped suit.
 

Flanderian

Connoisseur
Indeed. My father, my uncles and my grandfathers reserved their own black suits solely for the solemnity of funereal proceedings.
Ahh . . . but you're such a young man! :D The black suit, or at least the black jacket appears to have been dominant among the burgeoning middle class through the later half of the 19th Century and well into the 20th, both as the frock coat and sack. Might be that their depiction a couple of decades later is simply depicting a conservative common hold over among some as choices for business suits.
 

Mike Petrik

Honors Member
Are solid black suits in the old Esquire pages? I was taught by my father before the internet that black suit (solid black) are only for funerals. It’s not just an iGent thing. But I never was aware that anyone extended this to non-solid black suits.
Exactly right. FWIW Brooks Brothers and competitors did not offer solid black business suits from sometime soon after WWI until well into the 1990s, but certainly did carry some with stripes. I find Flanderian's original post amusing insomuch as nothing screams iGent to me quite like a solid black lounge suit (except of course a solid black lounge suit without a tie).
 
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EclecticSr.

Super Member
I agree. And while I don't have an example handy, those with suitably muted multicolored stripes can look even more relaxed and interesting.

I guess that's because black offers such strong contrast with many colors.
In the 60s and maybe into the 70s I owned at least two such suits, chalk stripe, one a DB the other a 3 piece SB. I know somewhere hidden in the depths of my wardrobe closets I have a Polo blue label one, 2 piece SB, I believe was called the Garrison model, purchased about 10-12 years ago. Had it tailored but have yet to wear it. I should search out that puppy and give it a good wearing. Thanks for reminding me.
 

Flanderian

Connoisseur
Exactly right. FWIW Brooks Brothers and competitors did not offer solid black business suits from sometime soon after WWI until well into the 1990s, but certainly did carry some with stripes. I find Flanderian's original post amusing insomuch as nothing screams iGent to me quite like a solid black lounge suit.
Earlier in Brooks' history, up until the '20's, they offered black suits as a significant, if not dominant staple for business clothes amongst their inventory.

In the 60s and maybe into the 70s I owned at least two such suits, chalk stripe, one a DB the other a 3 piece SB. I know somewhere hidden in the depths of my wardrobe closets I have a Polo blue label one, 2 piece SB, I believe was called the Garrison model, purchased about 10-12 years ago. Had it tailored but have yet to wear it. I should search out that puppy and give it a good wearing. Thanks for reminding me.
And one such is depicted on the right below. Text is dismissive of it, so as to suggest it's commonplace and no longer fashionable.

 

Oldsarge

Moderator and Bon Vivant
I read somewhere that black was the norm in the City of London during the 19th Century because of the prevalence of coal ash in the atmosphere. Having a smut land on your black suit was less disturbing than if it landed on a brown one, hence 'no brown in town'. Now that heating is more often done with North Sea natural gas, the maxim is obsolete so perhaps the guideline against wearing black in the daytime was a reaction against a century of coal pollution. The rest of the world certainly has no problem with solid black business suits.
 

Flanderian

Connoisseur
I read somewhere that black was the norm in the City of London during the 19th Century because of the prevalence of coal ash in the atmosphere. Having a smut land on your black suit was less disturbing than if it landed on a brown one, hence 'no brown in town'. Now that heating is more often done with North Sea natural gas, the maxim is obsolete so perhaps the guideline against wearing black in the daytime was a reaction against a century of coal pollution. The rest of the world certainly has no problem with solid black business suits.
Certainly among one of many reasons why both the wearers and makers of black clothing might find it convenient. And a trip through Manhattan in winter might still well explain the shade's continued popularity in that city. Perhaps not that obsolete.
 

EclecticSr.

Super Member
Earlier in Brooks' history, up until the '20's, they offered black suits as a significant, if not dominant staple for business clothes amongst their inventory.



And one such is depicted on the right below. Text is dismissive of it, so as to suggest it's commonplace and no longer fashionable.

Commonplace be damned, I would still wear it along with the fedora illustrated on the gentleman on the left:)
 

Dhaller

Advanced Member
I'm always suspicious of any sartorial guideline which contains the word "never"! The fact is, our rules of dress have evolved among a narrow bandwidth of the human palette; I see plenty of Japanese men who look perfectly fine in black suits, as one viable exception to the "rule".

Now, I cannot wear a black suit - I mean, I can, but it's definitely not the color (or shade) for me; even in evening clothes (or semi-formal, or whatever it's called), I prefer a midnight blue to a black. But plenty of folk (most, even, if we cast our gaze China-ward) can harmonize perfectly well with a black suit.

In the case of the OP, I guess I don't classify a black suit with stripes as a *black suit* (though, technically, it is); I could probably wear one, given the right color of stripe (or even a check - I have a few pairs of black Zanella trousers with a subtle check pattern so that the visual impression is a kind of charcoal grey.)

DH
 
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