Building a Wardrobe from a Sustainability Perspective: Personal Image, Pt I

Updated: May 12

This is a part of an ongoing series called 'Building a Wardrobe from a Sustainability Perspective', to access to the main page of the series, click here.


"As Nassau Remembers the Duke of Kent", featured the January 1936 issue in Esquire. (Photo from the book "Men in Style")

A while ago I engaged in a conversation with a friend of mine discussing whether you can disentangle classic menswear and tailoring from a certain lifestyle that it has historically been associated with.


I believe (and hope) that should be the case. You shouldn't have to wear a silk gown and smoke cigars in your downtime to appreciate tailoring. And more importantly, such connotations are arguably the chief reason as to why tailoring has never been democratized; even when more affordable bespoke or MTM houses have become more readily available over the past few years.


This conversation, nevertheless, has reminded me of how discovering one's ideal image of his/ her own is also pivotal for building a sustainable wardrobe.



The rationale is straightforward. If you are certain about how you want to be presented or what is the lifestyle of your dream, then you could build a coherent wardrobe that is based on that narrative and skip over what is not relevant.


Basically, it stems from the notion of having a capsule wardrobe, but you are just approaching it from a reducing wastage viewpoint.


In this two-part article, I'll address how you could develop your wardrobe based on the idealized image of yourself. We will first approach it from an angle of tailoring styles and silhouettes in this piece, then from the perspective of other classic menswear attires in another write-up.


First-fitting with The Anthology. (Photo credits to Buzz Tang)

I want to start by referencing an intriguing saying I've encountered recently ― you could objectively evaluate a suit by examining its level of handwork and its fit; yet, at the end of the day, it is whether the tailored garment could manifest the idealized image of a person which ultimately wins the wearer's heart.


Indeed, of the artisans I have covered here on the blog, there are no doubts that most of them offer both the finest level of craftsmanship as well as an excellent fit.


Nonetheless, it is similarly undeniable that I get distinctive sensations when putting on garments in different tailoring styles. From the curvature of the quarters to the height of the gorge line, even the slightest adjustment to the smallest detail of a jacket could already change the overall appearance and thus the perceived image of the wearer.


Let me demonstrate this with some of my recent commissions.



The first one on the list is a grey flannel suit made by Whitcomb & Shaftesbury last year. (I have covered the specific suit in this article.)


Now, while I have seen jackets in various tailoring styles being made by the house - I recalled seeing a sports jacket that has more open and rounded quarters - their main house style is, as some of you may know already, inspired by the (former) Savile Row tailoring house Kilgour.


(On a side note, I offer my condolences to the house for closing their flagship store on the row as a result of the outbreak.)


This is not surprising, however, since Whitcomb's head cutter John McCabe worked at Kilgour for some time, and he certainly has brought the style over when W&S was founded.



Anyway, coming back to the tailoring style and the sensation I get from wearing the suit.


Although such house style has been relevant for more than half a century, as most remarkably worn by Cary Grant in North by Northwest among many other noticeable mid-century figures, the silhouette of the jacket is one that is quite contemporary in my opinion.


Specifically, both the high gorge line (where the collar and the lapel meets) and the rather closely-cut body are some features that you could typically associate with modern aesthetics. And when this combines with the more conservative quarters, it makes the whole silhouette very balanced from top to bottom, and by no means flamboyant.


In other words, if I self-identify myself as someone who wants to develop a wardrobe of tailoring that is understated enough to wear for work and only play with the details if I were to have a bit of fun (see my green summer suit from Whitcomb below), then styles like theirs would be the first place I go to.




Moving on, we now have a silhouette that is on the opposite end of the spectrum.


The Anthology's house style is undoubtedly very stylish, considering it not only features a soft, unpadded shoulder and a low gorge line; but also accentuates a sweeping line from the wide, concave lapels down to the powerfully curved, open quarters. Moreover, the jacket also has a low buttoning point and a short skirt, which place the emphasis on the widened chest.


Now, even as the suit is made out of a pigment blue worsted-wool fabric (some of the most business-appropriate cloth you could find out there), the tailor's style is certainly on the relaxed, casual side.


The jacket is also best to be worn unbuttoned, as I have previously suggested in my review article, since it resonates better with the whole Italian summer imagery which the brand found its inspiration from originally (a mixture of Florentine and Neapolitan styles I would say). Willy of The Anthology (as shown in the picture below) perfectly illustrates this point with his immaculately put together outfit.



Coming back to the sensation and the personal image side of the story.


I'd say if you are the type of person who prefers to dress down tailoring (especially because its associated formality doesn't work well with your day-to-day life) or you just prefer to be more relaxed and casual in general, I would then recommend you to go for styles like The Anthology's.


As for the specific garments, I would opt for separates (blazers and odd trousers) and only go for full suits if they are made with most casual fabrics. Linen and seersucker are the best for summer in my opinion (as showcased by Buzz's DB suit here), while tweeds, cashmere, and calvary twill are the best for winter.


That being said, I will also make an exception for high-twists ― after all, it really depends on how you're wearing it. (I find the brown Crispiare suit that The Anthology made for me very enjoyable to wear, considering the formality of the suit could be both dressed up and down.)



Finally, we have a fine demonstration of the English Drape cut with this merlot Tengri jacket made by Steven Hitchcock for me recently.


Now, I won't be going too in-depth with the technical details of the jacket here, since its full review will be presented in an upcoming article. However, I must say the silhouette of this latest commission of mine is quite different from what I have showcased above.


While the gorge line, the shoulder width, and the shape of the quarters are relatively similar to the W&S jackets I've shown above, what differs Steven's jacket is mainly the extra volume around the chest, as well as the generous room around the upper sleeves. Together, these smaller features serve as an optical illusion that makes my upper body look broader, if not more masculine.



As for the connotation of the style, considering the Drape cut is most often seen on the Golden age Hollywood silver screen and comfortably worn by the one and only Fred Astaire, as well as the equally impeccable Duke of Windsor, it inevitably is seen as rather 'boxy' for contemporary aesthetics with its additional volume.


However, instead of following the same old narrative that claims cuts like such is dated, I actually would argue the English Drape cut has the transformative power to bring the wearer a little bit closer to a good-old-fashioned Apparel Arts figure, as illustrated in the picture below. He or she is always striking and at the same time comfortable in his/ her attire.


And as I would always contend - there is nothing wrong with dressing a tailoring style that is reminiscent to a certain time period, as long as the person who is wearing the garment feels confident and natural about it. (Note: there is an intrinsic difference in reminiscing a certain time period and a certain lifestyle, something we highlighted at the beginning of the article.)


As such, if you are a big fan of the mid-century aesthetic, styles akin to Steven's is certainly something I would look out for.


"Coral at the Courts", featured the February 1942 issue in Esquire. (Photo from the book "Men in Style")

Needless to say, the styles I have discussed so far only constitute a fraction of the wider realm of tailoring styles.


Some major styles I have missed out in here, for example, include:


1) the English military cut that you could find on Huntsman, Henry Poole, as well as Gieves and Hawkes jackets, etc;

2) the strong architectural silhouette of Edward Sexton;

3) the rather dandy Parisian cuts often seen on Cifonelli and others;

4) the well-balanced silhouette that is seen on Northern Italian/ Milanese jackets;

5) as well as many other regional Italian cuts.


All of these give off a different sensation and perception to both the wearer and the ones around him/ her.


Also, on an important side note, if you have another way of interpreting such styles and you would prefer to do all of this in a different manner, please, by all means, do it. This is a guide and not a ‘menswear law.’



With all that is being said, you may ask 'how does all of this link back to sustainability?'


As controversial as this may sound, the key is to narrow down to a small number of tailors that you would use to construct your identity and wardrobe, as well as focus on what hits your sweet spot.


In fact, this is not even as radical as it seems. As you further develop your taste in menswear, you start to only go for a style that suits your image (pun intended) rather than becoming someone who wears too many things, who ultimately just loses his/ her individuality.


Henrik Hjerl (as shown above), for example, is someone who I admire for this instance. He is consistently seen in his Steven Hitchcock suits, with most of his tailoring garments all fall into the category of English Drape cuts. Everyone could very easily recognize him for this reason.



Now, of course, being truly 'sustainable' in a black-and-white utilitarian sense is not as easy and practical as it seems.


Chiefly, you may want to have garments in different styles for various occasions. In my case, while I tend to wear soft English suits in the colder seasons, I enjoy wearing Italian-inspired tailoring unbuttoned, often with a polo shirt inside in warmer seasons as well.


But this is reasonable. The crux of this is to be at least aware of why you are commissioning/ acquiring that garment, and how having this piece of tailoring could allow you to be a step closer to constructing a sustainable wardrobe that manifests your personal image. And if you could incorporate this idea to your wardrobe-building process, you’re on a good start already.


Soft and relaxed tailoring from Suitsupply worn unbuttoned during my visit to Florence back in 2019.

In part two of the article, we will continue to discuss how you could develop a sustainable wardrobe by focusing on your personal image. This time, we will focus on the other garments (apart from the tailored jacket that is) which are also pivotal in constructing that identity.


I hope you found this article to be insightful and constructive, and please feel free to comment down below if you have any follow-up questions.


Take care, and bye for now.


Photography: as specified, otherwise own


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