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

Updated: Jan 7, 2021

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.