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10. July 2020

Dead or alive? The Stresemann suit


Yves Yannick Stork

Though the shark’s teeth can be lethal 
You can see them white and red
But you won’t see Mackies’ flick knife
Once he’s slashed you
then you’re dead.

Just like these lines from Bertolt Brecht’s 1928 Threepenny Opera, the suit we’re talking about today has a lot to offer.

Much like Brecht’s play, the Stresemann suit is based on an English classic which was altered to suit (pun intended) a different set of demands.

The Stresemann suit is an elegant amalgamation of the formal morning suit and the less formal three-piece lounge suit. Hence, with regard to formality, the Stresemann is situated somewhere in between these two garments. It is named after German Reichskanzler and later foreign minister Gustav Stresemann (1878-1929) who played a significant part in conceiving the European Economic Union during the Weimar Republic.

The story goes as follows: Stresemann, tired of having to change from morning suits to lounge suits so frequently, asked his tailor to create a new kind of garment which would be adequate for more formal events as well as his everyday business in parliament.

The Stresemann consists of a black or charcoal jacket, a waistcoat of the same colour – both borrowed from the lounge suit – and morning suit trousers which typically feature black and grey stripes.

The Stresemann’s versatility is based on the idea that, while sitting at your desk, any onlooker would think you are wearing a lounge suit since all they can see is the upper body. Once you would leave the office for a formal obligation, the morning suit trousers attract more attention as these events usually entail a lot of standing.

However, by the end of the 1940s, the Stresemann’s popularity was already dwindling. As it was no longer suitable for everyday business, it was only worn at special occasions – instead of the morning suit. Today, it is nowhere to be seen.

This series would not live up to its name, though, if it didn’t consider the following question: In how far could we still profit from what appears to be a relic of time?

First of all, a well-dressed man would never want to turn up at a wedding in a lounge suit. The same goes for funerals – even though, due to the current circumstances, this question is less significant – for now.

Now, as I have already given away part of the answer in the question above, I would argue: The Stresemann is perhaps the most extravagant yet elegant solution for these occasions. At a wedding, the Stresemann would give you a very ceremonial appearance without running the risk of stealing the groom’s show – who is (obviously!) in a morning suit.

You might be tempted to infer that these occasions are so rare that investing in a Stresemann will not make up for the money spent. In fact, by no chance would you want to make it into the news as an eccentrically dressed anachronism.

Alas, there might be a grain of reason to these arguments. However, I would like to say that, at least the first one, is a cheap excuse – especially cheap to be exact: Many American tailors have flooded the market with very affordable patinised morning suit trousers. Hence, these striped trousers are very easy to come by. You could make the most of your charcoal grey flannel jacket in order to complete the look. Consider this a two-in-one solution – if it works for shampoo why not for a suit?

Furthermore, it is no secret that a second pair of trousers extends the lifespan of a suit drastically. So why not opt for the more formal striped trousers? In fact, it is well known that the occasions come with the clothes.

As far as the second point is concerned, I do not wish to be presumptuous – whatever you consider appropriate to wear to a funeral is up to you.

What are the options when it comes to the Stresemann?

A three-piece suit in charcoal grey would certainly look amiable. I prefer this dark shade of grey over black – in my opinion, it is much more versatile and exceedingly elegant. If you are looking for a traditional look, wear it with a white shirt, featuring a Prince-of-Wales collar, a silver necktie ( an equally forgotten piece) and black Oxfords. Alternatively, a white shirt with cappuccino-coloured stripes and contrasting collar and cuffs makes for a more daring, yet equally formidable, look. Adding a buttonhole, a red carnation perhaps, would finish off this wonderful ensemble.

The experienced suit-wearers amongst us could toy with the idea of choosing a double-breasted jacket instead of the three-piece suit. This would no longer be a classic Stresemann, but rather a stroller suit.

Summa summarum: dead or alive?

The short answer would be: dead – unfortunately. However, as my recommendations have shown, there are still some ways of experimenting with the idea of a Stresemann suit. Perhaps its time will come again. TG/YS/MM