The Mad Tailor: Playing with textures

2019 has already seen more than its fair share of sun. Looking forward, there is more heat to come and the sun God causes some disciples to drape themselves from head to toe in His cloth of choice. It is not rare to observe the sartorially-inclined donning a linen suit, linen shirt, and linen handkerchief. This always leaves me feeling uneasy. Yes, linen is a great fabric. And summery, too! However, it all lacks that certain je-ne-sais-quoi. Today’s article will focus on playing with texture to make an outfit so much more satisfying.

The lapel adds texture.

A great example of playing with texture is the humble dinner suit. The lapels generally match the colour of the jacket. However, the silk, through its different texture, reflects light differently. This is simultaneously more striking and more subtle than using a different colour. Sir Hardy Amies (one of the great voices in menswear) said the following in his ABC of men’s fashion: “It is far more satisfying to create a contrast not through colours but through texture”. A subtle textural shift adds interest unobtrusively and elegantly. Of course, that does not at all mean that colours should never clash. Almost all classic looks involve some contrast between shirt and suit, for example.

Combining different textures requires a separate instinct but is ultimately even more rewarding. Structural differences are, at times, only visible at second glance, yet they can leave a longer-lasting impression than garish colours. The play in textures can even be very subtle, as Hardy Amies teaches us: “The contrast between the texture of a silk tie and the wool of the suit is sufficient in itself, without any additional colour contrast being necessary”.

Note the different textures.

It is one steadfast rule of menswear that you should not combine elements from different suits. While this is generally true (as most suitings are still worsteds and lack the visual depth to work well together), this issue can be avoided by investing in suits made from different types of fabrics. See our article The Mad Tailor: Your Sartorial Planner (When to order?) for tips on doing just that. If you have the necessary contrast in textures, there is nothing to stop you combining the trousers of one suit with the jacket of another (the same rules apply as they would to any other combination of odd trousers and sports jacket). The only caveat is that trousers tend to wear out long before jackets. As such, if you want to keep wearing your suits for years to come, we’d recommend always having a second pair of trousers made with every commissioned suit.

Colour and texture contrast.

Finally, I’ll leave you with an outfit that highlights what you can achieve with different textures. Our starting point will be a light-grey poplin (poplin generally has a smooth surface) shirt. We’ll combine that with a charcoal suit cut from a Fresco with its characteristic rougher texture. To finish the outfit off, I’d recommend a mid-grey grenadine tie to really underline the effect. This look works despite everything being comprised entirely of shades of grey. It is the different textures that make it interesting. The only exception I’d recommend is to opt for black cap-toe oxfords. FMJB/DC/MM

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