Suit Saturday: The Shawl Collar


Designers go through periods where they mostly begin to run out of ideas. This happened in the 70’s when they just made everything big (big lapels, big heels, big hair) and more severly with the 90’s (grundge and a terrible sequel to the 80’s) so would I say we’re entering in such a period? Not exactly. You see, when economic times are tough, all designers try and go “classic.”

What does classic mean? That is a whole other discussion, but for the purposes of today, it simply means that using more traditional styles and forms. Topman and J. Crew are currently pushing the shawl-collared jacket, like the one above (from J. Crew).

Beware, this jacket is complex and not a simple blazer, and if you try and wear it like J. Crew says, you’re screwed. Here’s why:

Don’t get my wrong, it’s not because of the shawl-collar itself. I have shawl-collared jackets. Two, in fact. They are both tuxedos, though. You see, that’s the point, a shawl-collar will always be something less casual, and will evoke ideas of formality. Sure, you can wear tuxedo jackets when it’s not really a time for tuxedo, but the material and texture of this jacket is suggesting you use it very differently.

The color above is the only one I’d suggest buying, outside of a black or white. However, the white can only be used as a dinner jacket, meaning a white tuxedo jacket with black pants (only Diddy can pull off all-white, and Valentino).

You see, J. Crew is trying to make this “casual luxury” bull shit that they push onto people thinking that you can look nonchalant about it. This is one of the occasions where I think the form of the garment does not lend itself well to any other setting but a formal one. Whether that is natural due to its physical shape or because of social conditioning, I don’t know, but the reality is that it just does not look good.

They want you to wear the white jacket with a chambray shirt, like so. It looks terrible, it looks odd, it looks too forced. I mean, the shawl collar really is the more “casual” of tuxedos, but that does not mean you go this casual with it. The material and the color are just odd, if you are going to go white, make sure it has all most satin-like qualities, otherwise it just looks off.

There is a reason why James Bond wore a shawl-collared tuxedo, but that’s where his shawl-collar adventure ended. So, if you’re going to rock the shawl-collar be safe and keep it simple, and don’t ever try and make it something it isn’t.

Osama Eisa


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