Why The Thom Browne Suit Won’t Die.

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Remember when Thom Browne just made suits? If you do, more power to you, because honestly I don’t. It was a decade ago that Browne first introduced his ready to wear line, and it was three years before that, in 2001, that he opened a haberdashery down in TriBeCa to begin selling his signature shrunken suits under the Thom Browne name. This was before all the accolades, before the infamously over the top runway shows, before Browne dressed Michelle Obama for the presidential inauguration, hell it was before he even designed womenswear. A lot has changed for Browne these past few years, as epitomized by his recent visit to The White House, but thankfully all this time he’s never messed with the suit.

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In the early aughts, when Browne debuted his now unmistakable aesthetic, the suit was in a sorry state. Men were struggling to pull themselves out of the tacky nineties, with its beefy shoulder padded suits and puddling trousers, and many simply shed the suit altogether. And then there was Browne, who shook off this hangover, and revitalized the suit by looking back and taking it all in. That distinct Thom Browne took 1960’s Brook Brothers and ran it through the dryer. On high.

It could have failed. It should have failed. His cropped designs could easily have been written off as little more than reactionary. But Browne knew best, and after a slow start, the wave caught up to him. By 2006, he had already reached the apex of men’s style, winning the CFDA’s Best Menswear Designer Award. And then he wisely stopped. Unlike so many of his colleagues, Browne has never felt the need to modify the cut of his suits. The rest of his ready-to-wear line, especially the exaggerated runway collection, is another story, but generally, the suit is the same.

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If you ask me, the mark of a great artist is not knowing when to add something or how to best reach an audience, it’s knowing when to stop. The Thom Browne cut is nothing if not dramatic, but by now there’s a certain comfort that comes from that: it’s always going to be there, and you’ll always be able to spot it. Now, I personally think that Browne’s designs look great, and that he did us all a great service. The suit had become boring, something that wore you, and Browne reversed this trend. He added character to the suit again, and in doing he rediscovered this sense of cool that had long been absent from the American tailoring world. And clearly, this resonated with quite a lot of people, as across the board, suits today have become higher and trimmer. And now, as menswear pushes itself ever further into the avant-garde, Browne’s cropped trouser, shorter sport coat look suits (no pun intended) a contemporary customer that wants to convey that he chose to wear a suit rather than having it forced upon him like a corporate straight jacket. Of course, I do recognize that Browne’s suits tend to be polarizing, but to those that hate it, I would simply say, would you rather have more men in suits or more absent minded slobs? If your answer is still anti-Browne, why don’t you take a look down at your own pants, or the jacket you’re wearing, because I can guarantee you owe that man at least a partial “thank you” for how those fit. – JAKE GALLAGHER

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Comments on “Why The Thom Browne Suit Won’t Die.

    JMon November 20, 2014 @ 9:27 AM:

    Too many people write TB suits off as a fad; without ever knowing how the industry works. A fad stays for one or two seasons and then disappears, a trend will stay for 4-6 seasons, TB has managed to keep his look for over a decade.

    In the world of fashion, history certainly repeats itself. And while TB credits the era of the BB 1960s; his suit silhoutte mirrors that of the mid 1920s more than anything. When men were getting tired of the 4 button sack suit and we’re having their trousers tapered to a 12 inch opening and had absolutely no break. Fashion is certainly cyclical and when TB is done, it’ll only be a matter of time before someone in the future brings back the shrunken suit.

    AJCon November 20, 2014 @ 9:51 AM:

    “… would you rather have more men in suits or more absent minded slobs?”

    False dichotomy, anyone?

    “… why don’t you take a look down at your own pants, or the jacket you’re wearing, because I can guarantee you owe that man at least a partial ‘thank you’ for how those fit.”

    Not even a little bit true.

    C’mon, Michael.

    Timothy Nguyenon November 20, 2014 @ 10:41 AM:

    I had a serious discussion with my roommate last night about the Thom Browne aesthetic. He wears Julius_7, Rick, and SLP so he doesn’t quite get it. I love my Thom Browne suit and I can’t wait to get a matching pair of shorts and cashmere cardigan to go with it.

    KRHon November 20, 2014 @ 12:21 PM:

    Kudos!

    Michael Williamson November 20, 2014 @ 12:29 PM:

    @AJC I think it is, but just a little. And talk to Jake if you don’t like it.

    Vadim Kon November 20, 2014 @ 4:12 PM:

    Because Japan.

    jordanon November 20, 2014 @ 5:59 PM:

    I guarantee you I owe this man nothing. I have also never seen a human male in one of his silly suits. What is the measure of a good designer and tailor? That people wear his clothes and look good.
    This man is a successful conceptual artist- that is different.

    Thibauton November 20, 2014 @ 6:57 PM:

    I hope that you are right on spot. The gimmicky Thom Browne look has now been widely recognized for 10 years indeed.
    It is not intended to become mainstream: it is for people who can afford to choose to wear suits. And nothing beats the feeling of wearing a short suit for example, in the city.

    Derrickon November 21, 2014 @ 9:11 AM:

    There’s a lot of revisionist history going on here. Tom Brown may have gave the suit a cartoonishly boyish silhouette but Hedi Slimane, Jil Sander, Helmut Lang and Tom Ford had already slimmed the suit out by the turn of the century. Tom cut a few inches off the hem for an aesthetic that did not compliment the vast majority of people who wear suits. I viewed it as a gimmick then and I still do.

    nathanielon November 21, 2014 @ 12:00 PM:

    Its true that Thom Browne’s silhouettes are coquettish kind of homoerotic take on traditional men’s tailoring, but given where the suit was at the end of the twentieth century this shrunken effect had a positve effect on all other designers of both high and low fashion; so much so that suits are now generally leaner, shorter, more fitted and less baggy. Should we all dress with pants three inches above the shoe line and jackets that stop at the waist? No of course not, but the influence has been positive nevertheless.

    Philon November 21, 2014 @ 12:16 PM:

    Please. This “look” has run its course. Sure, he got the ball rolling on the slimmer-fit shirt and narrow lapel look that was de rigueur five years ago (with A LOT of help from Mad Men), but the clamdigger pants and three-quarter length suit sleeves would be laughed out of most offices. 90% of the time a guy looks like he can only afford the suit he bought at high school graduation but still has to get dressed for work every day.

    Jonathanon November 21, 2014 @ 12:44 PM:

    But what about the knee socks? Why haven’t they caught on?

    EMJon November 21, 2014 @ 6:47 PM:

    It is undeniable that TB, and Hedi Slimane changed how suits are cut and worn today. His influence over menswear so overshadows his own collection. I don’t mind his personal style. I personally think the 1950’s were the greatest design decade in history, the cars, the art, architecture, you name it… But, his fashion shows are so ungodly awful, all i think is WTF is he doing. As noted in the picture above, who the fu*k wears a felt bunny hat? I do agree with Jordan, he is a conceptual artist at heart.

    Jordyon November 21, 2014 @ 10:58 PM:

    couldn’t hate on a nicer guy. Cheers to a legend

    Jackon November 22, 2014 @ 10:01 AM:

    TB’s runway shows are pure entertainment. You guys don’t think he expects his customers to wear suits with those cuts?

    Just google 2003 NBA draft class to see how awful suiting had become.

    Thanks TB!

    Danielon November 23, 2014 @ 6:38 PM:

    I think a lot of the backlash is homophobic to certain degree. “Sissy suits”, “coquettish”, “clownish”… The American Male’s alpha status has to be maintained, and by playing with their sacrosanct costume to suit his aesthetic preference he challenges their masculinity.
    Has anyone done an analysis of his tailoring as subversive art?

    mvon November 24, 2014 @ 6:46 PM:

    ugg. that grosgrain ribbon is like “FITCH” written across a fleece sweatshirt. soooo tacky. BTW, the only people i’ve seen wear those suits are his employees on 11th ave and 25th street.

    bryanon November 25, 2014 @ 6:50 PM:

    @Daniel I respectfully disagree with your opinion that backlash to Thom Browne is homophobic.

    Example, Nick Wooster. He’s a gay man, but very stereotypically masculine. He has tattoos, he’s muscular, he sports facial hair, etc. He wears Thom Browne silhouettes in what I think is a very masculine way.

    You’re setting up a false dichotomy, gay men vs. masculine men, which I think is wrong.

    Also, (not putting myself on Alpha status here, but) my masculinity isn’t threatened by any trend or piece of clothing.

    Guyon November 27, 2014 @ 1:49 AM:

    Whoa…look at these guys. As mentioned above, here is the 2003 NBA draft. Pay close attention to the pants bottoms. The whole outfit is beyond hideous.
    http://i.cdn.turner.com/nba/nba/history/draft/2003-draft/2003-draft-608.jpg

    Danielon November 28, 2014 @ 12:54 AM:

    @Michael you are an enlightened individual and I would be happy to but you a beer, that same can’t be true of many of the people here who are actively queer bashing Thom Browne’s designs wether they are conscious of it or not. I wasn’t drawing the line in the sand, I quite happily wear slightly femme fits, the fellas who narrowly define what is acceptable for the “male uniform” are. Cheers.

    maurizioon November 28, 2014 @ 1:21 AM:

    I don’t own anything from him but with a clear point of view, sartorial knowledge, sense of humor and clear brand definition, Thom Browne is in my opinion one of the very few truly creative apparel designer in the USA and certainly an installation artist.
    Commercial success is secondary, he has for sure influenced and inspired a new American men’s style.

    Annion December 3, 2014 @ 5:39 PM:

    Sorry – they may be impeccably made but those shrunken TB suits are infantilizing and silly-looking.

    Tomon December 5, 2014 @ 8:49 PM:

    There’s an undeniable homoerotic element to the cut of these suits, particularly the jackets. Here it all is, boys, fore and aft! It’s not surprising that some non-homoerotic gentlemen might be discomforted by the notion of walking around in those things. That’s not queer-bashing. Some homoerotic gentlemen undoubtedly feel the same way. I wonder what the ladies think. They’ve always looked like toy clothes to me. I live and work in an area where you see them quite often, and I’ve never thought they were flattering to anyone. However, if Mr. Browne has influenced a leaner look in menswear across the board, then, as a lean guy, I say double-kudos.

    Davidon December 6, 2014 @ 11:02 AM:

    @Daniel: Not all straight men subscribe to the “alpha male” mentality. Some of us even have bachelor’s degrees in Fashion Merchandising.

    In regards to Thom Browne, I love his color palette and use of pattern, but find his silhouettes too severe. I remember seeing slim 1960s clothing from Prada, Dior Homme and Gucci in the late 90s. As has already been said, fashion is cyclical. Thom Browne came along and really popularized the look by tweaking the silhouette even more. Fashion is already moving in the other direction.

Comments are closed.