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.
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.
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