The Best of British Tailoring

With Louis Smith

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Olympic gymnast Louis Smith takes us through the best of UK menswear. 

Next month sees the launch of the first ever London men’s fashion weekend (London Collections: Men), three days of presentations and shows set to give British menswear an unprecedented position on the global stage — and about time too.

A good excuse, then, to celebrate the best in British tailoring, currently enjoying something of a renaissance thanks to fresh new houses Spencer Hart and Rake making a dent on the Savile Row establishment, and the British high street finally stepping up to the mark, with the likes of Reiss and Next producing wearable and directional suits and blazers.

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To help us do it, we enlisted gymnast Louis Smith to showcase our pick of the summer’s best suiting:

1 The check jacket (above)
Prince of Wales check (so called because it was originally popularised by the nattily dressed Edward VIII when he was the heir apparent) has had something of a renaissance in recent seasons. Another great summer alternative if you’re not keen on linen or pale shades, this unlined jacket is breathable and so light you’ll forget you’re wearing it. The subtle line of blue in the check means it works perfectly with a pair of pale chinos.

Grey/pale blue wool Prince of Wales checked blazer, £450; navy cotton polo shirt, £115; pale blue cotton trousers, £125, all by Aquascutum. Burgundy leather loafers, £155, by Sebago. Seamaster Planet Ocean 600m Co-Axial watch, £3,700, by Omega

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2 The navy hopsack blazer
If you don’t own a navy blazer by now, you haven’t been listening. It’s worth investing in something that’ll last you the long run, as a beautifully cut blue number will prove to be the most adaptable item in your wardrobe, whatever the season. The cut should be slim, the shape single-breasted and the fabric a light hopsack (a loosely woven, slightly coarse wool). Team with close-cut grey woollen trousers for a smarter, less predictable option than the classic cream chino.

Navy hopsack blazer, £1,250; purple/white cotton shirt, £125; blue/grey patterned silk tie, £85; turquoise silk pocket square, £55; grey wool trousers, £250, all by Dunhill

3 The double-breasted suit
For those looking to make a sartorial statement, there’s no smarter way than a double-breasted suit with a broad lapel. This two-piece from Paul Smith is finished with a fine pinstripe, which softens the shape, while the pale shade of grey is ideal as an option for summer. Team with a tie or bow tie, as double-breasted suits tend to look incomplete with an open collar shirt.

Blue/grey wool blazer, £625; blue/grey wool trousers, £300, both by Paul Smith at Liberty. White cotton shirt, £135; navy printed bow tie, £85, both by Richard James

 4 The unlined linen blazer
After decades spent banished in the “plus size and elderly” section of many department stores, the double-breasted jacket is back. With everyone from Prada to Hardy Amies producing contemporary takes on the style, which wrap the body rather than drown it, this lustrous linen blazer from Rake is ideal for summer. The fit is impeccable and it comes unlined, making it breathable. Team with a dark cotton (not linen — too much) trousers for a faultlessly summery look.

Blue linen double-breasted blazer, £1,010, by Rake. White and navy cotton jumper by E Tautz at Mr Porter. Navy cotton trousers, £250, by Vivienne Westwood at Liberty

5 The light cotton blazer
Every man should own a lightweight, throw-on blazer, which can be worn as easily with jeans as it can with a pair of suit trousers. This pale cotton piece has a contemporary cut, while the slim lapel and bright white buttons give it a louche, summery feel. Smarten up with a tie or wear casual with a navy linen T-shirt and a pair of tortoiseshell shades.

Blue cotton blazer, £99; green/white cotton shirt and tie set, £32; navy Team GB scarf (worn as a pocket square), £5; blue cotton chinos, £20; burgundy leather loafers, £50, all by Next. Speedmaster Moonwatch Co-Axial Chronograph watch, £5,300, by Omega

 

6 The block colour suit
Sober enough to look smart and unusual enough to grab attention, a burgundy suit should be on your summer wish list. Sent down the runway at Gucci, replicated at Cos and championed on the red carpet by Ryan Gosling and Robert Pattinson, this slimline woolen version from Next is a strong option. Play it straight: keep your shirt white and your tie navy (knitted silk works well) — too much colour and it’ll look clownish.

Burgundy viscose mix jacket, £64; pale purple cotton shirt and tie set, £32; burgundy viscose mix trousers, £35; black leather brogues, £70, all by Next. Black cotton socks, £12, by Falke. Seamaster 1948 Olympic Collection London 2012 watch, £3,700, by Omega

 

7 The almost safari suit
For many reasons (primarily sweat and ketchup), pale colours are not as easy to wear as your standard greys, blues and blacks, but they’re worth the extra effort. This Richard James cotton two-piece is incredibly flattering (the jacket is cinched at the waist and long enough to cover your backside), pleasingly matte (which prevents it from looking cheap) and light enough to wear even on the warmest days. Punctuate with a bright tie and simple, dark leather loafers.

Beige cotton suit, £750 (sold as separates); yellow/white checked cotton shirt, £135; red knitted silk tie, £85, all by Richard James. Brown leather loafers, £129, by Jones Bootmaker

Photographs by Simon Lipman
Fashion by Gareth Scourfield