Trump’s Suits

Toward the end of the presidential campaign, a newspaper in Australia ran a fashion analysis of Donald Trump’s wardrobe of suits. It was not flattering.

Here is the main illustration.

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I don’t believe people consider sartorial style when voting for political candidates. (If they did, then what was that whole Bernie Sanders thing about?)

But I am cautious. Now that the election is over, I can discuss these matters without fearing to confuse voters with irrelevant metrics.

As in my previous post, Trump’s Ties, I rely on the sophistication of my fashionable friend, Kate. Turns out she largely agrees with the Aussie paper on the matter of Trump’s suits.

I asked Kate how she would proceed if she were asked to advise Trump on his wardrobe.

“I would be brutally honest with the man,” she said. “His sleeve cuffs are too short. The shoulders on his suits droop an inch too far on either side. Ironic as it is, he wears $6,000 Brioni suits with puddle breaks in the pants hems.”

(I had to look up this puddle-break business. Here are two illustrations: The first is a no-go, a “puddle break” with fabric bunched up all over the shoe; in the second picture, the slacks have a smaller break over the shoe vamp, which is subtler and more appropriate.)

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As for the rest of it, Kate’s critique makes sense to me. Observe this photo.

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Kate says this: “I’d estimate he’s a 44-46 L, but he might be wearing a size too large across his chest. I’m sure he wears the suits this way for comfort. But what it shows is that he doesn’t care about his silhouette.”

Her suggestion: “He should have custom suits made by Martin Greenfield in Brooklyn. He (Greenfield) is New York’s premier men’s tailor, and he would build a nice-fitting suit.”

If you think about it, Trump is very particular about the way women look, not least the contestants in those beauty pageants he sponsored. So it is a bit odd that he appears to have a blind spot when it comes to his own attire.

On the other hand, Trump is 70 years old. Guys his age mostly grew up buying sack suits that made all men look pretty much the same and that would be acceptable, fashion-wise, for many years.

In his younger years, Kate says, Trump dressed more stylishly. Since then, however, his shape and the shape of fashionable menswear both have changed a great deal.

 

History and Context

As recently as 1990, Giorgio Armani, the go-to designer for understated elegance, was showing suits like the one below.

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Talk about long jackets and puddle breaks!

In the intervening years, suits thinned down a bit and the NFL-sized shoulder pads were replaced with more normal ones.

(Interestingly, NFL players also wear smaller shoulder pads now. But I digress.)

Then, around 2006, KAPOW! New York designer Thom Browne began releasing very, very slim suits. The picture below shows Browne modeling one of his creations.

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Notice the differences: A short, close-fitting jacket with downright narrow shoulders, and skinny pants legs with above-the-ankle hems that expose heavy brogue shoes worn without socks.

Even today, this looks rather like a seven-year-old boy wearing the Easter suit his mother bought for him when he was five.

When the Browne look was debuted, my guess is that Trump’s reaction was similar to that of most men not employed in the fashion industry: No frigging way.

But if it was shocking, it also was new. It signaled a change whose elements were picked up and normalized over time.

Younger guys stopped wearing socks, or at least visible socks, with leather shoes. There was a blossoming of brogues in formal and casual styles that continues to this day. Then men were coaxed out of their pleated pants, and into flat-front models.

And men’s suits really slimmed down. By now, the thin suit is the one to wear. Here is a 2016 Armani model.

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Most men are not going to adopt this look. These are the fellows who shop at Brooks Brothers and Nordstrom. They want to look like the other guys in their business uniforms, not like fashion-forward fops. Trump, whatever his suit label, most likely counts himself in this group.

But even the Thom Browne look has been adapted.

Several years ago the no-socks look was replaced, at least by young professional men, with striped and polka-dotted socks in bright colors. It was a little subversive acting-out for those unlikely to adopt loud tattoos or piercings.

Trump may or may not be a true political conservative (hard to tell), but he definitely is conservative when it comes to clothes. I don’t think we’ll see loud socks under his puddle breaks anytime soon.

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