Suits: Articles of Interest #10

Rae Tuturo:
“I think my cousin was getting married. It’s almost 10 years ago, now.”

Avery Trufelman:
Rae Tuturo had to go to a wedding. It was time to dress up and Rae needed to look good because their date was incredibly stylish.

Rae Tuturo:
“At the time I was newly dating my partner, who really experienced joy in getting dressed up for things in a way that I did not relate to and really wanted to experience. If my partner is putting on a velvet floor-length dress, I’m like, ‘Oh, dammit, that’s good.'”

Avery Trufelman:
Rae normally wears kind of androgynous casual clothes, like jeans, Hawaiian shirts, gray sweaters. But by and large, formal wear is still so starkly gendered. For this wedding, Rae realized they were going to have to get a suit.

Rae Tuturo:
“I just knew that I probably needed a suit because I didn’t feel comfortable wearing anything else for when I had to get dressed up.”

Avery Trufelman:
Rae was not excited about wearing a suit. It honestly seemed kind of boring and intimidating when you contrast it with the thrill and excitement of floor-length velvet dresses or jumpsuits, and makeup, and heels. Rae watched their partner in awe.

Rae Tuturo:
“I was just like, ‘Wow, whatever that is, I need that.'”

Avery Trufelman:
It just seemed like it was going to be really hard to get that special dress-up feeling from a suit.

Rae Tuturo:
“Sometimes I’m almost underwhelmed when I’m getting dressed.”

Avery Trufelman:
There’s just a narrower range of self-expression available to the people who shop in the men’s department.

Rae Tuturo:
“We look sort of…uh… plain, in a way. Yeah, I wear pants every day and they’re the same as the pants I wore yesterday, just navy pants. And then I feel plain on the outside and then a complete freak on the inside. And there’s a part of me that is tempted to bring the way I feel into how I actually dress myself.”

Avery Trufelman:
As Rae would find out, expression is possible. It’s just that menswear doesn’t shout. It whispers and you have to lean in close to hear it.

[OPENING SONG]

Avery Trufelman:
Articles of Interest, a show about what we wear, Season 2.

[PEOPLE DON’T REALIZE IT’S FANTASY.]

[THERE’S ALWAYS THIS THING THAT YOU HAVE TO WORK EXTRA HARD TO GET.]

[HMM, THAT’S SO GOOD.]

[NO ONE DRESSES LIKE A KING ANYMORE.]

[HOW DO YOU MAKE MONEY? THAT’S HOW I MAKE MONEY, LOVE.]

[THERE ARE LOTS OF THINGS THAT WE TAKE FOR GRANTED THAT WOULD ONCE HAVE BEEN CONSIDERED LUXURIES.]

Avery Trufelman:
Listen, I love fashion, made a whole podcast about it, but for a long time, I did not get menswear, specifically suits. They are neither useful nor interesting. You know what I mean? The jacket doesn’t keep you warm. The tie is just kind of a shitty scarf. The pocket square’s a handkerchief you don’t use. And yet they all more or less look the same and that’s all men are allowed to wear. During awards season, fashion journalists will highlight the best dressed and it always includes a bunch of men.

[RYAN SEACREST: YOU’VE GOT BRAD PITT, EDDIE MURPHY, LEO DICAPRIO.]

Avery Trufelman:
And for the most part, they’re all just wearing tuxes. I mean, it’s nice. It’s nice. They look nice, but it’s a black jacket and black pants. On the red carpet, in this world of infinite possibilities where a woman can come in wearing a swan, these famous guys are lauded for wearing a black jacket and black pants. Menswear is hopelessly boring. Sorry, it is.

G. Bruce Boyer:
I don’t want to use the word boring either, but it’s meant to be that way.

Avery Trufelman:
This is iconic menswear writer, G. Bruce Boyer.

G. Bruce Boyer:
It’s meant to be a uniform. Uniforms keep people in, keep people out.

Avery Trufelman:
Because of the uniformity of suits, tiny differences make a big statement. It matters if the threading on the button is a certain color, if you have pleats. Suits quietly, secretly contain this infinite, ever-shifting world of tiny details. Some are useful, some are purely decorative, but they’re all very subtle.

G. Bruce Boyer:
“These are handmade trousers. The pocket is not on the seam. It’s slanted forward because that way, it’s easier to get your hand in and out. See, most people wouldn’t notice that, but that happens to be an important little detail.”

Avery Trufelman:
Another important little detail — the buttons on the sleeve. If you bought a fancy suit, the buttons are actually functional.

G. Bruce Boyer:
“So you can actually button the sleeve and unbutton it. You can roll up the sleeve and wash your hands without taking your jacket off. Nice. It’s just a little detail. It’s a little detail, an important little detail. It’s a little detail. But that’s the kind of thing…”

Avery Trufelman:
The suit is an Easter egg hunt for tiny details. And there’s no way you could ever find all the eggs because some of them are hidden very well.

G. Bruce Boyer:
“You see that? That little tab. It’s a little tab.”

Avery Trufelman:
It basically keeps your collar from curling up in the heat.

G. Bruce Boyer:
“That’s a very important little detail that nobody will notice, except you. Nice.”

Avery Trufelman:
We are not looking at Bruce’s closet. Although, it feels like it.

G. Bruce Boyer:
“It’s kind of my home away from home.”

Avery Trufelman:
We’re in a store in the Tribeca neighborhood of Manhattan called “The Armoury.”

G. Bruce Boyer:
If I say, “Well, I’m going to be in Manhattan today.” My wife has said, “You’re going to stop down at The Armoury, aren’t you?” I said, “Well, maybe I will.” She said, “Give me your credit cards.”

Avery Trufelman:
The Armoury is a shop, but it is also basically a clubhouse for menswear nerds, for gentlemen who understand the little clues that make this otherwise plain looking clothing very expensive.

Avery Trufelman:
“What makes these ties special?”

G. Bruce Boyer:
“If you’re looking from 10 feet away, nothing. It’s when you get up close and you notice that these things are very subtle, I think.”

Avery Trufelman:
Quality is hard to describe. It comes with experience. And in this way, buying a suit is kind of like ordering a fine wine. The act of purchasing it is itself luxurious because it means you have the time and refinement to learn about what makes a wine good and learn what you like.

G. Bruce Boyer:
I mean, what we’re talking about is quality in the product and that’s really, to my mind, what luxury is. It’s the understanding of quality.

Avery Trufelman:
In menswear, that understanding of quality invites a degree of machismo. A lot of the fashion nerd guys are all sizing each other up over these little details.

[IS YOUR POCKET SLANTED?]

[HOW MANY VENTS DOES YOUR JACKET HAVE?]

[HOW’S YOUR POCKET SQUARE FOLDED?]

[WHO MADE YOUR SHOES?]

G. Bruce Boyer:
“It’s a bloodsport with them. It’s a kind of one-upmanship. They’re going to size you up right away.”

Avery Trufelman:
“Part of me is like, ‘Boys, boys. Don’t make it a competition.'”

G. Bruce Boyer:
“It’s a blood sport.”

Avery Trufelman:
Although, unlike other blood sports like cars or fine wines or whatever dudes can turn into a dick-measuring contest, menswear has this strange “X” factor.

G. Bruce Boyer:
“Sprezzatura.”

Avery Trufelman:
“Sprezzatura.”

G. Bruce Boyer:
“Yes, good.”

Avery Trufelman:
Sprezzatura – Italian, go figure – means “a studied carelessness”. It’s this concept that you’re not supposed to look like you put a lot of effort into the way you dress, even though you probably did, because it’s not cool for men to care about how they look.

G. Bruce Boyer:
That’s the sprezzatura of life. You’ll see a guy and you’ll say, “Oh, well the buttons of his shirt aren’t buttoned.” He knows that. You’re not telling him anything.

Avery Trufelman:
Real menswear buffs will say you don’t want to look too crisp and clean and buttoned up. Otherwise, you’ll look too slick like you’re a butler or something. You got to give it a little sprezzatura.

G. Bruce Boyer:
If his tie is crooked, he put it that way. If he left his sleeve buttons undone, he did that on purpose. He knows that. You’re not telling him anything. Believe me. The idea he wants to get across to you is that he looks fabulous. And if he cared just a little bit more, if he straightened his tie, if he buttoned his buttons, he would really look terrific. He knows that. He KNOWS that. It shows a strength held in reserve.

Avery Trufelman:
And so there’s this illusion that well-dressed men are the chosen ones who are just effortlessly elegant. Either you have the right stuff or you don’t. So a lot of men don’t really try. Many of them grew up without learning how to shop for clothes, without taking the time to figure out their tastes and their bodies. Because again, they weren’t supposed to care. And this, all of this, everything about menswear from the uniformity to the world of tiny details, this whole culture of sprezzatura, a lot of it can be traced back to one man. One man. His name was Beau Brummell.

Ian Kelly:
Always a joy to talk about Brummell.

Avery Trufelman:
Ian Kelly is a historian, screenwriter, and playwright. He’s also, by the way, an accomplished actor.

Ian Kelly:
And yes, I do play Hermione’s father in the Harry Potter movies. I think you’ve instantly undermined what ever academic cred I might’ve had.

Avery Trufelman:
No, no, no, no. It’s so impressive. Ian Kelly is absolutely a guy with academic cred. This Muggle wrote the definitive biography of Beau Brummell, who was bopping around London at the turn of the 19th century. Before Beau, men and women of the highest echelons of the European court systems used to dress in kind of the same way. Everyone had white powdered faces and wigs and big lacy collars and high heels, dripping with rich fabrics and rare gemstones. Everyone, men and women, were decking themselves out elaborately and glamorously. And then there was a massive shift.

Ian Kelly:
What fashion historians called the Great Male Renunciation.

[THE GREAT MALE RENUNCIATION.]

Ian Kelly:
The moment when men’s fashion forgoes, pretty much forever, lace and silk and feathers and wigs and makeup and color, and goes for something quite pared down.

Avery Trufelman:
And this renunciation in many ways, started with Beau.

Ian Kelly:
At the simplest, I should say, Beau Brummell is the begetter of the suit.

Avery Trufelman:
The suit, as we know it, did not exist before Beau Brummel. I know, you thought I was being a reductionist history podcaster when I was like, “It all began with one man,” but it’s really true. Beau Brummell changed everything.

Ian Kelly:
Arguably the most important single figure in the whole history of fashion.

Avery Trufelman:
What Adam Smith was to economics, what Charles Darwin was to biology, Beau Brummell was to fashion. Although unlike other founders of the modern era, Beau was wildly unqualified. He wasn’t a fashion designer.

Ian Kelly:
He wasn’t a tailor.

Avery Trufelman:
He wasn’t even a nobleman.

Ian Kelly:
He was, for want of a better word, a celebrity.

Avery Trufelman:
He was kind of famous for being famous. Today, we would call Beau Brummell an influencer.

Ian Kelly:
He was rich. He was funny. He was charming. He was good looking. Hence Beau …

Avery Trufelman:
Beau was his nickname. But before he grew up to be hot, he was born George Brummell in 1778. And his parents were servants.

Ian Kelly:
His parents worked for Lord North, who used to go down, until very recently, as the least successful prime minister in British history, now with somewhat stiff competition. But he famously lost the American colonies.

Avery Trufelman:
Beau’s father was Lord North’s private secretary and made an unusually large amount of money in that job.

Ian Kelly:
It was what was known in the 18th century as peculation, which I think now we call embezzlement.

Avery Trufelman:
And so Beau grew up around wealth. He was accustomed to it. He went to fancy schools. He knew all the right people. And when his parents died when he was teenager, he inherited the family fortune. Beau mostly spent his days gambling and going to the theater and just being handsome and witty.

Ian Kelly:
Famous, initially, for being the wittiest man in London.

Avery Trufelman:
Reading his quotes, I don’t know if I would call him witty as much as I would call him… mean? To give you an idea, here’s a classic Beau Brummell zinger. So Beau comes up to some lord on the street and asks him …

Beau Brummell:
“What are those things on your feet?”

Avery Trufelman:
This lord, of course, said, “They’re shoes.” Beau replied, he thought they were slippers.

Beau Brummell:
“Ugh. I thought they were slippers.”

Avery Trufelman:
Ooh, burn. Apparently this kind of insult humor went over very well and Beau roamed the streets of London, just dispensing clever insults and looking great. But Beau Brummell’s style was shockingly simple. He wore the same thing every single day — a white shirt, a dark jacket and tan pants. This look was the grandfather of the suit. And as conventional and stuffy as we may think of the suit today, Beau’s look was absolutely rebellious and unprecedented. For one thing, pants were pretty wild.

Ian Kelly:
That issue of full-length cylinder of cloth, from crotch to floor was very unusual before Beau Brummell.

Avery Trufelman:
Upperclassmen used to wear things that kind of looked like shorts, or maybe pedal pushers, with socks or stockings, just these bottoms that had multiple layers and parts to them. But Beau’s long shapely legs were accentuated by one uninterrupted piece of cloth. And Beau’s pants were really, really tight. Really tight. Beau required an assistant to get his pants on.

Ian Kelly:
There is this fashion in wake of Beau Brummell of wearing punishingly tight, usually rather pale trousers. And indeed in an era when gentlemen did not wear undergarments of any sort for fear of what I believe is known as visible panty line.

Avery Trufelman:
These early Beau Brummell pants made men look nearly naked, like they were Donald Duck-ing it, and this was intentional. It was inspired by this widespread obsession with Greco-Roman statuary.

Ian Kelly:
A fascination with the art of the ancients and, in particular, with sculpture.

Avery Trufelman:
Think of Jane Austen movies, right? Women around Beau Brummell’s time, curled their hair and pinned it back low and wore simple white gowns that made them look like statues of Greek goddesses.

Ian Kelly:
But Greek and Roman male statues were almost invariably nude, or at least the ones that were considered of artistic import. And the origin to tailoring is born strangely in emulation of a sort of a nudity.

Avery Trufelman:
Tailoring was also an emulation of a military look. The suit jacket was derived from a riding outfit because Beau Brummell had served in the cavalry.

Ian Kelly:
The monochrome, the simplicity has its allusion to military uniform, but also the idea of uniformity.

Avery Trufelman:
Having a uniform allows people to feel part of some larger cause, or part of a club. And so when Beau dressed in the same way, every single day, he amassed followers and they proudly called themselves “dandies”. Dandy didn’t mean how we think of it today. Then it meant edgy and minimal and extremely heterosexual. This manly cohort of men who slavishly followed Beau and dressed just like him.

Ian Kelly:
He’s the center of a personality cult, really. The dandies of the West End, who began dressing in this strict pared-down, militaristic monochrome.

Avery Trufelman:
But bear in mind, Beau wasn’t dressing like his own country’s military. This is after all in the wake of the American Revolution. The Brits had fought and lost wearing their bright red coats with flashy gold buttons and long tails and fancy hats. The rebels, the victorious underdog colonists, were clad in muted blues and grays. Beau was dressing like the rebels.

Ian Kelly:
The dress-down issue of Beau Brummell and his friend was sometimes taken as looking in support of, or in allusion, to American revolutionaries or French revolutionaries — very dressed down, very “man of the people” sort of look.

Derek Guy:
Because the trajectory of what created the suit and what drives fashion forward has always been the need for more democratic, simpler, dress down, relatable clothes.

Avery Trufelman:
This is Derek Guy, one of my favorite fashion writers and editor for the website, “Put This On.”

Derek Guy:
If the Brits didn’t take over the world and if Brummell had never lived, would we still have the suit without Brummell? I think undoubtedly, yes.

Avery Trufelman:
The Great Male Renunciation kicked off with Brummell, for sure.

[THE GREAT MALE RENUNCIATION.]

Avery Trufelman:
But Brummell was channeling forces larger than himself and sentiments that were brewing long before he was born. Think about it. For centuries, Western monarchs and upper crest courtly people looked like goddamn aliens.

Derek Guy:
Elizabeth I dressed in a silhouette that almost made her look like an insect. She had a very, very narrow corset made out of whale bones. I mean, her garments were made out of wood, baleen, velvets, these kind of gauzy silks that would float around her head, looked like dry ice. And the idea of that dress at the time was to establish her position on the throne and the institution of monarchy itself.

Avery Trufelman:
This look was otherworldly. Intentionally saying, “I am not like you.”

Derek Guy:
If you had at any point thought that this person was just a human being like you, then what justifies their rule over this entire kingdom?

Avery Trufelman:
But things started to change after Queen Elizabeth, during the reign of Charles I.

Derek Guy:
Charles I also had a very extravagant wardrobe. The difference at this time is that you had the rise of the printing press.

Avery Trufelman:
The printing press was around in Elizabethan times, but it really started to take off under Charles I, which meant royal subjects could, and did, print pamphlets making Charles look absolutely ridiculous in his big lacy collars. Basically, they made political cartoons.

Derek Guy:
Yeah. Political cartoons. Exactly. So what you think is an extravagant hat, they would show as a silly hat and it opened up the doors for other criticisms. When people start criticizing your clothes and they start criticizing your character and your spending habits…

Avery Trufelman:
Sure enough, Charles’s crazy close led Parliament to question all the other ways he had mismanaged his funds, which had turned out, were manifold.

Derek Guy:
It has to do with the growing ideas of liberalism at the time. How would these people be walking around wearing gold when the merchant class in that society was rising, gaining power and started questioning, why are you wearing all that stuff? What are you doing with my money?

Avery Trufelman:
And in this way, men of wealth and power slowly realized it was best to keep their cards close to their vests, to not risk looking ridiculous or frivolous. In the rising tide of liberalism, power and wealth became about restraint and distance. And Brummell’s suit fulfilled this desire perfectly because it was democratic on its surface, but it quietly oozed wealth.

Ian Kelly:
If you’re not going to rely on bling to establish your status and it’s to do with perfect detail. And the details were various.

Avery Trufelman:
And the details were expensive. The suit required lawless tailoring, and you had to hire a valet to help you into your tight pants. And Beau started the trend of wearing a crisp white shirt under your jacket.

Ian Kelly:
There’s an interesting signaling of wealth and privilege through clean white linen.

Avery Trufelman:
It was impossible to dry clothes in 18th century London without getting them covered in soot. To get white shirts and cravats truly clean, Beau had to send his laundry out to the countryside.

Ian Kelly:
So the issue of just having clean white linen is a signifier of wealth and an attention to detail.

Avery Trufelman:
Men were fascinated by Beau’s world of tiny details. And to understand his new way of dressing, actual crowds would gather at Beau’s house every morning to watch Beau get ready.

Ian Kelly:
Such as a celebrity, people would come to watch him dress. He possibly had some sort of OCD issue in that he took several hours to dress. An hour or more of it naked in front of his assorted friends, including the Prince of Wales.

Avery Trufelman:
I cannot emphasize how crazy it was that the Prince of Wales was watching Beau Brummell in order to learn how to dress like a commoner, to learn to dress as though he did not care about dressing. The audience watched as Beau famously tied and re-tied his cravat over and over again, until it appeared as though he had just tied it briskly and effortlessly. As one of Beau’s dandy followers wrote, “My neckcloth cost me some hours of flurry to make it appear to be tied in a hurry,” because real men dress down and real men don’t care.

[THE GREAT MALE RENUNCIATION.]

Avery Trufelman:
Beau’s dandyism had a grip on the London scene until 1812, when his insult comedy went a step too far.

Ian Kelly:
He publicly insulted the Prince of Wales with the rather fabulous line to a mutual friend of theirs in front of the Prince regent, “Who’s your fat friend?”

Beau Brummell:
“Who’s your fat friend?”

Avery Trufelman:
The Prince of Wales was sensitive about his weight and this was pretty nasty, even for Beau. He fell out of favor with high society quickly. And then Britain went through a serious recession and Beau Brummell was in a lot of debt. And so he fled to France where he went mad and died of syphilis, which actually heightened the mythology of him as this tragic glamorous figure. Beau Brummell’s influence was profound. As Brummell so concisely said …

Beau Brummell:
“To be truly elegant, one should not be noticed.”

Avery Trufelman:
This is more or less the rule of law in menswear now, but the whole shift didn’t happen within Beau Brummell’s lifetime. As you know, from living in the world, some people follow trends, some people don’t. The Great Male Renunciation didn’t fully take hold until now nearly a century later with a figure who, in a lot of ways, was quite similar to Brummell, Oscar Wilde.

Ian Kelly:
Oscar Wilde’s “Dorian Gray,” when it was first published in France, was reviewed and written off as a parable about Beau Brummell or a parable about syphilis.

Avery Trufelman:
Oscar Wilde was obsessed with Beau Brummell. And like Beau Brummell, Oscar Wilde was also a witty man about London, frequenting the theater and banting about clever retorts, but he was emphatically unlike Brummell in the most important way. Oscar Wilde was a really flamboyant dresser.

Derek Guy:
He wore capes, these huge hats, velvet. I mean, he was dressed very extravagantly and he used, at the time, clothes as a way to build up his press and character. So when he would go on tours for plays, for example, he would dress up both onstage and in private life and the press would write about him, which of course helped advertise his plays.

Avery Trufelman:
Oscar Wilde was suspected of being gay and then famously was put on trial for it. And he was sent to prison for two years for his sexuality. This threw a bucket of cold water on flamboyant dressing. There were real stakes now. If looking like Oscar Wilde could be taken for a crime, why risk it? Derek Guy argues that it was the trial of Oscar Wilde that in many ways sealed the fate of the Great Male Renunciation. Maybe it was best to not be noticed, to not care about clothes, so that what you wear doesn’t call attention to the way you spend your money or who you’re having sex with. Perhaps it was smart for men to dress in gray and blue and black, and to express themselves only in small details. This has been the rule in the West for so long. This mythology seems impossible to break out of.

Derek Guy:
I mean, there was a time on “Styleforum,” which is an online forum for men who are interested in clothing where as recently as the late-aughts/mid-aughts, where people would routinely post, “Is it okay for me to wear a pink shirt? Does it make me less manly?” That unfortunately, I think it’s part of this long shadow of Oscar Wilde’s trial and how men are very worried about what an interest in clothing means for how people perceive their manliness.

Avery Trufelman:
Of course, throughout the history of men’s fashion, there have been notable exceptions like the Peacock Revolution of the 1960s and 70s when men were in psychedelic patterns and chunky high heels. Not to mention the many varied and exciting versions of menswear that persist beyond Beau’s Western European model. And now there are these modern trailblazers like Billy Porter and Harry Styles who are really trying to have fun with clothes. Men are slowly learning to get more comfortable with self-expression, but it’s delicate, you know? Even at The Armory, that store or clubhouse for competitive menswear nerds, the clothes for sale there are all pretty subdued.

G. Bruce Boyer:
“It’s very traditional clothing, but there’s something very interesting about it all. Don’t you think?”

Avery Trufelman:
“I do, but of course, part of me thinks, “Oh man, we should liberate men from this realm of small details and let them wear purple zoot suits.”

G. Bruce Boyer:
“Well, yeah. And that may be true. That may be true. I’m not sure I would even want to argue with that. I mean, I could go the other way with you and say, get away from the tyranny of fashion a little bit. I mean, come on you’re going to change your whole silhouette from one season to another? I mean, let’s even talk about the environment.”

Avery Trufelman:
“Touche.”

G. Bruce Boyer:
“I guess my answer to the subtlety would be, you got to train your eye a little bit. You’re a little blatant. You don’t really have to knock me out with the topless, backless red thing that you’re wearing. I get it.”

Avery Trufelman:
Bruce is speaking hypothetically. I was not wearing a “topless, backless red thing.”

G. Bruce Boyer:
“But we could have a little subtlety in the dress too. So, I mean, I think that kind of thing works both ways, but I wouldn’t argue with you about it.”

Avery Trufelman:
“No, no, no. That’s a really good point.”

Avery Trufelman:
Bruce is right. A suit is timeless. You can really invest in one and wear it over and over again. And I love that, but I just cringe because suits have traditionally represented this version of macho, boring dressing that I’ve always resented. And I guess the thing is that so much of the power of the suit lies in who is wearing it and how well it fits them.

Rae Tuturo:
“On one hand, yeah, of course it’s the garment of power. But on the other hand, it’s kind of like putting a suit on means that I can tap into that power too, if I want.”

Avery Trufelman:
That’s Rae Tuturo, who had to get dressed up for that wedding 10 years ago. And in their hunt for that special dress-up feeling, Rae ended up finding it in a suit. It’s kind of like when Dorothy realized she could go home all along, after a yellow brick road journey. Rae learned about the world of cut and fit and tiny details and has dedicated their life’s work to spreading this knowledge around.

Avery Trufelman:
“Can suits be fun?”

Rae Tuturo:
“Oh, they’re so fun.”

Avery Trufelman:
Rae is now a partner at Bindle & Keep, a bespoke tailor in Brooklyn whose motto is, “Suits for every body.”

Rae Tuturo:
“Hold on, let me grab a suit. I’ll be right back.”

Avery Trufelman:
Rae is very good at their job and instantly plucked a suit off the rack that fit me perfectly.

Avery Trufelman:
“You think this will fit?”

Rae Tuturo:
“Yes, that’ll be fine.”

Avery Trufelman:
I was totally smitten.

Avery Trufelman:
“Ooh. Ooh. So good.”

Rae Tuturo:
“That’s wonderful.”

Avery Trufelman:
“Why does it fit? Why do I love it so much? What’s going on?”

Rae Tuturo:
“Okay. First thing is, it fits your shoulders pretty well…”

Avery Trufelman:
Of course, a well-fitting suit is a privilege and a luxury, but there’s a reason the style has stuck around since Beau goddamn Brummell. If you get one that fits you, everyone can look great in a suit.

Rae Tuturo:
“You’re also liking it because the button is closer to the narrowest point on your torso. I mean, yeah. It’s proportional to you. I think that’s why you like it.”

Avery Trufelman:
Yeah. I liked it a lot. I just hope that we can move to a point in society where more people feel truly comfortable expressing themselves as loudly or as subtly as they would like to, which would be a big shift. But look at Beau Brummell. It might only take one extremely well-dressed person to change the entire paradigm again.

[CLOSING SONG]
‘Portrait’ by Sasami Ashworth
A pocket, a piece of paper.
Words from yesterday.
There’s a portrait, painted on the things we love.

Avery Trufelman:
Articles of Interest was written and performed by Avery Trufelman. Edited by Chris Berube. Scored by Rhae Royal. Fact-checked by Tom Colligan with additional fact-checking by Graham Hacia. Mix and tech production by Sharif Youssef, with additional mixing by Katherine Rae Mondo. Our opening and closing songs are by Sasami.

Insights, support, and edits from the whole 99pi team, including Joe Rosenberg, Emmett FitzGerald, Vivian Le, Sean Real, Abby Madan, Kurt Kohlstedt, Delaney Hall, and Katie Mingle

Special thanks to fantasy author and podcaster Alex Rowland, who first told me about Beau Brummell in an amazing twitter thread. Follow them @_alexrowland. And thanks also to menswear designer Brice Pattison of The Black Tux.

The voice talents in this episode were Pat Mesiti Miller, Mathilde Billaud, and Beau Brummell was played by Felix Trench. People can find his work in the fiction podcasts “Wooden Overcoats” and “Quid Pro Euro.“

And Roman Mars is the Dandy Cult Leader of this whole series.

[CLOSING SONG CONTINUED]
There’s a portrait, painted on the things we love.

  1. Jason

    Great episode but I think it very much so from a western white perspective. I grew up in a predominantly black and Puerto Rican neighborhood in Brooklyn, expression through clothing was everywhere (and now has spread everywhere, see all high end brands copying hood streetwear and repackaging it) even when wearing suits.

    -J.

  2. isaac cech

    I’ve been a long time listener, and always enjoyed this podcast, but this episode made me want to comment. I’m a fashion historian who has studied menswear from the 16th through the 18th century. I take serious issue with this episode. It is in a couple words reductionist and sensationalist. I would really encourage you to take a look at this thread on Reddit written by another fashion historian.

    https://www.reddit.com/r/AskHistorians/comments/5tlr6k/how_much_did_the_regency_era_and_george_brummell/ddnr1uf/

    Also the idea that he “originated” wearing a white shirt is absolutely ridiculous, wearing white shirts was around for hundreds of years at this point. Wearing white linen shirts was the standard for everyone, because white can be bleached and boiled and aggressively cleaned unlike anything else. It’s the reason that doctors, and butchers, and painters still wear white today. I was disappointed in this episode.

    1. 99pi

      Hi Isaac, 

      Thank you so much for listening and for sending along this forum link. It’s a fascinating discussion and you bring up a lot of great points. Sorry the piece was disappointing to you. We did our best to try to situate Beau in his time, and talk about all the influences before and after him that led to the Great Male Renunciation, based on our discussions with various fashion experts.

      Of course, it’s hard to condense all the nuances of an entire era into a 30 minute story, and we hope that we can also inspire listeners to learn more and take deep dives for themselves. So thank you for the work you do in this field.

  3. Murali Krishnan

    Hello Articles of Interest. I enjoyed the episode on Suits, but there was an aspect that was left out of the story. Adding my perspective clearly would have ballooned the episode into a much, much larger exploration. And perhaps there are already plans to address these points in a future episode.

    I am referring to two specific points that I feel are core to the understanding of suits — their deep historical ananchronism, and their close association to Western colonialism.

    I feel that suits are out of place in the modern world. The environment they evolved from was Northern Europe before the development of central heating. Why should anyone today wear a multi-layer ensemble including a jacket INDOORS? That actually makes sense when heat came from fireplaces leaving cool corners. But that stage of architecural development is almost considered antiquity. The wide populace in most places today have fairly uniform temperatures in the home and the workplace. A single layer is sufficient, and would be the practical choice.

    The common stereotype that women in the workplace frequently feel cold is not a reflection of a biological difference. Rather, the mindless clinging to outdated fashion makes men dress in layers, like the suit, regardless of the season or lattitude. As a result, the cooling of the building is increased to accomodate this silly fashion choice, and anyone (like many women) whose fashion pallette is not specifically designed for cool, drafty interiors, will obviously feel cold.

    The association with colonialism is apparent in the appearance of the suit as the standard formal wear in areas where that style of dress is wholly impractical. When I see foreign leaders of tropical countries of the developing world publicy wearing a suit (which is utterly unnatural/artificial/impractical for the environs), it always strikes me as a jarring imposition of colonial fashion dictates. Sure, that’s dramatic, but it seems highly unlikely that the fashion choices of that locale would have evolved naturally or organically to a suit. It really must be bowing to what a historical foreign overlord required as acceptible fashion.

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