Introducing the Workwear Suit
The suit isn’t dead—it’s just made out of canvas now.
This year, workwear did something weird: It became fashion. Heritage brands started to be as sought after as the most hyped streetwear drops. Stylish guys today mix Comme des Garçons and Carhartt with newfound aplomb, and red-hot labels like Alyx and Vetements are collaborating with heritage brands like Dickies and Champion. If menswear is trending toward durable and dressed-down right now, the tailored suit remains a necessity among the formal office 9-to-5 set. (Not every guy can sport chore coats and work pants at the office.) Now, though, the twin poles of modern workwear seem to have collided: Guys across the globe are giving the suit a duck-canvas-and-rivets remix, and wearing matching work-inspired threads as quasi-suits. The world of menswear has turned well and truly upside down—and it looks pretty damn good.
French label Le Mont St Michel is famous for its iconic three-pocket work jacket, which it’s been manufacturing since 1913. The piece is unlined and unadorned—but when worn with a pair of matching pants, the garment gives off the aura of something much more elegant. (Just avoid doing this in a shade of Kelly green, unless you want to wear the official uniform of sanitation workers in Paris.) With the right amount of confidence, you could probably wear the combination to a formal event without anyone being the wiser. Nervier brands are following the example. The latest collection from Americana-inspired Japanese label Engineered Garments, meanwhile, features a mandarin-collared twill overshirt and matching pants, both in a shade of deep olive green. Acne Studios offers dark navy chino trousers and a similarly shaded utility jacket. Other more wallet-friendly labels like COS and Need Supply’s in-house brand offer a variety of chore coats and trousers that can be seamlessly paired together as a matching set.
In addition to longstanding labels and beloved menswear brands putting out workwear staples, a younger generation is also making its mark on the style. Bonne, the Amsterdam-based label started by stylist-turned-designer Bonne Reijn, makes not-so-precious suits designed for everyday wear. The work-inspired garments, which are carried by downtown-cool retailers like Opening Ceremony, are unisex and made of a heavy cotton fabric that’s sturdy but soft and are sold as a set. “I really wanted to make clothing that serves as many different styles and backgrounds as possible,” Reijn says. “My challenge was really to make something that would fit as many people as possible.” The designer mentions his desire to make clothes is much more “social commentary than fashion” in his eyes. “My utopia would be that everybody would wear the same thing and we would judge people based on personality and not the fact that they were certain brands,” he explains. And it’s an interesting notion: A singular suit that can be worn by mechanics and accountants alike. It might feel more dystopian, if not for the fact that you can wear yours with a tie, or just a T-shirt.
The editors, fashion insiders, and cool kids at Spring-Summer 2019’s biggest menswear shows in Milan, Paris, and New York gravitated toward work jackets and durable pants, often pairing the two together as if they were a matching two-piece suit. The fit of both garments usually skews more relaxed and less clean-cut than typical tailoring, but the end result is still sharp and deliberate. Bergdorf Goodman’s men’s fashion director and street-style favorite Bruce Pask was photographed at Paris Fashion Week wearing a deep navy work jacket, ultra-wide trousers, and white sneakers. Josh Peskowitz, co-founder of Magasin in Los Angeles and a well-known menswear figure, can usually be caught dressing up a typical chore jacket of the major fashion shows. Even a quick perusal of GQ’s own street-style coverage reveals matching workwear-style jackets and pants worn in a similar manner, with broad colors ranging from soft lavender to pinstripe blue.
The chore coat has been around for over a century, worn by iconic style figures like the late, great fashion photographer Bill Cunningham as well as today’s current menswear class. It’s long had a quiet presence in how men dress—perfect for any guy who wants a jacket that’s as utilitarian as it is fashionable—but has surged in popularity alongside the booming workwear trend. The rise of idiosyncratic trousers and the slow death of the skinny jean have both paved the way for pants that are full of delightful fits, crops, and hems. Combine the two and you can fabricate your own workwear-inspired suit of sorts for a look that feels closer to rugged American style than fine Italian tailoring. During a time when a Carhartt chore coat is deemed just as en vogue as a Brioni blazer, the workwear suit feels just as subversive as it is sharp. It may never be shown on the runway but is instead found on the everyday streets, worn by men from all walks of life. Not to mention that it’s one hell of a way to look dapper without actually dressing up.
MORE STORIES LIKE THIS ONE