Men are dressing up again; the suit is cool; dress shirts, ties and dress shoes are now as high fashion as they are pedestrian. This is in large part due to American designer Thom Browne, whose suits, with their unique aesthetics, were developed as a response to the growth of “business casual,” the go-to standard of dress in the U.S. during the 20th century and into the 21st. Jake Gallagher, of wax-wane.com, described Browne’s aesthetic as “a modern day man in clothes that looked straight from the closet of a Madison Ave. ad man in 1962. Only not at all.”
This is a perfect way of describing the tight tailoring, high water pants and short jackets that make up the designers signature style. Browne’s line started in 2001 when he left the Ralph Lauren-owned Club Monaco to start his own made-to-measure menswear business in New York City. It wasn’t long before Browne’s distinctive suits were picked up by high fashion giants like Bergdorf Goodman, and now his wears can be seen even in less luxury-oriented retailers like Nordstrom.
Browne’s designs, while most assuredly are very fashion-forward, have managed to incorporate many classics of American sartorial traditions that had by and large become irrelevant, or unnoticed by the time he was designing his first line. Browne pairs the button-collar shirts, gray flannels and tweeds with stylistic nods, such as high pant hems from the heyday of American tailoring, and takes them to wild extremes.
Browne takes what most people expect a suit to look like and turns their expectations on their heads. Browne’s suits are easily distinguished by the tight, cropped fit. His jackets’ sleeves end before the wrist and don’t cover the backside of the wearer, and the trousers can be hemmed up to three inches from the top of the shoe. All of this helps create the signature shrunken-suit look.
Many question how wearable Browne’s clothing is, but it’s hard to doubt the ways that he has influenced men’s fashion since the inception of his independent label. The gray flannel suit has broken away from being the sign of Cold War-era corporatism and now is as edgy and fashion forward as anything else on the world’s runways. Browne has made slim tailoring and no break pant almost a requirement for more contemporary styled trousers.
Browne’s jacket styling has also trickled down from the lofty heights of high fashion to more pedestrian menswear. While a Thom Browne jacket takes the cropped look to a whole new level, jackets have, in recent years, become shorter, often ending just at the bottom of the wearer’s backside.
Should you ever want clothing inspired by Browne’s cropped and slim styling, you likely won’t be able to find anything like it at most stores. You will have to focus in on brands that have a slightly more fashion forward aesthetic.
However, contemporary styling doesn’t necessarily need to cost that much. There are more affordable brands such as Uniqlo with many of their clothes coming in under $60. J.Crew and Club Monaco sit in the middle of the price range, or, if you’re willing to spend the money, there is the collaboration line between Brooks Brothers and Browne called “Black Fleece,” where you could easily pay upwards of $150 for a button down shirt.