This is a true story. On Wednesday I was sitting with my wife at the kitchen catching up on the day. The newest J. Crew catalog had arrived that day, and I was flipping through it as we talked. I started to explain how I really liked the fit and fabrics of J. Crew’s suits (as a guy who’s 6 foot tall and weighs 220 pounds, I prefer the Crosby suits to the Ludlow suits). However, my biggest issue with J. Crew’s suits is that the lapels on the Ludlow suits are 2 ½ inches wide and the lapels on the Crosby suits are 2 ¾ inches wide. I think these are proportionally too slim for my build. I was literally mid-sentence explaining this to my wife when I turned the page and saw this:
As Alan Flusser explains in his iconic book on classic men’s style, the key is not following trends but maintaining proportion. I have relatively broad shoulders and a pretty good sized noggin to go along with them. I always found the trim lapel look not flattering for my body type. Unfortunately for me, that trend has dominated most of the menswear stores in my price range. My suit and jacket options recently have been pared down to predominantly Brooks Brothers Regent cut suits and Suitsupply (I personally like the Sienna and Havana cuts). Both of which I really love, and have no problem shopping there. But it’s nice to have more options.
Personally, I couldn’t care less if J. Crew’s entry into the wider lapel arena is a sign of a reversing trend or simply an effort to expand sales. My goal is to buy clothes that I think suit my body. I think that a suit with moderate lapels pairs better with my body, face, collars, ties, etc. than one with wide or narrow lapels. To me a “wide lapel” is 4 inches or more. I see 3 1’2 inches as a moderate lapel, and anything under 3 inches as slim.
Now, I know what you might be thinking: J. Crew introduced a new Ludlow suit with wide lapels. They didn’t say anything about their Crosby suits. Well, I’ve already confirmed with J. Crew (via Twitter) that Crosby suits with wider lapels will be coming too!
To me the greatest advantage that men have over women when it comes to shopping for clothes is that style (especially classic or permanent style) changes much more slowly. Menswear has remained relatively unchanged for at least a century now. While no one can foresee the future, I doubt much will change going forward either. That means, buying quality clothes that “suit” your body is a lasting investment which will not expire any time soon.
J. Crew’s addition of a wider lapel option for shoppers is a chance for me, and other non-slim fit body types to pick up a quality suit at a reasonable price. Now if I could only convince J. Crew to offer dress shirts in neck and sleeve measurements...