Twentieth century composer Lukas Foss is known for taking two completely different kinds of music and somehow making them work together. What the younger generation might term a “mash up,” I think. “Anybody can take two things and put them together,” he said (and I’m paraphrasing.) “But to take two things that are so different and make them work well together, that takes genius.”
That got me thinking. We are in the grip of winter (today… mid 60’s at the weekend) and a topcoat is required to keep the chill at bay. But with leaping in and out of cars and buildings, a topcoat can seem cumbersome.
We all know how to combine the tailored topcoat with casual underpinnings — the camelhair polo coat over jeans, a blazer and polished shoes, for example — but can things work as well the other way? Could you wear your suit with a technical jacket of some sort?
The short answer is yes. You can get away with it provided that you take into account the length of your suit coat (or odd jacket.)
In the image above, I’m wearing a classic waxed cotton Barbour jacket in the Bedale model. It is a very warm jacket when worn with a chunky Aran sweater and corduroy trouser. But, it doesn’t work here. Looking closely at the skirt of the jacket, you can see the skirt of the suit coat sticking out. If the “base layer” had been an odd jacket and trousers, the result would have been even more obvious.
Had I elected to go with a Barbour quilted microfiber jacket I would have been O.K. . The longer length and cut actually hide the suit coat and lengthen my torso a bit. It is still a bit incongruous — the Barbour is really a jacket built for the country, the paddock, upland, and not the City streets. But it can work (leaping out of your Land Rover helps.)
Trying to stick within the same colour scheme brought me to my ski jacket:
With its sealed seams, pit zips, Velcro wrist closures, hood and waterproofing, the ski jacket is ready for just about anything. (Although buttoning up the integrated snowskirt would wrinkle the suit coat.) Best of all, it doesn’t look out of place with a cashmere watchcap. Which means your ears stay nice and warm. I think that this works best because of the colour and the lining that makes it easy to slip over a flannel suit. The hood makes it unnecessary to carry an umbrella (what a shame) and you are on your own when the wind catches the rain and soaks your trousers from the knee down. Don’t get me started on what it’s going to do to your dress shoes (I suggest rubber overshoes…)
In closing, I would say that the high/low mix for men can go both ways, with a little bit of care. But I still prefer a topcoat… especially if you are in the least bit of doubt or commute by public transport or on foot rather than by car.
For a random sampling of elegant mixes please visit The Sartorialist in Milan.