The Big, Wild GQ Guide to Pulling Off a Suit in 2021

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It’s been a weird year for getting dressed. If you’re shaking off the style cobwebs, breaking free of your sweatpants, and need some pointers on where to go next, we’ve got you. All week long, GQ Recommends is exploring What to Wear Now: the clothes, designers, bold moves, and big vibes that matter at this precise moment.

Long before the world went on sleep mode for an entire year and everybody stopped changing out of their pajamas, the suit—or at least our broader cultural understanding of the suit—was on life support. “Smart casual” reigned in our offices, our restaurants, our theaters—practically anywhere outside of weddings and funerals. Which meant that suddenly, for the first time maybe ever, wearing a suit was a choice instead of a signal of conformity. If you were wearing a suit, it was because you wanted to wear a suit—because it made you feel good.

Coming out of our fleece-laden lockdown, that sentiment is going to feel more hyper-relevant than ever before. Suits are adapting and evolving to fit our increasingly anything-goes fashion climate, getting bolder and bigger and so much weirder. If you’re in the mood to dress up, smarten up, clean up, and party, here are a few ways to do just that. The suiting vibe we’re feeling most right now is a touch more skate park than stock exchange: a little less polished and precise, a little more anarchic and fun. But unlike in the past, when we might’ve prescribed specific guidelines to collars and tie knots and cuff lengths, the only real rule for suiting up in 2021 is to do whatever feels right. Consider this our roadmap for finding your own suit nirvana.


The Big Suit Is Back

For most of the last decade and change, as far as suits were concerned, looking to the past for inspiration generally meant one thing: the ‘60s, slim lapels, sharp cut—straight outta the Mad Men wardrobe department. Lately, though, we’ve been gazing a little further afield: specifically to the roomier, drapier silhouettes of the ‘70s and ‘80s. (Think Sticky Fingers-era Jagger and American Gigolo-era Armani.) A closely tailored suit is never going to be out of style, per se, but these elegantly loose ensembles hit especially right for right now. 

Jacket, $2,500, by Gucci. Shirt, $275, and tie, $185, by Drake’s. Pants, $1,190, by Ermenegildo Zegna XXX. Sandals, $1,025, by Hermès.

Celine Homme striped wool suit jacket

Celine Homme striped wool skate pants

Ami two buttons patch pockets jacket

Ami wide-fit pleated trousers

Sandro single button suit jacket


Free-Range Footwear

You can’t go wrong with a suit and loafers, but a suit and sandals just feels so much fresher—literally and figuratively. 

Grenson “Quincy” leather sandals

Paraboot Pacific Lisse sandal


The Anytime DB Suit 

Double-breasted suits are forever an unimpeachable move: instantly confidence-boosting and never not totally dignified. The latest iterations slide seamlessly into our slightly-more-relaxed, self-expression-forward tailoring era. They’re softer and less structured—a little easier to pull off casually—but no less commanding. 

Jacket, $748, and pants, $348, by Noah. Tank top, (price upon request), by Blue Marble. Vintage boots by Dr. Martens. Socks (throughout), $18 (for pack of three), by Gold Toe. Hat, $50, by Stussy. Bracelet (throughout), $550, by Miansai.

Noah wool cashmere double-breasted sportcoat

Noah double-pleat wool cashmere trouser

Stòffa double breasted shirt jacket

Stòffa drawstring trousers


Knit Wit

The quickest way to knock the fustiness out of any suit? Lean in to all the elite knitwear and crocheted garms currently sweeping the style world. 

Heaven by Marc Jacobs crochet psychedelic bucket hat

Corridor pima open lace crewneck


Let Your Sport Coat Run Wild

Wearing tailored separates no longer means throwing on a scratchy navy blazer and starched khakis like you’re a nine-year-old heading to church on Easter Sunday. Instead, it’s a chance to get freaky with mismatched textures, tones, and fits. Dressing up never felt so free. 

Blazer, $720, by Second Layer. Sweater, $295, by Drake’s. Shirt, $50, by L.L. Bean. Pants, (price upon request), by Lanvin. Shoes, $135, by Dr. Martens. Wallet chain (throughout), $720, by Celine Homme by Hedi Slimane.

Acne Studios classic-fit cotton-blend hopsack blazer

Nicholas Daley 70s trousers

Post-Imperial “Ikoyi” single-breasted cotton-velvet blazer

Homme Plisse Issey Miyake colorful mesh trousers


Tough Stuff

Trade in your tie bar and wing tips for finishing touches that feel ripe for a mosh pit, like a big mean wallet chain and some rugged Doc Martens. 

Celine biker wallet with chain in smooth calfskin

Dr. Martens 1461 3-eye leather oxford shoe


Warm Weather Cords

You might think of corduroy as a hefty winter fabric, but a thinner-waled version—especially in a kickass color like these—nails the precise balance of breeziness and structure you need for the springtime. 

Blazer, $330, and pants, $230, by Tommy Hilfiger. Shirt, $240, by 100Hands at The Armoury. Sneakers, $70, by Adidas. Vintage tie. Sunglasses, $600, by Jacques Marie Mage.

Tommy Hilfiger corduroy blazer

Tommy Hilfiger relaxed corduroy pant

Bonobos double-breasted stretch corduroy blazer

Bonobos pleated stretch corduroy trousers


Repp Your Set

For all the daring moves we’re advancing elsewhere in this story, our preferred shirt-and-tie combination remains pretty classic: a clash of preppy stripes feels extra punchy at the moment.

Drake’s double stripe repp silk tie

Hamilton + Todd Snyder vintage stripe poplin dress shirt

Sid Mashburn silk woven tie


The Secret to Gnarly Patterns 

Look, we get it: you’re probably not going shirtless with a suit anytime soon. But you might—and should!—want to get into a deafeningly loud suit, in which case the general lesson here remains relevant: keep the underpinnings as minimal as possible, maybe a crisp tee or ribbed tank, and let the pattern do all the talking. 

Jacket, (price upon request), and pants, (price upon request), by Casablanca. Necklace (throughout), stylist’s own.

Charles Jeffrey Loverboy peak-lapel single-breasted checked cotton blazer

Charles Jeffrey Loverboy tartan cotton-twill wide-leg suit trousers

Needles boot-cut Student pant

Todd Snyder authentic Indian madras Traveler suit jacket

Todd Snyder authentic Indian madras Madison dress pant


Stay Simple (But Not Too Simple)

A plain white tee is always a safe bet under anything, but a little hint of soft color goes a long way with a strong patterned suit. 

Entireworld organic cotton boxy T


Yes, You Can Pull Off a White Suit   

The trick to making all-white-everything feel a little less Colonel Sanders and a little more mid-’00s Diddy? Break up the starkness ever so slightly with a creamier-toned shirt and some busted-up sneaks. And try your best not to flinch in the face of the inevitable spills and stains.

Blazer, $2,390, shirt, $750, and pants, $770, by Fendi Men’s. Sneakers, $75, by Vans.

Fendi natural hemp fabric blazer

Fendi natural hemp fabric pants

Boglioli linen suit jacket

Boglioli slim-fit linen suit trousers


Alabaster Add-Ons

Also great with a pair of white painter’s pants when your suit is surplus to requirements.  

Commas relaxed linen shirt

Vans OG Authentic LX sneakers


PRODUCTION CREDITS:

Photographs by Martin Brown

Styled by Jon Tietz

Hair & Grooming by Rachel Leidig at Art Department

Tailoring by Alberto Rivera at Lard Nordensten

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