Generally speaking, the most any man could want in a wardrobe is the perfect suit. Not just an old standby suit or one strictly special-occasion suit, but a uniform-one that will work hard in the board room, grace a lunch table and even comfortably buckle into the snug seat of a plane. Fall 1983 is all about perfect suits. For the latest in menswear, designers have turned away from the rebellious recent trends (from peacock to punk and preppy) in an effort to make elegant, sophisticated dressing fashionable again-and not only at candle-lit dinners. The crop of new suits-sleek-lined and somber-toned-best exemplifies the new movement toward “modern corporate”dressing. With a more refined shape and constructed of flatter, dressier woolens, the new suits are not the anachronisms they may at first appear, especially when you consider how comfortable they are to wear. They’re cut roomier across the chest, at the shoulder, upper arm and through the trouser leg; the slight waist suppression gives the new silhouette a subtle body-consciousness. The strength of the new suits is in their subtlety: They are smart without being wise-guy fashionable; classic, without being utterly square.

The suits-stylish, professional uniforms by day-supply the appropriate degree of elegance for social appointments at night, thanks to the darker colors of the season: navy, charcoal gray and charcoal brown. Any patterns on the new suits (such as the more-muted chalk stripes and deeper glen plaids) will recede in dimmer light to appear as striking evening solids.

Shirts and ties must be chosen carefully to achieve the understated look of the new tailored trend. Plain white shirts with straight collars are favored by designers again (button-down collars are considered too sporty). Wide-spaced pin stripes and very fine tattersalls- but no plaid-are also prevalent. Solid colors in dress shirts are kept very light, almost weak, to offset the dark-toned suits. The classics-blue, pink and yellow-make way this season for the new cool shades of gray, ice blue, celery green and cream.

Neckties, best worn at the classic three-and-a-quarter-inch width, should either enhance the purity of the sleek, new look or break it up entirely with the careful addition of color. In either case, solid ties (shown frequently by designers this season) achieve the best effect. Emerald green, silver, purple, gold and black ties in satin Finishes and woven silks (called grenadines) create an accent that is both spirited and formal. Silk pocket squares, if worn with a solid tie, should never also be solid (or worse yet, match). In the evening, the simple addition of a brightly colored pocket square to a deliberate, colorless suit-look will change its mood entirely.

As one would expect, sportswear has also become dressier this season, although jean-and-sweatshirt diehards-both in the design community and on the street-will always exist. Sports jackets this season are darker and less country-tweedy, and patterns are vaguely geometric. Trousers are pleated, although less so than last fall, and are wider through the thigh and knee yet slimmer at the cuff. Cords look pedestrian next to the new array of beefy wool pants in Donegal and herringbone tweeds; the more somber the shade, the better.

Sweaters are the undisputed stars of this sportswear season. Most menswear lines offer a vast selection of hand-knits not burdened-as in past seasons-by old-fashioned Fair Isle and argyle patterns. Black and speckled charcoal yarns have been mixed with interesting new shades of blue, green, violet and tomato red in every classic style imaginable-as long as it’s oversized. Several new-again sweater models-such as the cardigan and the button-up pullover-look great with the hefty new pants.

After spending many years off the fashion circuit, the tailored wool overcoat has come back strong. Raincoats (or “all-weather”coats) should only appear under very threatening or fully burst clouds. Nylon and down parkas are no longer fit for city streets. The new wool coats-in Chesterfield, raglan-sleeved “bathrobe”or low-slung double-breasted styles-are amply cut to slide easily over the new fall suits and sports jackets, adding another layer of refinement to the look. A cashmere coat in navy or black, falling well below the knees, is the season’s ultimate item and will assure a full- fashion impact (if your budget will allow such assurances). But remember: Just as a versatile new suit will glide easily from day to night, one of the new coats will work as well over a dressy look as it will over something casual. Wear the coat open over just a sweater and a pair of wool trousers, add the right accessories (such as brown suede gloves, an alligator belt and fine English shoes), and you’ve created a look perfectly in tune with this season’s spirit of effortless elegance.


CALVIN KLEIN available at Sanger Harris, I. Magnin and Saks Fifth Avenue.

KILGOUR, FRENCH & STANBURY available at Neiman-Marcus.

PINKY AND DIANNE LTD. available at Neiman-Marcus.

HUGO BOSS available at Neiman-Marcus.

KENNETH GORDON NEW ORLEANS LTD. available at Neiman-Marcus.

GIORGIO ARMANI available at Neiman-Marcus.

ALAN FLUSSER available at Neiman-Marcus, Sakowitz and Outfitters.

RALPH LAUREN/POLO available at The Polo Shop.

JEFFREY BANKS available at Neiman-Marcus.

PERRY ELLIS available at Neiman-Marcus, Frost Brothers and Marshall Field.


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