Men suits: Modern 2011

Men's fashion trends are greatly different to women's. They exist, yes. But their cycle moves much slower. Nowhere is that truer then of men's suit trends. While there are distinct styles of suits that feature amongst 2011's fashion trends I should note from the get-go that they're not unique to the year - in fact, many of the key looks you'll find in this guide will still be in-fashion come 2012 and beyond. Which is a great thing - it means you can afford to spend more on a suit thus buying a quality piece of workmanship that you'll still be able to wear for many a year to come. The same can't be said of most fashion trends.
But what styles, cuts and cloths should you be looking for? Read on to find out.
2011 suit
Read more on men's suit trends
While suiting and formal-wear trends for men aren't seasonal (unless, of course, you're talking about the weight of the cloth) and play out over several years, 2011 and 2012 continue the dominance of two qualities that any modern suit you invest in should aspire to have:
  1. classicism
  2. masculinity
Let's deal with them both.
The classic part is the easy part. A good suit for this decade will take the best elements from the peak eras of men's suiting (think the formality of the Victorian era, the savoir faire of the 1930s and, for some cuts, the skinny detailing of the 1960s) and apply them to a modern silhouette.
The masculinity of a suit is less easy to define; one can't simply enter a tailors and say you want a suit infused with masculinity. Sadly, it doesn't work that way. Instead, suits for 2011 and 2012 are all about a cut that compliments the male physique, a suit that broadens the shoulders and trims the waist highlighting (or at least implying) an exercised body. In short, it's about a cut of a suit that makes you, the wearer, feel more masculine and more confident. And feeling really is key. To some the masculine element will be a suit that is clean cut, with few flourishes, to others it's means a suit full of extra details that it takes a certain attitude to pull off well (I'd say that Tom Ford's suits fall into the latter camp - they're highly masculine, but are made for a gent with a certain kind of attitude to life).
So knowing the fact that you're looking for something both masculine and classic, what are the technical elements you're looking for?

Suit cuts: on-trend styles and designs

You'll find terms such as skinny and slim peppered throughout this tailoring trends guide, but fear not: I'm not referring to the 'skinny boy' suit popular into 2008 / 2009; with proponents of that style having themselves moved on to other styles, the skinny boy suit has had it's day. But, despite this, the terms of skinny and slim remain simply because unstructured, boxy suit cuts are out of fashion. So there, from the get go, as we describe the suit cuts you should be looking for in 2011 and beyond we have to say it: you're looking for a slim cut; and I use slim as opposed to skinny to describe the on-trend cut as your investment in a good suit should be in something that is neither overly-skinny nor overly boxy, but instead a suit cut that would appeal to a military officer, one that accents a sense of the masculine through three key silhouette elements:
  1. broad shoulders
  2. a slim waist
  3. slim trousers
With those three attributes in mind, let's look at the actual cuts that are in fashion:

Single breasted suits

It seems superfluous to include single breasted suits in a trend article given they are never out of fashion. But despite being the default style, they're also the dominant, on-trend suit cut for 2011 and 2012. This sits in contrast to the double breasted suit being the on-trend cut during 2009 and 2010.
The cut of the single breasted suit has evolved for 2011 / 2012 to have two dominant styles:

The sleek cut

The first of the two dominant single-breasted suit styles for 2011 is what I term a sleek cut. This is the suit for the slick chap who wears his suits in something of a toned down way. They're still impeccably made and they're never casual, but when it comes time to tick the masculinity box I referred to earlier, this suit is for the chap who does so with restraint.
To give you an instant mental picture of the sleek cut suit in 2011 and 2012, think of it as inspired by the continuing popularity of all things 1960s, a suit very akin to what the likes of Mad Men's Don Draper wears into the office though one cut with a trimmer waist.
don draper suit
If a sleek cut, single breasted suit is what you want to add to your wardrobe then you're after the following details:
  • slim to medium sized notched lapels or a shawl
  • the upper button should be positioned around your navel
  • a breast pocket that accommodates nothing more than a pocket square (as opposed to a elegantly folded pocket handkerchief) - contrast Don Draper's pocket square to the pocket handkerchief's featured in the Tom Ford pictures below if the difference is not immediately obvious to you

The confidence cut

I'm still looking for the perfect term to describe this cut of suit. At first I'd termed it the flair cut, but it took only a moment to realise that that would imply that I was advocating a return to flared trousers and suits. Nothing could be further from the truth. Instead flair was meant to describe the extra, potentially overt, details it has; this is a cut of suit for a gent who can comfortably wear those extra little details that Joe Average generally lacks the confidence to wear out of fear of derision.
So for those of you who are looking for that extra something, both in their clothing and in their life, I proffer up the (potentially temporarily named) confidence cut. As with all fashionable men's suits for 2011 and 2012 it's cut that's about the male physique and the revival of classic suiting elements. Unlike the previous 'sleek cut' single breasted suit described, however, it features one additional key attribute: instead of a slim to medium notched lapel, 2011's confidence suit cut is all about peaked lapels. In this regard, the suit cut sits as something of a 1930s and 1970s revival - back then peaked lapels were the only kind worth having.
peaked single breasted suit
A single breasted suit with dual buttons and pointed lapels.
With its obvious appeal, the confidence cut can be more than just a single breasted suit cut, however. When it comes to on-trend double breasted suits, it's also the dominant cut.

Double breasted suits and sportscoats

If there's one cut that I'm glad I've been able to return to my wardrobe it's the modern, double-breasted suit. Those of you who recall the last time that double breasted suits and sports coats were in fashion may remember the boxy cut it inevitably came with. Fear not, that cut has gone. In its place is one that defies what double breasted suits were originally designed to do: hide a plump figure. Instead they're now designed to accent and to heighten the perfect masculine shape: the V-shaped, well worked body.
Incidentally, if you're still in possession of a double breasted suit from an earlier era, take it off to your tailor to refresh its life.
tom ford suit
Double breasted Tom Ford suits with pointed / peak lapels
If you're purchasing off-the-rack you'll note that there are a good number of double breasted suits available to you, each cut to a slightly different variation. What then should you look for? duke of windsor suitSuits for 2011 and 2012 are all about the same attributes that I keep reiterating: a cut that broadens the shoulders and slims the waist. With double breasted suits you also want to figure in to the overall affect what I earlier dubbed the confidence cut. And that means two additional things for a double breasted suit:
  1. that it has peaked lapels
  2. that its breast pocket is cut to accommodate a pocket handkerchief
As you can see from the picture to the right, the latter mention of a pocket handkerchief is less a requirement and more of a desirable flourish - the added attention to detail of a pocket handkerchief can not only make a look (and would make this one), it can be that one point that sets you apart in a crowded room, particularly when that room is full of chaps wearing their suit with disdain or if they spend their days stuck behind a desk. But the vintage photograph you see also leads to one other additional styling tip: when purchasing a double-breasted suit the "Kent" cut is the in-fashion cut. Named after a style popularised by the The Prince George, Duke of Kent, it's a cut of double breasted suits where a longer lapel line extends into the waist. That is to say: the part of the double breasted suit that sits on the front buttons on the waist line (as pictured on the Duke of Windsor, right). This small detail will help convey you as being taller than you may actually be and, if cut correctly, also imply that you have a trim waist. You'll find the Kent suit cut is offered by a number of designers, including D&G (pictured below), and all good tailors.