Goodbye to the pinstripe: City boys embrace a subtler style

Timothy Barber
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THE pinstripe might be the fashion statement for which the City is best known, but it&rsquo;s not a statement people are making too stridently this winter. A couple of years ago, when markets, banks and bonuses were flying high, a loud-as-you-like striped suit was pretty much a required part of every true City boy&rsquo;s wardrobe. However, yesterday&rsquo;s flash harry is today&rsquo;s brash plonker, and subtler tastes are required for more circumspect times. <br /><br />James Sleater, director of Square Mile tailors Cad &amp; the Dandy says very few of the suits he makes now are in high-contrast stripes. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re definitely noticing people playing it down,&rdquo; he says.<br /><br />So what to go for instead this winter? The times may have changed, but that doesn&rsquo;t mean you have to be positively funereal. A plain dark grey or navy blue suit will never go out of fashion &ndash; and if cut well, will always look classy &ndash; but there are always options to make things a little more interesting. <br /><br /><strong>SUBTLER WEAVES</strong><br />The cloth itself can make a difference. Flannel is perfect for winter, being warm and comfortable, and the loose nature of the weave and the way it&rsquo;s treated creates visual depth.<br /><br />&ldquo;Flannel is a worsted material that&rsquo;s made in such a way that you get a bit of pile on it, which creates a nicely textured effect,&rdquo; says Karl Matthews of Savile Row tailors Anderson &amp; Sheppard. For the same reason, flannel will carry a gentle stripe more subtly &ndash; Matthews recommends an understated chalk stripe. &ldquo;It ends up being quite mottled and dusty &ndash; and flannel sums up that soft, wrapped-up feel you want for winter, while being very elegant.&rdquo;<br /><br />According to Grame Fidler, head of menswear at luxury retailer Aquascutum, classic textured weaves give depth and character. Even these are being made subtler. For the chevron-shaped herringbone he advocates choosing a very small, finely woven pattern, and he says even the bolder birds-eye style is becoming a little more delicate than a few years ago.<br /><br />&ldquo;It&rsquo;s about adjusting something that&rsquo;s quite traditional, making it a little less obvious,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;You want something that&rsquo;s sophisticated, finessed and a little bit different without being overtly so &ndash; that&rsquo;s a very fine line.&rdquo;<br /><br />If you&rsquo;re prepared to walk a little more daringly along that line, consider getting a tweed suit. Tweed, of course, is often seen as the preserve of the country shooting set, and traditional tweed is perhaps a little too sturdy for town life. But just as semi-casual tweed jackets are being seen around town this season, more lightweight versions of the cloth are appearing that work beautifully for a winter suit.<br />&ldquo;You can wear tweed without looking like a court jester,&rdquo; says Sleater. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s being revamped for modern wear so that it&rsquo;s a lighter, versatile hybrid. You can look smart, without having to look stereotypical &ndash; and that&rsquo;s always a good thing to aim for.&rdquo; <br /><br /><strong>YOUR CHANCE TO WIN A CUSTOM-MADE OVERCOAT</strong><br />To celebrate the opening of its new premises at Castle Court near Bank station, tailoring practice Cad &amp; the Dandy is offering a free, bespoke overcoat to one City AM reader. Send an email to, with the subject heading &ldquo;City AM&rdquo;, before midday today, to be entered into a prize draw.