Style Counsel

CAMERON and Clegg may be just about succeeding in diverting attention away from their differences, but as any seasoned politico will know, it’s in the fine details that things get interesting – which is also what a tailor would say. When the new Prime Minister and his deputy appeared for the first time at the door of Number 10 they presented a picture of unity, but in one small detail their suits told a different story.

This is all about vents – the slits inserted at the rear of a jacket to aid its hang. When you choose a suit, you have the option of a rear flap with a slit either side or a single vent at the back. Cameron has chosen the rear flap while Clegg has favoured the single vent. It may seem like a minor detail, but as with other tailoring decisions – size of lapels, number of buttons, turn-ups or not – it can say a lot about its wearer.

The rear flap with two vents is the classic English formal style and the look you’d expect to see in the City, so perhaps it is no surprise that patrician Cameron has gone for it. James Sleater of City tailoring outfit Cad & the Dandy says this is the style he’d generally recommend. “It creases a lot less because it breaks more easily when you move or sit down, so it’s more practical and hangs more smartly.”

The single vent, while not exactly infra dig, is certainly a bit more quirky according to Sleater. Originally created for horse riding – so that the jacket can break over the saddle – it’s more popular in America than in this country. “It puts across a non-conformist message,” says Sleater, pointing out that in the first TV debate Clegg’s lighter blue suit made him stand out from the more sombrely-attired Cameron and Brown. “It’s a very good example of how a suit can portray the message you’re trying to put across.”

You have to be careful with single-vent jackets – sit the wrong way, put your hands in your pockets or simply have too rotund a physique, and the vents will part at the back and your bum will be on show. The double vent denotes safety and classic lines, but if you want to trump your progressive attributes, even while appearing to conform – and you can pull it off – the single vent could be a goer.