What started out as a casual way for the sophisticated gent to dress during the day more than two centuries ago, the lounge suit is one of the most beguiling men’s fashion terms today. And it shouldn’t be.
While the term ‘lounge suit’ is rarely spoken, it is still eloquently penned on invitations — think weddings, corporate functions and social events like the races.
Putting the comfort back into the lounge suit, there’s no need to go out and buy another suit, just because the invite says ‘lounge’. Most style-ready men will already have what it takes to dress ‘lounge’ just by glancing in the wardrobe at home.
And, styling the look is relatively subjective (compared to formal or black tie dress codes), meaning lounge suits should be celebrated, not feared. Here’s what the lounge suit and dress code actually means for men.
Why ‘Lounge Suit’?
“The lounge suit was coined years ago. It was a very informal (by 19th century standards of noble gentleman, of course) garment which was meant only to be worn for sports, the country or seaside events,” says Brent Wilson, designer at Brent Wilson.
Then, the suit came to the menswear furore in the mid-19th century, and quickly became both a casual garment for the posh and a Sunday best-item for the working class. Think off-duty gentleman, when a tuxedo and tails were OTT.
How To Lounge Today
As more men took the office for work in the early-to-mid 20th century, the suit became the uniform of choice for the corporate western world, thanks to its refined aesthetic (as menswear became increasingly relaxed elsewhere) and square proportions, flattering every man’s physique.
And it lives on today. Nowadays, the lounge suit is pretty much your standard, modern two-piece suit, typically single-breast with streamline lapels and in a neutral earthen colour– navy, charcoal, brown and black.
Lounge Suit Dress Code
The ‘lounge suit’ expression is only seen on invitations as a dress code. In conversation, the terms dark suit or business suit or possibly business dress or business attire are used.
In relation to other codes, the lounge suit sits below cocktail attire. And it’s getting even more relaxed, says Wilson, but is still more refined than smart casual.
“It’s tailoring, but is is basically phrasing and requesting a “more relaxed” style of suiting or outfit. Think the polo, beach side wedding or a beautiful daytime lunch,” says Wilson. “Envisage this, and you will start thinking lounge suits,” he adds.
While three-piece suits are still classified as lounge, a two-piece is more common, and far better suited to the ‘lounge’ vibes rooted in the style.
“Really, only a suit jacket and pants are necessary,” says Wilson.
As for colour, try going navy or charcoal, as a replacement for black. More subdued colours, such as neutrals including beige, cream and grey and fabrics of a more daytime nature are also appropriate.
Fabric swings between Superwool 120s for work and corporate dos, with lighter linens and textural cottons for summer parties and day events.
“By today’s standards, I believe a cotton or linen suit would would fit this brief perfectly,” says Wilson.
Once the suit is in check, it’s time to chat shirts. Again, quality cotton fabrics and peak construction are key. But, looking comfortable, as opposed to rigid and stiff, needs to translate into shirting too.
While there are a slew of shirts and collars on the market for men today, there’s one shirt that serves lounge suit best: the turndown pointed collar. And stick to classic white, not your fave going-out shirt that reeks of florals or some other garish print.
Tie, Or Not?
Google ‘lounge suit tie’ and most sources will tell you it’s a must. Which is true for typical lounge suit events. Funerals, business lunches and corporate mixers, keep your tie on. Plus, mixing in a knitted silk variety in a contrasting or tonal colourway (or print) is a surefire way to flourish a boring business suit. The most versatile tie knots are the four-in-hand and the half-Windsor, large Windsor knots should generally be avoided. Don’t wear a bow-tie.
But, if it’s a summer day time event like an outdoor wedding, eschewing the tie, might just be the point of difference you need to stamp your style mark, says Wilson.
“Opt for the pointed button down collar. I believe these shirts sit, and work, well without a tie.”
So here’s a quick rundown: the jacket should be dark, particularly if the event is at night or rather corporate. If the event is during the day, a lighter jacket is acceptable in the summer.
Trousers should match the jacket and dark socks are a must, preferably the same colour as the suit. Shoes should be dark leather and lace up dark, and always wear socks. These are the basic rules, says Wilson, but do your research and decipher just how much leeway you have, to add a bit of ‘you’ in to the mix.
“Let your personality shine through and include your own individual style and interpretation in making the outfit and the lounge suit your own,” says Wilson.
“And, if you don’t have a personality, then steal, borrow and get inspiration from one of the many great sources of inspiration that is available on the world wide web. Like this article!”