Fall offers a trimmer take on that classic for men: Tweed

Posted: October 05, 2011

If you've been shopping for menswear recently, you've probably noticed considerable amounts of tweed.

There's an entire collection of Rugby by Ralph Lauren devoted solely to this fabric. It abounds in the Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale's menswear departments, appearing everywhere from business-attire brands such as Theory to younger, edgier brands such as Marc Jacobs.

It's clear that this season, the style-savvy man will be wearing tweed.

J.Crew men's style director Jack O'Connor remarks, "We love tweed, but for us, it's not exactly new." What is different this fall is the fit, not the fabric.

"Sometimes you see men wearing tweed, and it eats them for breakfast," quips O'Connor. "Even though it's an old idea, it's not like you can pull out your grandfather's tweed suits." J.Crew's solution: narrow it down. This season's suits have an updated cut and fit.

Brian Lipstein, president of Henry A. Davidsen Master Tailors & Image Consultants in Rittenhouse Square, explains: "On the younger edge, the crowd is typically looking for a tighter, European-cut suit." Pants and suit jackets are narrow this fall, as in the skinny pants offered by Ted Baker, or the slim-fitting Ludlow jackets offered at J.Crew.

"Men are looking for a fresh point of view on classic pieces," says Noelle Cutler, public relations manager at Bloomingdale's.

Men can pair fitted tweed jackets with skinny pants for an overall refined look, or they can wear them with jeans and a plaid button-down shirt for a casual Saturday out.

Tweed has been a durable and functional cold-weather fabric choice for centuries.

The coarse woolen cloth originated in northern Scotland, where it was originally handwoven. The 18th and 19th centuries saw the rise of the fabric, when it became a commodity produced and traded by merchants.

Over the years, various patterns of tweed emerged. J.Crew partnered with Harris Tweed Hebrides, a Scottish tweed manufacturer with a long history with the fabric, to construct this season's suit jackets and pants. In addition to Harris tweed (a distinctive rust-colored tweed), herringbone (a series of chevrons in a zigzag pattern) and Donegal tweed are also options for fall.

Sweaters with accenting are another fall trend. Features such as leather and toggling are popular, as on the shawl-collar, cable-knit sweater by Salvatore Ferragamo. Rick Owens and Yohji Yamamoto's Adidas Y-3 line offers sweaters with toggle-button closures for a sporty look. There's also the cashmere option: Tom Ford offers luscious cashmere sweaters in cerulean blue, yellow olive, and cerise to be worn under plaid and wool coats and blazers.

Or choose a Fair Isle sweater, appearing this year in collections by Junya Watanabe and Gant by Michael Bastian. The distinctive Fair Isle pattern suggests that sweaters are leaning toward a more Nordic style, and that geometric patterns are back. "The Fair Isle sweater is an easy, ultimate comfort piece, but it still gives you a current look," says Cutler.

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