Sneakers with Casual Suits
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I’m very torn about the sneakers with casual suits look; very, very torn. I really like the idea of it. It’s a cheeky mix; one that plays with and against our ideas of both sneakers and suits. Suits are, in the popular esteem, the height of daywear formality. Businessmen and bankers wear suits. Of course, those of us interested in menswear know otherwise. We know how suits can span the gamut from traditional city appropriate navy worsted to the most casual of country tweeds, with many possible degrees in between. Yet, in many places, regardless of the colour, material and pattern of the cloth, wearing a suit will immediately signal a degree of formality for the casual viewer. Sneakers, on the other hand, are perhaps the ultimate symbol of youthful casual wear. Intended, in theory, for athletic use, worn on the street they speak of comfort above all else. Somewhat paradoxically, given the athletic origins, they almost signal a laziness; but, one the viewer is envious of. People rarely look uncomfortable in sneakers, while the association of suits and discomfort is a well worn, cliched trope.
Given these two divergent meanings associated with suits and sneakers, they ought not work. They ought to be incoherent, in the extreme. As the combination has come around on my dash I’ve instinctively scoffed, turning my nose up, declaring myself above such things. Yet, I’m not above admitting that a part of me has also admired the look. Done well, it just looks good. The combination properly dresses down the suit, making crystal clear that a suit can be worn casually. It strikes me as a more modern way to do so than to invoke the English countryside, which would be, quite frankly, a costume if worn in most urban settings. Instead, the sneaker and suit look has a urban casual feel to it. It also signals that comfort is possible in a suit.
The suit, with sneakers, has a youthfulness to it. When young men wear suits they risk appearing contrived and precocious. Pairing a suit with sneakers immediately undermines that, subverting any conservativeness associated with suit wearing.
So, the question I ask myself is if I could pull it off. I wonder if I’m already too old to really wear sneakers with a suit. Urban casual suiting is definitely my style. But, I worry that on someone my age, the sneakers would look contrived. I also worry that the look really only works on lithe men and sneakers would just look silly on my large frame.
It’s not a look I can currently experiment with as I lack the appropriate sneakers, since it is obvious that not just any sneakers will do. The sneakers that appear to work all have a vintage look and the only sneakers I own are for actually going to the gym (so, obviously, rarely get worn). The classic look of the sneakers lends itself to the cheekiness of the combination, as they defy the idea that suit wearing is part of a bygone era, specifically invoking a bygone era through the sneakers as well.
I’ll continue to watch my dash for examples of the sneaker-suit look in order to discern if the variables at play could work in my favour. Time will tell if I fall for a ‘trend du jour’ or participate in a playful twist on classic menswear.