Double-breasted Armitage

B39P8ALCAAAGJTyRichard Armitage and Samantha Colley, December 2nd, 2014, premiere of The Crucible on screen. Tweeted by Samantha Colley.

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If I recall correctly, before last night at the Digital Theater’s premiere of The Crucible, the main occasion when we’d previously seen Richard Armitage in a double-breasted suit before was as Heinz Kruger. (This suit might be double breasted — Kircher’s is — but I can’t quite tell with Armitage.)

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CAStillsbRichard Armitage as Heinz Kruger in a publicity still for Captain America: The First Avenger. Source: RichardArmitageNet.com

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I admit that I don’t immediately think of the double-breasted suit as the ideal cut for someone of Richard Armitage’s body type. At least in its traditional form, the whole outfit has a ton of cloth in it — it’s not a trim option. Look at the big action photo we got of Heinz if you don’t believe me:

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CAStills06Richard Armitage as Heinz Kruger in a publicity still for Captain America: The First Avenger. Source: RichardArmitageNet.com

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The whole suit adds bulk to the figure and the no break-trouser with cuffs usually worn with the suit did so particularly (see what I said about this in my long disquisition on Richard Armitage and the trouser break two years ago). I also tend to think of it as a retro style, insofar as it traditionally — one might say always — has peaked lapels and straight pockets and double rear vents. It’s the kind of thing that I associate with gangsters and substantial men of the thirties and forties — by which I mean weighty men in every sense of the word. You saw political men wearing it, wealthy men, gangsters. And traditionally it didn’t have a dramatic cut in at the waist so it wasn’t unflattering to men with a little extra tummy. (In that sense, Heinz Kruger’s suit above is already a little more updated than the traditional double-breasted jacket). In the 1980s it was a favorite style for arbitragers and investment bankers and again the bulk — usually in these cases with heavily padded shoulders — said “I am substantial.” These days, I think of its typical purchasers as members of the Windsor family. You see Prince Charles and Prince William in them all the time. Conservative pure.

At the same time, however, the double-breasted suit occupied a status as dressier than the single breasted suit but not quite so dressy as a dinner suit — really the perfect choice, I have to admit, for an event like last night’s where you are not doing a gala premiere and in need of a dinner suit, evening dress or formal wear, but want to give the occasion some special pizzazz and energy nonetheless. It makes the wearer look serious, substantial, and like they’re giving an education the proper honor.

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MUMBY_CHARLES_030713Prince Charles when he visited the Doctor Who set, as pictured in the Daily Mail. The classic suit variant.

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But it was still bulky. Beginning with the 2012-13 season, however, the men’s classic double-breasted suit got some decisive updates and it became a big hit again. It got a slightly shorter jacket skirt, higher armholes, a trimmer waist and more narrow lapels. The renovations reduced the bulky cloth and put more emphasis on the silhouette of the wearer. The armholes and the seams of the jacket were tailored exactly to the wearer’s chest to narrow the waist. The shorter jacket extended the appearance of the legs. The thinner lapels still emphasized the breadth of the chest for the viewer, but brought an added bonus on a tall man of increasing the effect of his height. Achieving this “new look” his meant in practice something fairly contradictory — that a suit that had always been somewhat friendly to the less than trim man and which had room for error in its margins now needed to be cut very exactly, because if it pulled across the chest or stomach it would not only be immediately noticeable, but noticeable all the time. The traditional cuffs and pleats were taken out of the pant, also to emphasize a slim, minimalized, more elegant silhouette.

This new, revised double-breasted suit (still with the classic six button style, although now that the jacket is less bulky, a less ornamented four button arrangement has appeared as well) is what Armitage wore the other night. We know from Ilaria Urbinati that this is a suit from Brunello Cucinelli (whom I kind of like in his role as philanthropist and it’s interesting to read about his business model as well). Cucinelli got his start in striking cashmere sweaters, but he’s been doing a whole line of menswear since 2006 and he occupies a position between classic and trendy — this suit is kind of a nice example of that position, in fact.

The jacket has the thinner lapels, shorter skirt, and more closely fitted waist, and I think it looks pretty good. It also appropriately honors the occasion — dressier than a single-breasted suit, it says he’s taking it seriously, and also that he’s a man of substance. It also fits him as well as a suit like this can, and there’s reason (as we well know) for Armitage to prefer any double-vent jacket. The side silhouette is quite nice, I thought.

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B338-oCCQAELBP5Robert Delamere, Yael Farber, Richard Armitage and someone else introduce The Crucible on screen, December 2, 2014. Tweeted by @RCArmitage. We forgive you the messy trouser break, I guess.

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I also thought the front impression when the suit is done up was really effective — it says all the right things — powerful, important, serious, taking the occasional appropriately, but reasonably fashion forward, still slim silhouetted, and although metaphorically substantial, not too bulky.

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B36gOw8CMAAIU5t.jpg_largeSamantha Colley and Richard Armitage being interviewed for the premiere of The Crucible on screen, December 2, 2014. Tweeted by Ilaria Urbinati. Trouser break looks a little cleaner here, so again we may dealing with a situation where the shoes are creating noise for the hang of the pant and perhaps were not tested with the suit ahead of time.

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So I thought the suit was a good choice for this event and it looked good on him most of the time. Still, I didn’t think it was “him.” Why not? This picture says it all to me:

***B340eZ_IcAAE0rp.jpg_largeSame people, same event, and I apologize for not having kept track of who tweeted this one.

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The double-breasted suit is really unforgiving to the casual wearer and that is who Armitage is here, briefly. He’s got his hands in his pockets, his stance slightly contrapposto with his center of gravity toward his left leg and his right leg out for balance. He’s leaning in slightly to pay attention to Yael Farber.

And suddenly, without that straight, erect posture on the part of the wearer, the suit looks frumpy and ordinary. We see all the problems with the trouser break, the short skirt makes the tops of his thighs look bulkier, and the open button (yes — this is how you’re supposed to wear the jacket casually, with that one open button) widens the skirt of the jacket and makes it look like a blouse, complete negating the effect of the slim silhouette.

In short, this is not a suit — and particularly not made with this slim silhouette — that foresees for putting one’s hands in one pockets or standing less than fully upright and particularly not for the man with a muscular undercarriage. The suit cut may reflect in part the long forgotten rule of manners that one did not put one’s hands in one pockets while talking (especially not in the presence of a lady), so the suit itself did not give easy access to the pockets which were not to be used for relaxing the arms.

But Armitage — as well we know again — loves to put his hands in his pockets and will do it at every opportunity.

So this isn’t a pan of the suit. I liked it. And most of the time I liked it on him. It just wasn’t a stunner — because I don’t see him as someone who — although he’s certainly unfailingly polite — is that essentially conservative either of manners or behavior. And just at the point at which he steps slightly out of the conservative circle, the suit casts light on that.

~ by Servetus on December 4, 2014.

5 Responses to “Double-breasted Armitage”

  1. Loved your double-breasted Armitage analysis. My dad used to yell at my brothers to “get your hands out of your pockets” constantly. They never asked him why it was such a bad thing to do. When reprimanded by a parent, it was never a good idea to ask “why?” Now I know. Thank you, Serv. 🙂

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  2. Don’t like double breasted suits at all but they look good there overall.

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  3. […] As you know, I didn’t feel that all of Armitage’s Brunello Cucinelli fit perfectly. […]

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