Britain's Style Legacy - Past, Present, and Future
Text: Mikael Vallin
Photo: Ted Olsson
The notion of ‘British style’ has become almost ubiquitous in discussions about men’s fashion, usually with a focus on austerely tailored suits, silk neckties and handmade shoes of almost indestructible quality. Though, however popular this idea has become on social media of late, it only represents one particular niche in the United Kingdom’s rich menswear tradition – the number of ‘British Gentlemen’ dressing in conservative suits and hand-sewn Oxfords day-in and day-out is, in reality, rather small. Nevertheless, it remains a fascinating style for those of us interested in the history of men’s fashion. In this extremely condensed article, we take you through some of the most important moments in the history of British style and its contemporary interpretations.
Since the dawn of the 20th century, British style has become increasingly diverse – mods, rockers, punks, skinheads, rude boys, and football casuals are just some of the many influential subcultures to leave their mark on the country’s menswear legacy. Here, however, we will concentrate on the more conservative ‘well-dressed’ style centred around the numerous legendary tailors of London’s Savile Row, who have been creating some of the world’s most exquisite suits for nigh on 200 years. Such suits are, naturally, almost always accompanied by a pair of welted leather shoes, handmade in the city of Northampton.
With influences from the military tradition, formal workplace dress codes, and sporting apparel, this ‘gentlemanly’ style, beloved by social media users, men’s magazines and not least by us at Care of Carl, is a unique fusion of classic Savile Row tailoring and Italian flair. The quintessential, indestructible shoes still have a central role, but have now been joined by high-quality sneakers.With this resurgence of interest in British style, the ‘Made in Britain’ label itself is steadily regaining ground in the world of men’s clothing and accessories. Field jackets, woollen overcoats and waxed jackets join brogues, sneakers and handmade shirts in the contemporary pantheon of British menswear.
A well-dressed, formal look needn’t always involve a blazer. An elegantly cut jacket over a knitted jumper and high-quality shirt, paired with slightly more casual dress trousers will take you far. Corduroy trousers are another quintessential element of the British wardrobe, and these models feature details and fits that strike a perfect balance between timeless and contemporary.
The Classic Waxed Overcoat
Wearing an overcoat with a blazer is a time-honoured choice for the well-dressed Brit. In this ensemble, the typical constructed blazer has been replaced with a softly tailored variant, worn under a classic waxed overcoat. Paired with both tight-fitting and more relaxed models of jeans, alongside a pair of sneakers, the waxed jacket and blazer make for a look that is both purposefully contemporary and effortlessly elegant.
The Casual Suit
Of course, it would be remiss of us to discuss British style without including a suit. A two-piece suit remains a cornerstone of the British gentleman’s wardrobe, but today, these suits are often heavily influenced by softer tailoring from the continent. Here, the classic pinstripe meets an understated Oxford shirt and a thin and light navy tie. A soft suede boot eliminates any remaining ‘stuffiness’ from the ensemble, while a waterproof cotton overcoat, made in Manchester, completes the look.