Possibly the most controversial piece of men’s tailoring, the white suit is guaranteed to spark a reaction wherever it goes. The response to it may be love or hate, but rarely indifference. Some view it as a big fashion faux pas, yet others continue to be drawn to the white suit for its blend of glamour, elegance and boldness.
Unfortunately for some people the white suit has become inexorably linked with the now rather dated image of John Travolta in the 1977 film Saturday Night Fever. However, recent interest in pale coloured suits may owe a debt of gratitude to Leonardo DiCaprio, who simply oozed style in The Great Gatsby.
Some famous names who successfully sported a white suit include Frank Sinatra, Fred Astaire and Cary Grant. More recently George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Daniel Craig and Pharrell Williams have all shown how to wear a pale suit with a contemporary twist.
Worn well, the white suit can be the perfect outfit for a smart summer event, such as a formal garden party. It is probably best avoided if you are the guest at a wedding, but you could comfortably wear one to an anniversary celebration or a christening, as long as you don’t plan to hold the baby for too long; after all, white suits don’t score quite so well in terms of practicality.
If you decide to go for a white suit, the key thing is to wear it with panache. Confidence is an absolute prerequisite for carrying it off. You will naturally feel more confident about wearing a high quality suit so opt for made to measure tailoring. Consider carefully what to wear with it. For a formal occasion, a pale shirt, particularly in blue, complements a white suit well. Be cautious about going for an all white look, as this is very hard to get right.
A white suit can be surprisingly versatile. For a more casual look treat it as separates. Team the trousers with a navy blazer, and pair the jacket with dark chinos or even jeans. A pure white suit is not the only option; off white or cream can be just as striking.
Even if you never intend to wear a white suit, you can’t help admiring those who do with that look of style and sophistication that is so hard to achieve. Love it or hate it, the white suit is here to stay.