Cloth $27.00 ISBN: 9781780235233 Published April 2016 For sale in North and South America only

The Suit

Form, Function and Style

Christopher Breward

The Suit

Christopher Breward

Distributed for Reaktion Books

256 pages | 70 color plates, 30 halftones | 6 x 9 1/2 | © 2016
Cloth $27.00 ISBN: 9781780235233 Published April 2016 For sale in North and South America only
Be as in love with your jeans, sweatpants, or flannels as you want, it’s hard to refute the sumptuous feel of a finely tailored suit—as well as the statement of power that comes with it. For over a century the suit has dominated wardrobes, its simple form making it the go-to attire for boardrooms, churches, or cocktail bars—anywhere one wants to make an impression. But this ubiquity has allowed us to take the suit’s history for granted, and its complex construction, symbolic power, and many shifting meanings have been lost to all but the most devout sartorialists.
           
In The Suit, Christopher Breward unstitches the story of our most familiar garment. He shows how its emergence at the end of the seventeenth century reflects important political rivalries and the rise of modern democratic society. He follows the development of technologies in the textile industry and shows how they converge on the suit as an ideal template of modern fashion, which he follows across the globe—to South and East Asia especially—where the suit became an icon of Western civilization. The quintessential emblem of conformity and the status quo, the suit ironically became, as Breward unveils, the perfect vehicle for artists, musicians, and social revolutionaries to symbolically undermine hegemonic culture, twisting and tearing the suit into political statements. Looking at the suit’s adoption by women, Breward goes on to discuss the ways it signals and engages gender. He closes by looking at the suit’s apparent decline—woe the tyranny of business casual!—and questioning its survival in the twenty-first century.
           
Beautifully illustrated and written with the authority a Zegna or Armani itself commands, The Suit offers new perspectives on this familiar—yet special—garment.  
Contents
Introduction: The Tailor’s Art
1. Well Suited
2. Suiting Nations
3. Sharp Suits
4. Seeing the Suit
5. Epilogue: Future Suits

References
Select Bibliography
Acknowledgements
Photo Acknowledgements
Index
Review Quotes
Wall Street Journal
“Expertly shows how the adoption of the suit was a manifestation of societal change as the great European wars of the 17th and 18th centuries morphed into the Industrial Revolution and thereon into the modern democratic world. Indeed, it would be hard to name another facet of our modern culture that has so effortlessly and variously expressed the cross-purposes of, say, Baudelaire, Le Corbusier, and Mao Zedong. The suit is the perfect signifier, and as Mr. Breward shows, it carries all the noble, artistic, economic, and perverse impulses of our culture.”
Financial Times
The Suit has its own spare, modernist elegance. It presents a decisively uncluttered history of menswear, cutting a clean line through eighteenth-century French military uniforms to dandies, Pasolini films and twentieth-century Italian tailoring, all the while insisting on the suit’s ‘all-pervasive influence in modern and contemporary cultures.'”
Literary Review
“[Breward] is knowledgeable about his subject, insightful in his analysis, and imaginative in the connections that he makes. The result is a thoughtful and at times lively riffle through the male wardrobe from Restoration England onward.”
Bookseller
“An attractively illustrated history unpicking the story of the gentleman’s tailored suit from its emergence in Western Europe at the end of the 17th century to its fate in the 21st century.”
Metropolis
“Metropolis Summer Reading List 2016. . . . A scholarly history of sartorial style, a dialectic between peacock fashions and their renunciation.”
 
Times Literary Supplement
“Breward offers a compendious account of the evolution of the suit from the gaudily decorated outfits of the Elizabethen court, through the luxury textile trade, to the genesis of something like the modern idea of well-dressed manhood (essentially, expensive understatement) in the nineteenth-century Parisian cult of the dandy. . . . When Breward ventures beyond just telling his story to speculate a little on the cultural resonances behind it, he does so with a sharp, laconic intelligence.”
World of Interiors
“Breward’s intelligent consideration of the suit is an antidote to all the bombastic ‘how to’ guides written by fashion journalists and bloggers whose idea of cultural context is to speed read a Wikipedia page. . . . a rich, deep, and satisfying study.”
Journal of Design History
“Breward’s book on the history and culture of the gentleman’s suit is a handsome, hardback volume with a generous number of large-format illustrations. . . . His is not a straightforward, object-oriented interpretation; what makes the book such a clever and rewarding read lies in how Breward assumes the position of a tailor in tackling a cultural history of the suit, as if fashioning a garment in material form. This is a book crafted by the measuring, marking, aligning, fitting and shaping of evidence. Just as the seam allowances of a bespoke suit allow its proportions to be altered to fit a body modified by the regimes and excesses of life, so Breward appreciates that cultural and material histories are also malleable, with margins that can be redrawn and reassembled.”
Ed Burstell, Managing Director, Liberty
“Spirited and well researched, The Suit: Form, Function and Style is a thoroughly informed examination of the ubiquitous garment that is a staple in every man’s life. Combining both substance and style, it provides a journey into the evolution of the suit and its cultural influence through the ages.”
G. Bruce Boyer, author of True Style: The History and Principles of Classic Menswear, Rebel Style, and Gary Cooper: Enduring Style
“In its long history the suit has been both a symbol of adherence to mainstream authority as well as a weapon of rebellion. In this book, Breward masterfully traces the suit’s influence in modern and contemporary cultures with thorough scholarship and vivid writing. The Suit is a magical tour of the corporeal terrain of the garment that continues to intrigue us as it reflects the ever-changing economic and cultural contexts in which it is found. A triumph of scholarship and a joy to read.”
Simon Doonan, Creative Ambassador for Barneys New York and author of The Asylum: True Tales of Madness from a Life in Fashion
“Breward climbs into every armhole and measures every inside leg. He stops at nothing to decode the enigmas of men’s tailoring.”
For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
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