Over the decades, suits — traditionally the staple of executives and politicians in the corridors of power — have lost what they once stood for. With the advent of nontraditional power players like the late Steve Jobs — renowned for his turtlenecks, jeans and New Balance sneakers — and Mark Zuckerberg, the suit has increasingly lost its status as the ultimate sartorial symbol of power.
In fact, back in 2019 when he had to sit before US Congress to answer a barrage of questions over Facebook’s data sharing, the aforementioned Zuckerberg became the subject of columns noting how he chose a suit rather than his usual casualwear at a moment of crisis. The New York Times called it his “I’m Sorry Suit”. It became a symbol of powerlessness, at least momentarily.
The decline of the era of power dressing, as it were, probably traces its roots to the arrival of women in the boardroom, disrupting male dominance, while subverting what power looks like. In more recent times, its become a symbol of nonbinary fashion trends and its subversion — and that of masculinity — continues.
Showing up in ranges and red carpets over the last year or so, the suit is slouchy, oversized, flashy and vibrant. Think Hillary Clinton’s purple Ralph Lauren suit at the Joe Biden and Kamala Harris inauguration in January 2021; Harry Styles in a leather Gucci suit and no shirt at the 2021 Grammys or Beyoncé, sparkling in the super glam $13,000 crystal-bedazzled Gucci x Balenciaga suit jacket on a trip to Las Vegas with hubby Jay-Z.
The latter was from Gucci’s 100th anniversary collection titled Gucci Aria. In his show notes, creative director Alessandro Michele acknowledges his propensity for subversion, stating: “I have celebrated the equestrian world of Gucci transfiguring it into a fetish cosmogony; I have sublimated Marilyn Monroe’s silhouette and old Hollywood’s glamour; I sabotaged the discreet charm of the bourgeoisie and the codes of men’s tailoring.”
Continuing in a similar vein, for his SS22 show, Michele paid homage to old Hollywood with the suit appearing in shimmering satins and vibrant checks. Seated in the audience for said show, actor Gwyneth Paltrow did her own homage to the Gucci suit, dressed in the iconic red velvet Tom Ford design she wore at the 1996 MTV Music Awards.
The AW22 show went further with tailoring as its central theme. The Gucci x Adidas collab was revealed here, merging Gucci’s sartorial traditions with sportswear codes. Adidas stripes were added to suits and the two companies’ logos sit comfortably side by side, reinforcing the increasingly blurred lines between formal and streetwear.
As the mercury drops at the southern tip of Africa, there’s no better time than now to look into one’s closet and find those pieces to merge, giving the suit a hint of individuality. Whether it’s about pairing the jacket with a brightly coloured turtleneck or wearing slouchy cuts with trackpants, what’s become abundantly clear is that when it comes to suiting up for the moment, the rule book is basically what you make it of it.