In the United States, we tend to call the best business and formal
looks and fits “European” or “Italian” or “British,”–

Edwardian Cut Brown Flannel Sport Suit

sometimes for good reason, and sometimes merely as a shorthand for saying that a look is “good” or “exciting” or somehow intangibly different from the basic relaxed New England look that we are used to seeing in the shops.
But if there is one area of tailoring that is truly American, it is sportswear.

To a certain extent, we inherited our love and notions of “sports” from the British. But sport always meant something a bit different to Americans than it did to the Brits.

Crown Shape Pockets and 1920s Style Cuffs

To the Brits “sport” centered around the country estate and the hunt—activities that one would do as a gentleman of leisure when outside of the city.

For Americans, this idea of sport was quickly eclipsed by the idea of strenuous activities that one did often for the sake of health and entertainment.

Crown Shaped Breast Pocket with Embroidered Crowsfoot Tacks

The tennis court, the golf course, the beach. Sailing, skiing, riding, fishing and even flying.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries men wore sport jackets for all of these activities.

Slim Fit Box Pleated Pant

Jackets with “action backs” to allow for a freedom of movement.

Jackets with throat latches to keep out the cold.

Shawl Collar Hand-Stitched Vest

Jackets from linen for the heat and sweat or from waxed cotton to keep out the rain.

The ideal man was not a man of leisure but a man of activity who needed to be ready for anything!

Suits made from matched cloth were replaced by separates.

Plaid Seersucker Sport Jacket

A jacket in one fabric, and a pant in another. Plaids, houndstooths, herringbones.

Eventually sportswear evolved into our basic everyday casual clothing. And in the late 20th Century came to mean nothing more than  jeans and a t-shirt.

Linen Moto Vest

But now, when more and more men are trying to dress up and look good, an older, more authentic vision of sportswear has become relevant again.

Linen Back on Tweed Vest

We want to dress better.  But we don’t want to be limited by the way that we dress.

We want durable fabrics that we can wear anywhere.

We want a full range of movement so that we can drive, throw a ball, or put away a bottle on the top shelf.

Most of all, an American aesthetic is about not being constrained.

Shawl Collar Donegal Tweed Vest

We buy big trucks instead of little cars, so that we can (at least in our imaginations) drive a rocky road to a forlorn mountain cabin or pack up all of our belongings to move to a new town.Vest and Pant In Japanese Wool
Part of what Denver Bespoke and AJ Machete and Sons are about is a striving after an authentically American vision of tailoring.

We aren’t interested in recycling English and European fashions, either as a vision of James Bond or a British gent, or that perfectly spontaneous and romantic looking fellow at the Italian cafe.

1920s Style American "Swoosh" Breastpocket

We want something a bit more rugged.  Maybe a bit more rustic.

Copper Stitching and Buttons with Herringbone Shirt

Something that fits in with the Rocky Mountains and the American West instead of the postcard version of a European capital.

Retro Tweed Pant with Wide Waistband

Retro Tweed Pant with Wide Waistband

So we call our suits “American Suits”.  But basically they are just suits for men who do things and who want to look good doing them.

All of our pieces our completely custom made.  And we are one of the few tailors anywhere who work in a sportswear aesthetic and can make any detail that you have seen anywhere.

So contact us with all of your questions and ideas. We would love to make something for you.

Wedding Tuxedos---The Godfather

Gangland Wedding---From The Godfather

Ten years ago more than 2/3 of pictures we would see from weddings would show the groom and the groomsmen, often outdoors and during the day, wearing black tuxedos.

Not that there is anything wrong with this!

“Class,” “Sophistication,” “Snobbery,” however—whatever you want to call it—generally decrees against wearing a black suit during the daytime and is especially against the tuxedo or dinner jacket during the day.

Instead, if one wishes to look quite formal, one should wear a morning coat with charcoal striped pants in place of the matched tuxedo, or a classic suit in a stripe, check, or color.

The Godfather II

Fredo in Search of the Inner WASP

To a large degree, in the United States, this belongs to the history of New England WASPs versus urban Catholics, particularly Italians.

Colorado Bespoke Suits

A Piped Swallowtail Morning Coat

To wear a tuxedo during the day would be to look like an “immigrant” at best or like one of the wedding party at Don Corleone’s in the Godfather at worst.  This type of attire, declared the experts, was quite simply improper and showed a lack of “class.”

In fact, for Godfather II, when the family is trying to take the business in a legitimate direction, costume designer Theodora Van Runkle argued with Francis Ford Coppola to get the family out of black as an expression of their WASPish ambitions.

A Grey Prince of Wales Plaid for the Summer

I personally am all for “class,” sophistication and consciousness.  And for manners as well.

That said, the Corleones do look pretty sharp in their tuxes and I see no reason that this look is to be avoided at all costs.  I certainly like the look better than most Brooks Brothers suits with the slouchy and boxy fit, and am no fan of American Trad in that sense.

A Window Pane Vest We Tailored

Although I attended Harvard myself, there is a small (or even large?) part of me that would prefer looking like a mobster to looking like a New England upper cruster.

Nonetheless, I am happy to see that, in today’s weddings, the black tuxedo is becoming more and more rare.

Colors and patterns are back.  Morning coats are back.  Eclectic is back.

We make suits for summer weddings in natural colored linens and raw silks or plaid jackets for fall weddings in colors that coordinate with the falling leaves.

A Bold Morning Frock

For those more formally inclined, we make gorgeous morning coats with charcoal striped trousers, picking up, perhaps, one of the wedding colors in the pant stripe.

Classic Silk Herringbone Suit

None of this is necessarily better.

But it is a much better chance to exercise some of the sophistication that is possible in menswear.

Back in the 1990s, for example, you went to a “fancy” restaurant to dine on steaks or perhaps surf’n'turf or warmed over French-style cuisine.  There were only a small handful of expensive tastes available to the American diner.

Today, however, everyone is a sophisticate.  Friends sit around and discuss balsamic reductions and how to cook kohlrabi. Fine dining can include flavors from Korea or South America just as easily as from France.

And all of this makes life richer, more reflective—-Even if snobbery can leave a bad taste in the mouth.

Here at Denver Bespoke, building the perfect wedding suit starts with the tastes and interests of the bride and groom and the setting of the wedding.

From this starting point, we sketch ideas and search out the perfect fabrics to build a totally unique look that is styled to your individuality.  We love black—but often for a touch of the Victorian, goth or punk rock look.

Every suit that we make is custom tailored here in our studio in Denver, Colorado for clients around the world.

The Classic American Jacket: Horizontal Flap Pockets with Angled Breast Pocket

When opening a conversation with a bespoke tailor about a custom suit or sportcoat, one of the first questions you will be asked is “Do you have a preference on the pocket style?”

The "Jetted" Tuxedo Pocket

A surprising number of men—even men who wear suits often—won’t have considered pocket styling before.

This is for one of two reasons:

For men who began wearing suits in the 1990s, this is often because all of the suits that they own have exactly the same pocket styling:  Two horizontal double-besom style flap pockets.

During the 1990s and into the late 2000s men’s suits didn’t really evolve much.

The "Patch Pocket"

The main evolution in menswear was toward the ever-more-casual.  This lack of interest in men’s suits led to a reversion to the most generic.

Not that there is anything wrong with horizontal flap pockets—-they remain among the most classic styles for business attire.

Hacking Pockets with Ticket Pocket

The second reason that many men have not considered pockets is that, when made up, all of the details are so subtle.

In the black and white sketches, the details look dramatic.  But when made up in a heather grey or navy, the details fade.

Pointed "Crown-Shaped" Hacking Pockets with 1920s Curved Breast Pocket

Moving beyond the horizontal flap pocket, the two pocket styles that most American’s will be familiar with are the “Jetted” pocket and the “Patch Pocket”.

A jetted pocket is a pocket identical to the basic flap pocket, but with the flap removed.  What is left is the upper and the lower “besom” or “piping.”

Generally, this style is seen on tuxedo jackets and it can give the jacket a more formal, cleaner look.

The sketch above for the “Jetted” look, shows a classic tuxedo look where the body is an superfine wool and the lapels and pocket besoms are in a silk satin or grosgrain.

Pointed Flap Pockets with Flap Breast Pocket

In general, we do not recommend the jetted pocket except on tuxedos.  The jetted pocket has a tendency to gape open when the pocket is used to hold an object of any size or weight.

On a flap pocket, the flap covers the gap, but jetted pockets on the outside of tuxedos are often left basted shut to assure the cleanest and most put-together look.

A patch pocket, on the other hand, is the traditional casual daytime pocket.

I say “casual,” but casual in a way that has very very little to do with the hoodies and tshirts that many men consider to be casual attire today.

Instead, the patch pocket is actually more sophisticated than wearing a tuxedo in many cases.  If it is at all avoidable, one should never wear a tuxedo during the day.  Instead, a jacket or suit with patch pockets in a sporty fabric shows just the right amount of attention to dress for outdoor summer weddings.

Sporty Patch with Flap Pockets

Midway between the patch pocket the traditional flap pocket is the “hacking pocket”.  A hacking pocket is a flap pocket that is angled backward on the body.

Originally a detail from British riding attire, the hacking pocket as a long history in men’s sportswear and business attire especially in the British and Continental traditions.

It tends to read as slightly more sporty, but also more sophisticated, than the standard horizontal flap pocket.

One often sees the hacking pocket accompanied by a “ticket pocket.”  This additional pocket balances out the breast pocket on the left side and can be useful for smaller items that one needs to keep track of.

Of course, these are only some of the possible pocket shapes and details from the long tradition of men’s formal, sport, and business attire.

Some 1920s Details

For those who are more adventurous, we offer our signature curved breast pockets (a 1920s and 1930s sportswear detail) or crown-shaped pockets with pointed flaps (common in the military and sport jacket traditions).

One should never be anxious about “over-doing” details when choosing a pocket shape—-to men who don’t care about suits, and to most women—a suit is a suit and most of the details are nearly invisible.  To those who care about menswear, a unique detail or two, properly chosen is what dressing well is all about.

We can design a suit with any pocket styles you might like and would love to talk more.  Because we make each piece one-at-a-time here in our studio in Denver, Colorado, we are always able to design a piece with the details that fit your individual tastes.

Contact me with your thoughts and I can get you a sketch.