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.

When clients contact us online to order a suit––or make an appointment to meet with us about a suit here in our workshop in Denver, Colorado––one of the first questions we ask is, “Do you want a vest?”

Navy Pinstripe Vest

A Classic Business Look

Around 75% of our clients answer “Yes.”

Part of this is just the fact that most shops don’t carry 3pc suits.  Here in Denver, one can visit the retail stores of some of the hottest international designers an not find a single 3pc suit.

Dressing up With Peak Lapels

And this isn’t because vests aren’t trendy.  3pc suits have been a major trend for the past 6 years.

The reason that one can only find 2pc suits is that not all guys want a vest, and it is just too much of a risk to stock vests in every size if half of the guys won’t want them.

But, as all of our suits are completely custom, we don’t have that problem.  So many of our clients contact us specifically because they know they want a vest and haven’t been able to find a suit that they liked anywhere else.

A Workingman Look

But for the client that isn’t sure which way to go, what kinds of questions should he consider?

The clients who buy 3pc suits fall into 2 categories:

1. Men who love a really formal look (and a vest completes this).

and

2. Men who like a more relaxed “working man” look.

If these reasons for wanting to add a vest seem to contradict each other, this is simply because one can take one’s jacket off in modern social situations.

Even Tweed Sportswear Can Feel Formal in 3pcs

With a jacket and a vest, even the most sporty plaid or houndstooth fabrics take on a very formal look.  A 3pc suit feels more formal and put together on virtually every occasion.

This is particularly the case if one is attending a daytime wedding or an important business meeting.

Contrast Vest

On the other hand, if one takes the jacket off and wears simply the vest and pant, the look becomes altogether sporty and casual.  The look transforms from  ”wedding attire” to “party attire,” from “garden party” to “picnic.”

The result is that a vest is a great choice when one wants to really “dress up” and for when one wants to “dress down.”

Wedding Vest

An Outdoor Fall Wedding

Whether or not a vest is the right choice for your suit really depends on where you will wear the suit and how many occasions one has at either of the extremes.

We sell the fewest 3pc suits to men who wear the suits simply for everyday business.

That said, if one is going to take off one’s jacket at work during part of the day, wearing a vest can certainly be an improvement over simply dressing in shirt sleeves.

For guys who are on the fence, we can always design a vest to go with your jacket and you can decide whether or not you feel that it compliments the look.

The Basic Straight Leg Flat Front Pant

Choosing the right pant fit and leg shape is one of the most important parts of getting the right look in a suit.

Do you want to look more youthful, slim, and eager?

The Skinny Leg "Rocker" Fit

Or is your style more one that connotes power and solidity?

Is your style more traditional or is it more daring?

In terms of recent fashion there are two competing trends to look at.  The first is the “skinny jeans” trend that has been going on for the past 5-10 years.  To a younger guy, a pant just doesn’t fit unless it is tight.

Cary Grant in a Wide Leg Pant

“Old men” might want a pant that comes up closer to the navel, but lots of younger guys prefer a pant with an ultra low rise similar to women’s pants.

A pant from H&M aimed at young men.

The second (and contrary)  trend is a return to the classics of the early 20th century.  This means a return to a higher-waisted and often wider leg pant.

Men who are interested in this trend tend to reject the youthful “dressing down” looks of the 90s and 00s—instead of looking younger, one wants to look “like a grown-up” after the fashion of golden age and silent film stars.  In addition to 1930s-era suiting, many men who look toward this trend find inspiration in classic denim and workwear.

A Full Wide Leg Flat Front Pant

We can, of course, make pants in both styles—-or even a hybrid of the two styles.

A Slim Tapered Tuxedo Pant

Perhaps the main thing to understand about pants is that, like all human clothing, the idea is to stylize the figure and the question is what each style means.

For some men, for example, the skinny leg style just doesn’t work.  This is particularly the case with athletic men who ride a bicycle to work or do frequent squats.

The style ends up failing on men with muscular thighs because the ankles and calves end up looking too skinny (and even fragile!) in comparison to the thighs.  The initial impression is that the ankles might shatter under the weight.  Going with a wider leg inevitably seems like a better fit, while a skinny style just feels too tight and off balance.

A 1920s Style High Waistband

Similarly, on men with a larger belly, the slimmer leg can give a top-heavy “muffin top” look to the suit which is always unfortunate.

Our "Jean Fit" Dress Pant--Slim Fit but Bootcut for More Athletic Shapes

On the other hand, for men who are very slim and tall with narrower shoulders, one inevitably wants to make the pant legs thinner.  If the jacket has fairly narrow shoulders and a narrow waist (which is the case on men with a smaller chest size), a wider leg pant throws the look off balance.

Overall, one wants to pick a pant style that fits with one’s individuality.

If you want to convey solidity and authority and to look like Cary Grant, one should choose a wider leg pant.

To look young and eager, a slimmer leg is better.

But the pant is designed to stylize the body—-and choosing a look that flatters your individual body type is important as well.

We make all of our pants and bespoke suits one-at-a-time to fit each client’s body and style here in our studio in Denver, Colorado.  Find out about our muslin fitting and how we can fit clients around the world.