I love the look of this suit. The cut is killer, and that Japanese chambray (woven on vintage shuttle looms, natch) is totes legit. JCrew asserts it'll soften and mold as you wear it - so despite it's off-the-rack-ness, they can claim a "custom" fit. It's a great solution if you're a dude seeking a contemporary, high-end look at an attainable price point. But let's be real - a Ludlow will still set a guy back around $425.00. So here's the real question: considering the store's average customer, for that price, why isn't it lined?

I have a years-long epic group iMessage with my friends Ward and Van where we debate pressing issues such as this. "I have this fight with Brooks all the time," Ward said, referring to his better half, a long-time vet of the menswear world. "He says that lining suits is a modern convention and Italians typically go for unlined, whereas British formalwear popularized structure in day-to-day suiting."

"So it's because of steez, Jess" he said. "That's what I'm getting at."

Steez is all well and good if you're Lawrence Schlossman, but isn't JCrew's bread and butter the mall shopper? The average American dude? He needs a good looking suit that doesn't give him old man ass, and in the fitting room, that Ludlow looks flawless. He walks out of the store satisfied with his purchase. But given a few hours of wear, that lack of lining is sartorial sabotage - the wrinkles start lining up like lemmings, and by end of day, he looks like a rumpled heap. So what gives? Does that guy really give a shit about classic Italian tailoring? I'm betting no. The beauty of menswear so often is it's utility. Save a handful I know doing apparel for a living, not many men are willing to sacrifice function for fashion. 

I equate it to a beautiful pair of uncomfortable heels: they might make your legs look great, but if they make you walk like a baby giraffe, what's the point of buying? 

Just askin'.

9 comments :

trip said...

To reiterate my own tweet, lots of older suits (includes Brooks Brothers) used to be unlined, or at least 1/4 lined, especially in summer-weight materials. A lining has often been used to cover shoddy workmanship, whereas a jacket with no lining has no secrets. Additionally, not having the lining can make the suit cooler (temperature-wise), since there isn't an extra layer of fabric to insulate you.

As to your point about J Crew being for the average mall shopper, I would disagree. I think that in taking the brand up-market over the past six or seven years, J Crew has done a good bit to alienate the "average mall customer" (whatever that is) by making everything so expensive.

In spite of (or perhaps, because of) a coinciding drop in quality of materials over the same time period, J Crew tries to justify the increased prices on their suits with faux-custom details, like side vents and working sleeve buttons on jackets. The idea seems to be "Custom suits have working sleeve buttons; therefore, working sleeve buttons on a RTW jacket will make people think it is custom." In the end, however, it simply makes the sleeve length unalterable, making it fit poorly on people with shorter arms.

I think that the lack of lining on jackets is a similar detail. The huge majority of RTW jackets have a lining, while getting half- or 1/4-lined has been largely reserved for either custom or high-end (let's say $700+) suits. Because of the internet, and today's more informed shopper, some guys recognize this as being an attractive detail and can, again, make them perceive that there is more value in the jacket itself, though it's largely cosmetic. In the end, I think J Crew is targeting someone who has just enough knowledge about clothing, and just enough money, to make them dangerous. Somewhere between the average mall shopper and those who really know what they're talking about.

As to your point about the lack of lining generating wrinkles, I would disagree with that. I have several older jackets (purchased from thrift stores) that are partially lined and have never had a problem with wrinkles.

Clare said...

I really loved this post and I don't even know a thing about suits - great writing and funny commentary!

trip said...

Sorry, I didn't realize my original comment was so awkwardly long...

Nikki Rappaport said...

I just got a new job this week in menswear so this is very good timing and a good subject to think about. Definitely going to bring it up to my new colleagues. Love your point at the end about walking like a baby giraffe in heels. Now, I get that.

SAJ said...

As Trip said unlined is in a lot of MTM and older jackets when they were made in USA. An unlined jacket is not able to hide any defects in the stitching of the jacket as in a lined jacket the seams can be hidden and the stitching need not be up to par.

I prefer my jackets unlined for all seasons.

Jessica Graves said...

@ trip - I said JCrew's bread and butter, not their ideal target consumer. And lest we not forget, JCrew predominantly houses itself in... malls. As far as the wrinkles go, I can't speak for all unlined suiting, but the Ludlow most definitely crunches up like a ball of gift tissue.

JRS said...

A chambray suit - lined or unlined - has a 'costume' tendency. It's also constructed of a loosely woven cotton fabric, so like linen, it will wrinkle. From a price point perspective, it's hard to believe that J. Crew would make a chambray suit the lowest common denominator of the Ludlow shop.

beautifullifeandstyle.com said...

Love the commentary- but call me crazy- the "more" section says that the jacket is in fact lined???

that eing said, I'm glad to see Jcrew mix things up a bit. The average American male buys 1 suit in their lifetime and would never realize the small details like lining, number of buttons, etc. At least jcrew tries to shake it up and bring some variety to a market of sameness.

Joy said...

well said. if it costs you that much, it should at least give you lining.