Explanations for the popularity of the black suit

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November 15, 2014 by Ville Raivio

“Apparently…it was the very fact that late Victorian and Edwardian society wore so much black for day wear that the ‘new’ lounge suit wearers purposefully avoided black. It seems, they wanted to distinguish themselves from their stuffy forbears. After a while, black became the more cloistered choice with additional and various reasons invented by retailers to demonize it as a selection and steer buyers to the more readily available charcoals and navies.

During this period (Roughly 1920-1980), black became an increasingly odd choice for daywear. When the solid black suit was seen, it was usually seen on people whose occupations demanded it for purposes of mourning, formality or purposeful social color differentiation from the clientele. Further, the black suits were often not of the best quality, reinforcing the idea that a solid black suit was an inappropriate choice for a man of taste. Throughout the mid twenties to the late 70s a black suit was an odd choice for a lounge suit indeed.

Certainly, the black solid suit must have fallen squarely off the ivy league bandwagon for fashion designers (and eventually, the entire fashion industry) to choose it as the suit color to distinguish themselves from those tedious corporate or ivy league types. Armani, Versace and subsequently Donna Karan and others began to use black as the newer, Hip-per color for younger men, for evenings out. As a result, It was adopted as a staple by all the very fringe groups who ironically contribute so much to the mélange that is American male (versus English male) style.

Thus it came to pass that the professional athlete or singer, the alternative lifestyle community, African Americans (ever an invaluably stylish American resource), the dot-comers, and artists all donned le style noir. For many reasons, it was a sound choice in these circles, whether it was the Hollywood set, or merely talented persons who wanted to escape any class or educational associations from their past. Black has power, mystery, sex appeal, it slims, it is counter culture and it is undeniably formal and appropriate also. It is the color of the night, of the city, of things modern, the new age. Also, at some point, there was a concurrence amongst the egalitarian (but talented) smart set, rather than try to compete (at a disadvantage) with those to the manor born, they would create their own “Oxford and Yale”. It amounted to nothing less than a new clothing dialect that announced their membership to their own clubs and universities. A new lingua Franca, for a new aristocracy of the asphalt night.”

~ the rascal known as “Filmnoirbuff”


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