Saturday, December 22, 2007

The rise and fall of natural shoulders

Certain men look good in nearly every imaginable cut/silhouette and shoulder treatment. These are rare men endowed with naturally fit and lean frames and half-square shoulders. Can the same be said for specific shoulder treatments (i.e. soft v. structured shoulders)? Is one shoulder the best-looking one for all men? Some declare the natural shoulder look to be the summum bonum of shoulder treatments. Every man, these advocates claim, will look good in a jacket with a natural, unpadded shoulder.

I think the reality is far more nuanced than this, as I lay out in this AskAndy thread on Neapolitan suits. Counterpoint: Examine this picture (courtesy of the The Sartorialist blog). Natural shoulders (on jackets) are indeed pleasing to the eye if your shoulders, anatomically speaking, are naturally even, fairly broad and squared off. If you miss one or more of those elements, the look may not be as pleasing as it could be (examine the left shoulder of the man in the picture above). Here's another example at a recent holiday party in NYC and an excellent AskAndy thread comparing natural v. padded shoulders.

In short, a soft, unpadded, natural shoulder is not a universal look that is advantageous to every man. How does one determine one's own suitability for the natural shoulder? Stay tuned as I'm tackling this very problem more systematically in my forthcoming book project.


anne said...

book project!? Wow- sounds like we should catch up soon-

Anonymous said...

The natural shoulder is indeed the best and even the only good and proper choice for all men. The pics you have shown are not actually nat. shoulders. A nat. shoulder is not merely unpadded, it also ends at or a centimeter maybe beyond the actual person's shoulder. It therefore does not hang in that way. That is the sign of a poorly fitting suit. A natural shoulder suit should make the man's shoulders look square if they are square, and sloping if they are sloping. There is no deceit. "Shoulder pads are an abomination." Emily Post on men's dress.

sleevehead said...

I have a couple of observations regarding your fairly narrow definition of a "natural" shoulder.

First, your definition really describes a drape cut, a special case of the natural shoulder. A natural shoulder, at least my understanding, does not require shoulder extension.

Second, the point of a "natural" shoulder is naturalness, no? So why, according to your definition, should a natural shoulder necessarily (and artificially) extend beyond a man's true shoulder? To my mind, such shoulder extension seems contradictory in a "natural" shoulder.

Finally, unless I'm grossly mistaken, the principal difference between a "natural" shoulder and a "structured" shoulder is padding. Certainly, other factors like the positioning of the shoulder seam is important as well. But without padding you really can't have a "structured" shoulder.

Simonlloydfish said...

To follow on from sleeve heads comments

Im struggling with the comment left that shoulder pads are hideous, in my opinion as a tailor working in London for many years the best results in bespoke suiting are achieved with a strong prominent shoulder at least 2 -3 ply pads in a true Savile Row style.

The true definition of a natural shoulder lies within not using padding and structure and to some extent the canvas - the photograph of the gentlemen on the satorialist is a shocker his tailor clearly has no clue what he needed. His shoulders are awful.

Un-structured shoulders are for men with a physique and athletic frame so the body shapes the jacket not the padding therefore making it more natural to the body shape.

Fashioned by the Italians, in true Napolise style.



sleevehead said...

Simon, thanks for your comment and perspective as a tailor. Where in London do you work?