When we talk about suit jackets or blazers, we don’t often use the word “liberation.” Traditional men’s suits are designed to be tight and tailored. It may not fit the modern definition of “workwear” as a style of men’s fashion—your double-knee pants or your core coat—but even so, a suit jacket is pretty much anything anyone can do.
Yes, believe it or not, there was a time when people wore suits to work. Most of my first few job interviews in my career made me troll through H&M praying I found trousers that didn’t look like a burlap sack full of Christmas presents to me. Traditional suiting can feel like an attack on the body, unless you’re one of the lucky few who can afford bespoke sewing. You are at the mercy of the rack and at that point the world needs to have a tailored fit for the suit.
When I first moved to LA from San Francisco in 2007, the suits were razor-thin and inaccessible for purpose. Bright, Clear J. The Crew Ludlow suit was the pinnacle of affordable masculine style. Scott Sternberg’s Band of Outsiders was making suits that were short, short and looked like a prep school kid. “Rushmore”-core, if you will. I was too tall, too wide and too poor for them. But I soon learned that I really had no need for a suit in L.A. For many Angelinos, a suit is a luxury item—some to wear to weddings, funerals, religious ceremonies, and awkward court appearances.
A completely traditional, Normy suit casts you as a lawyer, a finance brother, or one of the HBO shows “Six Feet Under.” Not that it doesn’t work here. is that the work does not require peak lapels. Even agents aren’t really wearing suits anymore, as COVID-19 has moved a lot of Hollywood work to Zoom. This is not to say that Los Angeles is a sewing desert. It’s how the people who live here tend to think of suits with a different ideal in mind: unstructured, loose, progressive. Angelenos value things like outdoor lunches, convertibles and “when I say 8-ish, I mean 9” scheduling, so our suits should capture the spirit of Western freedom that matches our perspective. This is why the Armani suit is the casual suit of Los Angeles.
Perhaps it is the similarities between the Mediterranean climates of Italy and Los Angeles that helped foster this unique relationship. Not that Armani, a quintessential Italian brand, isn’t popular in places like New York or Chicago; it just seem right Here. Armani took over cultural consciousness in 1980, thanks to the influence of the popular Richard Gere film “American Gigolo”. Faded colors, loose-fitting draping and the effortless coolness of clothing captured the imagination of a culture that was ready to move beyond the wild aspects of ’70s disco and punk aesthetics. It was the favorite drug for the yuppie generation. The suit was more natural and hung over the body in a way that was not cut as your typical American Brooks Brothers. The Armani jacket was a follower of the brand’s philosophy: wearing one is like putting on another skin.
Armani’s superb tailoring attracted menswear fanatics who studied opinion on vents, darts, and waist suppression. But what made Armani iconic to the average consumer was its connection to Hollywood. Armani – the brand and Giorgio Armani, the man – spent years building relationships with celebrities. (The re-opening of the Beverly Hills Armani store in March brought to light; it was as good an excuse to bring in Nicole Kidman ahead of the Academy Awards. The store is clean, modern, and classy just the way Armani has always been But it’s also designed to be a magnet for the rich and famous.)
During the 80s and 90s, the most common silhouette seen at movie premieres in L.A. was a suit jacket or blazer, often Armani, which was casually paired with jeans and a button-down. That versatility lent itself to the men’s red-carpet style of the time: Today we’re more concerned with comfort than bold choices in celebrity styling. Unstructured, drapey suit jackets can convey sophistication without the restrictions of a traditional suit. We see Armani’s influence all around LA, but never more intensely than in the stitching of Jerry Lorenzo’s Fear of God. Southern California cool is an intrinsic part of the brand, having blessed the world back in the 20th century in loose, comfortable suits not only in luxuriously constructed sweats, but also in tasteful neutrals similar to Armani’s in the 20th century.
To Armani’s credit, the brand has maintained its approach for decades. Tastes veered toward the snug suit of the 2000s, but instead of ditching its legacy and trying to play catch-up, Armani continued to refine its perfect formula through the early 21st century. Today, vintage Armani has become one of the most popular categories in a rapidly expanding resale market that relies on customers trying to slowly flip used grills. Armani has benefited from nostalgia, but also a pandemic-era interest in eclectic silhouettes that don’t require the wearer to hold their breath to fit into them.
The latest in the evolution of Armani’s iconic jacket is the Upton, a double-breasted, lined piece with a standout topstitching design that looks like a herringbone from afar. The peak lapels are high on the jacket, and the shoulders follow the natural shape of your body. In many ways, this is a classic Armani piece – sophistication in its lowest form.
It would be a stretch to say that Los Angeles is somehow underestimated. It is a large city, a diverse city and a city that is more evident than ever in its reputation. The working class, which has no need for sewing, does not see freedom when it comes to suits. A suit, understandably, may represent harassment, the indifference of the privileged, or an unattainable standard. So how does a $2,400 suit jacket represent all of L.A.? Sadly it can’t be. Nothing can represent the entirety of this complex. Fashion designers can tell you they “captured the spirit of L.A.”, but that’s a fantasy. Maybe you can bottle a piece of it, but never the whole thing. It simply won’t fit in the bottle.
Armani vibes with LA because it doesn’t try to “be LA.” It doesn’t stray. It takes hard work to get just like the city. People come here and get lost in the dilapidated, never-ending concrete arteries, loneliness. Maybe they leave for good. Or maybe they stick with it and find their own version of heaven. it’s expensive. It’s not for everyone. It’s for those who get it. Like Armani.
But the brand isn’t resting on its laurels. What’s most striking about the Upton is that it skips the length that became so popular with vintage pieces from the 80s and 90s. As a tall man with, shall we say, “enough” rear end, I appreciate the long cut of vintage jackets. Upton also moves away from the flapless patch pockets that have been a mainstay of Armani’s sewing for decades. Flapless pockets became a popular place for men and women to slide their hands on to add a flaky flair to their outfits. I instinctively want to put my hand in these pockets the way I do all my vintage pieces, but pockets just aren’t designed for such things.
One can congratulate Armani for things that don’t suit the young market that first discovered its archives on TikTok, but the brand is confident enough to play around and try new things. Old stuff will always be there on sites like Griddle or eBay, or in your parents’ closet. Despite some changes to the formula, Upton is a translation of Armani’s core aesthetic principle: that clothing should not be made for a dress code, boardroom or corporate retreat, but for the way humans actually live. This is the casual suit jacket of Los Angeles because it is a city that lives up to the top.