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On the viability of the White Suit

It’s worth a moment to consider the White Suit.  Is there a more declarative sartorial statement to be made in a single turnout?

The pedigree of the White Suit stretches back to the British Raj, where the forecast regularly ranged from blistering to sweltering and demanded comfort without compromising the restraint and rigor of a well-cut kit.   Flash forward a few decades to the (dubious) gentleman explorers who plundered ivory (thereby risking the ire of Tarzan) in deepest equatorial Africa, and further to the Montechristied sugar barons of pre-Castro Cuba.  What do they have in common?  Each embraced the performance-based functionality and the snap of white as a signifier of power, luxury, and louche, all at the same time.

By the 1930s, it was the Palm Beach swells who made modeling white lounge suits during the season all the rage, thus cementing the White Suit as a timeless indicator of true style. Their environment was much less precarious, with their only natural predators being the tomato consommé or red wine of the evening’s dinner menu.


This from a magazine ad in 1932:

“Yes, the white suit is here to stay. It’s finding favor from town to country as well as leading surf resorts. The New Palm Beach presents the authentic White Suit of summer. It offers, in fact, a combination of features that no other white suit can — It is really cool, not only in looks but in fact. It is slow to soil and better still — slow to wrinkle.”


So. Cool and cool. Not at all a bad aspiration, then or now.

Which is why Paolo believes the White or Off-White (or any of the limitless iterations that range from Cream to Chalk to Snow to Ecru, and on and on) suit can still occupy a viable role in any smart wardrobe.

The perennially dapper George Hamilton — a celebrated go-to on any matter sartorial, and no stranger to the benefits a White Suit can bestow upon well-maintained tan (for whom Paolo is crafting a new white suit; stay tuned) — endorses the tonal hierarchy of White Suits as practiced by the most masterful of the South American sugar barons. The unwritten rule? The biggest of the BSDs sport the most dazzlingly brilliant of whites, while mere middle management types are relegated to decidedly dingier hues.



Miami-based master bespoke tailor Christian Garcia, whom Paolo considers one of his most valued mentors (and who has probably crafted more perfect white suits over the course of a five-decade career than anyone else in the entire country) steadfastly maintains that none of the traditional fabrics, such as  cotton or linen are correct, but that only dupioni silk will serve:

From an article published in The Miami Herald more than 20 years ago:

“I only make them of dupioni silk. It is the only fabric besides wool that can be properly tailored.”

The Herald noted that Christian takes it step further: “In fact, Garcia often makes two silk suits for his clients, a white one for day and a black one for night.”

Hard to argue with either the logic or the inherent romance of that notion.

Alan Flusser (another early mentor of Paolo’s) also clearly regards silk dupioni as the fabric of choice for white suiting’s; as he wrote in his seminal tome, “Dressing The Man”:

“Since its debut on the Riviera in the late twenties, the pure silk dupioni suit has always been the last word in summer chic.”


Paolo wholeheartedly concurs with both esteemed gurus on the subject:

“More often than not, if a client comes to us for linen suits, we do our level best to dissuade them. Why?  I find dupioni to be far better than linen. Its lighter weight thwarts heat and humidity better, it actually resists wrinkling, and, perhaps best of all, it is irrefutably elegant, draping even more beautifully than wool, making it easily the most correct choice for warm-weather suiting.

In fact, I have a client who has ordered dupioni suits not only white and black (thank you Christian) , but in a wonderful silver grey and an equally dapper tan as well.

What can I say, with a cloth as great as dupioni, why even consider stopping at white…”


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