The New Power Suit

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Seeing The Wolf Of Wall Street late last week reminded me of one of the worst moments in menswear history – the power suit.

 

The Wolf Of Wall Street chronicles Jordan Belfort’s (DiCaprio) ascent to the top of Wall Street and living the life of luxury though greed and blatant fraud. The movie is a wild ride and takes every imaginable excess to new heights. With this being said, consider this film another entry in Martin Scorsese’s extended essay on the pursuit of the American Dream by any means necessary – Goodfellas, Casino, Raging Bull. Scorsese is no stranger to chronicling the lives of disreputable characters and Jordan Belfort’s story is a natural fit in the director’s filmography.

Through the course of the film, Belfort’s sartorial choices go from gaudy and billowy off-the-rack suits to gaudier and billowy bespoke suits once he starts making serious money. For Belfort and his colleagues’ wardrobes, consider them the power suit works: navy pinstripes, double-breasted closure, shoulder-pads, large peak lapels and enormous silk paisley neckties . . . a wardrobe that Gordon Gekko would’ve been proud of.

When I met with Bill Martin (of The Valentine Richmond History Center) for our Meet Our Friends interview, I commented that I always see him wearing a suit, even when he doesn’t have to be. His response, “It’s all about personal presentation, and a way of showing a sign of respect to whoever you are meeting.”

I completely agree with Bill and it’s interesting how the former part of his statement, “wearing a suit for presentation,” is somewhat of a more humble reason as to why Belfort and his band of co-conspirators wore their power suits. With suiting, it all goes back to presentation. They perceived themselves as being larger-than-life and they presented themselves in a way so that everyone would know it.

In the spirit of presentation and putting your best foot forward in terms of style (something Ledbury firmly believes in), here’s a portrait round up from The Sartorialist of a handful of well-suited gentlemen. For suiting today, think well-tailored, less boastful suits with attention given to the details – cuff-length, simple neckties, pocket squares, etc.

In a more sober, post-financial-crisis Wall Street, the days of the “power” suit may be long gone, but an understated and well-tailored suit may be just as powerful as those of Wall Street’s past.

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