Universal Threads”: a series spotlighting "U.W classics" and exploring common threads running through each of our collections. Next up 'Relaxed Tailoring.'
Filmmaker, Joe Wheatley.
Words by Leanne Cloudsdale.
Ever noticed how fast the colour fades from most folks faces when you ask about the last time they wore a suit? Scratch beneath the surface and you’ll find it’s nothing to do with spending the last 2 years dressing like a toddler (thanks to the elasticated-waistband benefits of working from home) and more about the scarier connotations of smartening up.
Think school uniforms. Job interviews. Forced family occasions. Court appearances. Bad memories of circumstances that made us feel awkward in ill-fitting off-the-peg two-pieces. Trussed up penguins on the periphery, staring at the clock, wishing for ‘it’ to be over. Well. Newsflash! You’re all grown up now. It’s time to pack-up your troubled association with the suit and set sail for smart new horizons.
Autumn Winter 09 (Left) / Autumn Winter 19 (Right)
Tailoring doesn’t have to be all Patrick Bateman. These days, there’s an in-between world of brilliantly relaxed versions, for men who don’t spend their weekends on a Penny Farthing. Engineered to be as comfortable as a tracksuit (seriously) and practical enough to be worn every day of the year, the modern update of a traditional two-piece does away with all the stuffy stuff. Oversized shoulder pads? Gone. Garish silky linings? Not a chance. Contemporary suiting is more Fred Dibnah than Beau Brummell thanks to workwear inspired proportions and a distinctly utilitarian attitude.
For Universal Works, the design centres around founder David Keyte’s determination to create suiting dynamic enough to skateboard in. When he and I got together to talk all things formal, he was bang on the money when he described the Universal Works version of relaxed tailoring as, “Something which had the mentality of streetwear, with a subtle nod to formal Englishwear. I wanted to make people feel at ease wearing smarter clothes, but to do that, we had to deconstruct the traditional methods and generate a different mood. We still use premium fabrics, but we’ve stripped away the stiff interfacings that give that starchy business suit vibe, so the pieces look just as good with a posh pair of shoes as they do with some battered old Converse.”
This slightly lived-in sensation is the reason the Universal Works tailoring flies off the shelves. It’s accessible to all. It’s got all the hallmarks of seriously classy Neapolitan suiting – the gentle shoulders, the slightly wider leg, the fluidity of movement and plenty of growing room. Give yourself some turn ups on the days you’re wearing your pants with trainers, but roll ‘em back down again for your Birkenstock days. Up and down, in or out. It’s basically an accordion – singing whatever tune life throws at you. And the magic part is, that once you’ve found some tailoring that fits you (and I mean really fits you), you’ll soon realise you can do, quite literally, anything in it.
UW Co-founders in relaxed tailoring image.
Owning a relaxed two piece is the sartorial equivalent of a lifelong +1 guest list place. Unlike transient trend tripe, you really can’t go wrong with a pair of proper trousers and a smart(ish) jacket. Guaranteed to make you walk and talk slightly differently, stepping out in something with lapels is akin (I imagine) to your first wet shave. You feel masculine, accomplished, taller.
Make no mistake, just because the Universal Works silhouette relaxed tailoring category is easy-to-wear, it still retains the nice historical elements that mean it’s perfect for a wedding or big snazzy life event. The London Jacket is their bestselling ‘smart’ 3-buttoner. You’ll find this single-breasted, back vented number in stock every season. Slip a freshly cut carnation in the button-hole and your ready for the wedding (yours or a mates). You can team it with the Double Pleat Pant or the slimmed-down Aston Pant, both in matching twill. If you fancy a boxy lower quadrant, the Military works best, again, in matching twill.
Thomas Key wearing Universal Works PC: @emilyandkaty
For a more roomy, mid-century look, probably best to go for the Three Button Jacket, available now in luxuriously soft (translated = not itchy) Charcoal Check upcycled tweed. Pair it up with the Oxford Pant. Known at UW HQ as a “super comfy addition to the wide-leg trouser arsenal”. These ones are slightly cropped with a gentle taper and elasticated waist. Ideal for times when you want to look smarter by day, but still fancy a cheeky chip butty on the way home.
Relaxed Tailoring. SS22 collection.
The Five Pocket Jacket is a straight cut, simple 3 button workwear-inspired option. It’s casual, calm and easy to wear with your everyday garb. The Watchman takes things to a more blouson shape with half elasticated cuff and buttoned flap pockets at the chest. Manufactured from half cotton/half wool blends for a sophisticated hand feel, it straddles the line between formal and casual.
Finally, if the full body make-over feels a bit daunting, maybe take a stroll down Kimono way, with the Kyoto Work Jacket instead. Long time UW fans will know it's a cult classic with a loose fit and Japanese styling. It looks bloody brilliant with some knackered jeans or a wafty pair of chinos and gives the wearer an air of international jet-setting National Geographic photographer (which believe me, is a good thing). It even has an internal chest pocket, which one assumes, is for your passport. Proof, if you needed it, that relaxed tailoring takes you places that a tracksuit never could.