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Duration: 1 hour

A witty exploration of the evolution of the gentleman's suit. Alastair Sooke only owns one suit, but he is fascinated by how the matching jacket and trousers has become a uniform for men. Over the last 100 years the suit has evolved from working man's Sunday best to the casual wear of royalty.

For many 'the suit' is synonymous with all that is dull. But tailor Charlie Allen, Top Man chief designer Gordon Richardson and Sir Paul Smith show Alastair that the suit can be a cutting-edge fashion item and 'armour' to face the world.

Last on

Tue 10 Jun 2014 01:30 BBC Four

Music Played

35 items


    I wouldn’t really describe myself as a suit person, I remember turning up wearing casual clothes in the first day of my new job as a journalist about seven years ago, and being told that I looked like a scruff ball and that I needed to start dressing a bit more smartly.

    Which meant of course wearing a suit, but I didn’t actually buy my first suit until about a year ago, when I got married in it.

    It was off the peg, but I was very pleased with it because I guess it made me feel sharp and contributed to the sense of occasion and I suppose that on a subliminal psychological level it helped me get into the role of playing a proper grown up man.

  • The Perfect Suit – Reference Books

    The Perfect Suit – Reference Books

    - Amies, H. (1994) The Englishman’s Suit. London: Quartet Books Ltd.
    - Blackman, C. (2009) One Hundred Years of Menswear. London: Lawrence King Publishing Ltd.
    - Musgrave, E. (2009) Sharp Suits. London: Pavillion Books.
    - Sotheby’s. (1997) The Duke and Duchess of Windsor: September 11-19, 1997. New York: Sotheby’s.
    - Storey, N. (2008) History of Men’s Fashion: What the Well Dressed Man is Wearing. South Yorkshire: Pen and Sword Books Ltd.

  • Films Featured

    Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
    Director: Jay Roach
    New Line Productions, Capella International & Pathe, 1997

    Austin Powers: Goldmember
    Director: Jay Roach
    New Line Productions, 2002

    Ocean’s 11
    Producer and Director: Lewis Milestone
    Warner Brothers, 1960

    American Gigilo
    Writer and Director: Paul Schrader
    Paramount, 1980


Alastair Sooke
Paul Smith
John Sergeant
Colin Lennox
Debbie Christie


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