The Menswear of Suits: Harvey Specter Edition
“People respond to how we’re dressed, so like it or not this is what you have to do.” – Harvey Specter
He may be obnoxious, but he’s right.
That’s Harvey Reginald Specter, the most terrifying lawyer at the firm Pearson Hardman, and delightfully wicked antihero of the hit series Suits. Last week we looked at the fashion evolution of his protégée Mike. This week we’ll pick apart the big man himself. With a silver bullet, a stiff drink, and a bloodthirsty defence team by our side, of course.
Harvey is self-aware and very well aware of the impact his clothes have on his opponents. He's not above using clothing as a weapon (or anything else, if he had to).
Harvey loves Tom Ford. Look: We love Tom Ford. You love Tom Ford. Your dog probably loves Tom Ford. But we’re thisclose to calling a Tom Ford intervention on Harvey, because there are only so many times a man can wear the exact same look without looking like he did his research in 2010 and has just been doubling down on it ever since.
Harvey’s suits are always perfectly fitted, perfectly sharp, perfectly flattering, perfectly remarkable, and all too often, perfectly identical, because he changes only the fabric, keeping the exact same silhouette and accessories. Normally we’d applaud a man knowing what works on him and sticking to it, but Harvey’s taste runs to the eccentric and remarkable, and when the eccentric and remarkable is repeated endlessly without any new creativity, it becomes tiresome. There, we said it. Sorry, Tom Ford, we still love you. Harvey will occasionally wear other designers, sure, but he sticks to the same basic look.
It’s just that an extraordinarily high, peaked, wide lapel in various variants of chalk stripes, cut close to the hips and making the most of the shoulders, paired with a wide power tie and Gordon Gekko slicked back hair, day! after! day! Looks a) like trying really, really hard b) like you are afraid to take chances, because you found one thing that works and you’re scared to try anything else.
Harvey should be above such things. He should dare an English drape once in awhile. We’re not going to think he’s suddenly swelled two sizes; we’re just going to be happy the guy in the Billionaire Mobster uniform is learning to stretch a little. If he wants to get psychological with it, which as you can see from the quote above he does, he can wear a more relaxed look on days he wants his opponents to think they’re getting something over on him. He can lure them into complacency (“that guy? In the powder blue suit and butter yellow tie? He’s no threat”) by dressing in a less aggressive style. But Harvey’s all about control; catching him in a relaxed tweed and cords would be like seeing Stalin in feety pajamas.
Everyone on this show has a hyper-keen brand awareness, lending it an American Psycho sinister gloss. Costume designer Jolie Andreatta says, “Harvey is the only one who favors one designer: Tom Ford. On everyone else you’ll find the likes of Dior, Giambattista Valli, Burberry, Lanvin, Dsquared2, Wes Gordon, Nina Ricci, Balenciaga, Givenchy and so many more. I will use any and all designers to make the cast stand out, true to the character and story.”
Non-Ford looks Harvey favours include a Burberry London Sandhurst POW Travel Suit in very fine fabric and priced at $1995, and a Ralph Lauren grey Austin glen plaid three piece suit for $2295. He also sports conspicuously expensive watches, like the $5,400 Cartier Tank on display in one episode. His choice of a peaked, high lapel in the jacket adds visual width to his shoulders and the slim fit throughout the rest of the suit gives him that desirable gym body V shape. His horizontal flap pockets work to visually widen his hips, so he might actually be better off with a slant, jetted pocket instead if he wants to really commit to the silhouette. That’s one limitation of off-the-rack suits, that you cannot make these kinds of choices. Being tailors, we can.
Andreatta says that Harvey’s look can be summed up in one word: Romantic.
Um. Okay. NOT the word we were thinking of (is “land shark” one word or two?).
His is a classic power-lawyer look, with power suits. He sports broad, unsubtle pinstripes or chalk stripes with wide, peaked lapels that Al Capone would feel at home in (if he could have afforded them). His suit is one of the first tipoffs that you're not dealing with a sweetheart. Always, always accessorized with wide ties with perfect dimples, and a folded pocket square. Sometimes he’ll splash out with a three piece suit, but nothing old-fashioned looking. In the early episodes he favoured high twist wool fabric, but as the series evolved he has, and now wears finer silk/wool blends too, which is sexier and a little more indicative of real confidence rather than "fronting." Milanese buttonholes for extra status and "I had this made for me" cachet, even though he actually buys off the rack.
Jetted pockets work better with peaked lapels, as otherwise you have too much going on visually, but Harvey and Tom Ford like flapped pockets.
He often wears a matching vest, never a contrasting one (which would be lower status and Cyril-like, unless it's for a party). Harvey's sometimes TOO conservative. It makes him look old, which he's going for in the name of status and intimidation.
Pocket square in a tv fold http://www.gentlemansgazette.com/how-to-fold-a-pocket-square/
Harvey, as a Gordon Gekko impersonator, wears suspenders, not a belt on his slim, plain-front pants with no cuffs.
Harvey usually wears shirts with barrel cuffs, a rare occasion he skips the option for ostentation and intimidation. Cufflinks can say so much, can’t they? Occasionally he will wear a striped shirt, but that's unusual. And he likes a spread collar, a stiff collar, an ostentatious collar. This contrasts eloquently with his protegee’s fondness for soft, preppy button-downs.
His look overall is high contrast, high status, but errs towards slickness and a lack of creativity. With his greased hair, sharpie suits, flashy watches, and shoes so shiny you could take upskirts in them, it’s all too much, too loud, too wide.
Harvey always wears a silk tie, often a dark colour to contrast with his shirt. It's always slightly wider than anyone else's. He's a Windsor knot man. Shirt collars are a little oversized. Ties a little wider than normal, necessitating the dimple, which he does not always put in. The whole tie knot/collar combination is oversized, and when viewed along with the lapels is almost comically overcompensating.
BUT FOR WHAT?