Think big — there’s a lot to like about oversized jackets
by Mark C O’Flaherty
When David Byrne danced on stage with his band Talking Heads in a vastly oversized suit in the 1984 concert film Stop Making Sense, he was making a bold New Wave art-pop statement. “You know what theatre is — everything has to be bigger,” he proclaimed.
Nearly 40 years later, designers are taking that gargantuan shoulder shape and generous cut off stage and onto the runway. For several seasons, we have seen it at Balenciaga, Rick Owens, Maison Margiela, Raf Simons and Vetements, sized for both men and women. Emerging Israeli designer Hed Mayner’s recent autumn/winter 2022 show supersized the jackets on double-breasted men’s suits to clownlike proportions.
“When Balenciaga showed [big jackets] for spring 2020, it was prescient,” says Andrew Groves, professor of fashion design at the University of Westminster and director of the Westminster Menswear Archive. He sees a socio-cultural explanation for the persistence of oversized tailoring. “It was before the pandemic. Now, after two years of working at home and wearing sweatpants, men want to return to the formality of tailoring, but in a way that is ultra-comfortable and consoling.”
Some of the change in tailoring is also about playfulness. “The oversized jacket is about men wanting to dress in a naive manner,” says Groves. “It’s about the rejection of the suit as the symbol of masculine aggression and potency that it was in the 1980s.”