Dare I say that we’re nearing the end of the soft seasons? Fueled by menswear’s Neapolitan love affair, for years now the dominant belief has been, the more unstructured the body, the more subtle the shoulder the better, but based on what I saw this past week I have a feeling we might be heading toward a changing of the guard. This isn’t to say that I’m relishing the day that the soft shoulder is no longer king, I mean to be fair the jackets that I throw on most often are all Italian made, unstructured slopping shouldered sport coats, and I happen to think they fit me better than anything else in my closet. Yet, even I’ll admit that it’s high time we get a few more options out there. The soft shouldered jacket is an undeniably great piece of design, but that doesn’t mean every label should go find their own tailoring house in Naples and forget every other suiting style out there. Which is why, a couple collections I saw a week ago felt like a breath of fresh air, albeit a very small one, but menswear is glacially slow, and it all it takes is a handful of looks now, and maybe things will be different in say half a decade or so (if we’re lucky.) What I’m referring to of course, is the return of the under-appreciated roped shoulder.
The origins of the roped shoulder are a bit of a mystery. Some say that it originated in France, or Naples, and then was exported up into Great Britain, but the roped shoulder always seemed most at home on the backs of Italy’s finely tailored gents. The roped shoulder is seemingly the obvious progressive step up from a natural shoulder, which is likely what drew Italian men to it decades ago, and what’s driving it’s resurgence now. Instead of going with the seamless, slopping shoulder that has become the dominant Neapolitan style, the roped shoulder is cut a bit wider up top than the arm hole, causing the sleevehead to sit just above the top of the jacket, making the shoulder a focal point of the jacket. The desired effect isn’t meant to look like Thom Browne’s linebacker pads, or even really intended to add any extra bulk to the shoulder, a roped shoulder is simply meant to finish off the jacket in a way that draws attention up top, without boxing you out.
Billy Reid and the Ovadia Brothers, demonstrated a couple prime examples of a well placed roped shoulder with the collections they debuted this past week. Both designers demonstrated that on double breasted jackets, where the emphasis is mainly placed on the lower half, a slightly stronger shoulder helps to draw the attention up top for a more balanced looked overall. This not only helps to keep the proportions of the jacket in check but also reinforces the already strong lines of a DB. Now, this isn’t to say that I think the roped shoulder could, or should, replace the soft, slopped shoulder, in my opinion that’s here to stay. But the roping adds a new variable to the equation, one that gains it’s strength not to subtlety, but to substance.