How to wear a khaki suit like a gentlemen

December 1, 2015


In the art of manliness, there is only one correct way to wear a khaki suit – la SAPE, short for Société des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Élégantes – the Society of Tastemakers and Elegant People. The SAPE, like any gentlemen’s club, has very strict rules of how to correctly wear a khaki suit; it’s centered around Brazzaville and Kinshasa Afrique style, the adjacent capitals of the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo, respectively.

Khaki or creme tropical suits are all made from the finest Egyptian cotton. There are many shades of khaki ranging from mustard to creme. But the best is the troupe le Francaise – a creme based much preferred by the French navy. First popularize by the French and Belgian colonist in the Congo. Khaki suits by virtue of their versatility and comfort gained popularity during the turn of the last century in colonial French West Africa, a vast expanse that covered present-day Senegal, Cote dIvoire, Mali, Guinea, Benin and Mauritania.

Most city folk tend to shy away khaki simply because dark colors are much better at camouflaging sloppy tailoring. With khaki every mistake is amplified. That’s one reason why one seldom finds khaki off the shelf. As usually it’s tailored fitted.

A traditional khaki suit is a formal field attire. Hence the trousers are usually one or two inches higher than usual at the waist – this is a hangover from the old days to provision space for a revolver or Bowie knife or both. Although there are three buttons on a Khaki suit. A gentlemen only buttons up mid way. Never two. And God forbid three. The top most button is usually concealed and only used during formal sessions in evening functions where it’s permissible to use the top and mid button.

Waist cutting on a classical khaki suit is rarely nipped unlike dark office suits. They are always one full size larger with a pronounce bow as a khaki suit is after all a tropical formal attire that also functions as a bushjacket where it’s socially acceptable to put one’s hands in the trouser pocket. A strict no no in dark suits unless you want to come across as a used car salesman. The cut for the suit is usually a full inch lower below the knuckle, pockets are deep and slightly flared to provision for concealment of weapons and for horse riding. Suit pockets are all flapped as it also doubles as a sports or shooting jacket in the field as well.

A khaki suit should only be worn with a pristine white shirt with a Oxford collar and a striped old school tie. This is the golden rule. Break this one sacred rule and you destroy the old world charm and la effect of what a khaki suit is supposed to convey, understated elegance with a suggestion savior faire along and the hint of the frontier man.

Don’t be too bothered if your khaki suit wrinkles thru the day, that’s part and parcel of the understated elegance of formal field wear as it supposed to impart a wabi-sabi look on the wearer.

Wear Khaki ONLY for formal outdoor events such as garden parties, Al fresco luncheonettes, in the racecourse, regatta and when chaperoning plantation ladies during field inspection or city tours. If you wear a dark suit during daylight hours, someone is likely to mistake you for the waiter or a gate crashing insurance salesman. Never wear khaki to formal board meetings and during evening functions. Never wear khaki as well during funerals, sombre events or when you are holding very serious meetings….you are likely to come across as a lightweight.

Dress for success. Dress powerfully. Make a hard hitting impression. But above all take the trouble to know a thing for what it is.

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