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BY DESIGN : Mano a Mano : The New Suits for Next Spring Discard the Retro Look and Establish Bold Cloaks of Masculinity for Today's Rat Pack

August 03, 1995

First things first. David Schwimmer, the monkey-loving star of the sitcom "Friends," and Samuel Jackson, who single-handedly revived the Afro in "Pulp Fiction," sat in the front row at the Calvin Klein show. Too cool. And just the kind of guys Calvin has in mind for the suits he and his colleagues at the New York menswear shows are pushing for spring '96.

Here's how to spot a New Suit: It's shiny, in pewter or navy, broad-shouldered but narrow through the hips and the waist, and fastened with a single button. The kind Dean Martin wore when he and Frank drank martinis and talked tough in otherwise awful movies.

"Dark and dressy" is what phrasemakers dubbed the look, which also showed up at Donna Karan (in gray linen/silk sharkskin) and Hugo Boss (wide, peaked lapels). "The main idea," Klein told the trade publication DNR, "is to make men look strong, bold, sexy and masculine." Exactly the opposite of how a man appears in, say, Dockers.

Other ideas bandied about the shows, which started Monday and end today, included white leather (copied from the women's spring collections), JFK-era-flat-front-bun-hugging trousers and Tommy Hilfiger's fresh-looking football-inspired active wear. But after several seasons of retro, modernity is the biggest news. Dino was just ahead of his time.

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