It's been said that every couple of generations the most formal garment in the men's clothing hierarchy disappears and is replaced by what was the second most formal garb. It happened to nineteenth century court dress like that in the photo, it happened to white tie, and it's happening to black tie.
None of this happens smoothly of course, and buried within that trend is an interesting counter-trend that I've noticed these past few months. For generations, most suit wearing was by men going to the office and that is a practice that is unquestionably dying out.
But just as the suit is losing its place as business dress, I have been meeting a remarkable number of men who are having their shoes and suits made just because they like it. One guy wears tee shirts and jeans to his cubicle at a technology company and changes into bespoke suits and shoes for concerts at the Hollywood Bowl. Another wears polos and dress trousers during the day but keeps two pair of bespoke shoes and two bespoke suits because he enjoys dressing up on his own time.
Now this trend, if it is one, is not going to return the tailoring profession to its former glories, such as they were. In fact, the sum of this sort of activity may not represent as much clothing as my father's generation kept for evening dress. And if that's the case, the factories that once hummed with ready to wear will continue to close. But the rise of the bespoke hobbyist gives me cause to hope that the current generation of apprentice tailors and shoemakers can look forward to reasonable order books in their lifetimes.
Bespoke is not just for work any more. And that's a good thing, in my opinion.