With the decade nearly at a close, we can now consider this dizzying series of notable men's style moments from an objective distance.
- May of 2010: Jake Gyllenhaal appears on the cover of GQ with designer stubble and a high-and-tight haircut. He wears a chambray shirt and a tan suit.
- February 17, 2011: the fifth episode of Parks and Recreation's 3rd season airs on NBC. Adam Scott's character, Ben Wyatt, wears a plaid shirt, a dark tie...and a tan suit.
- August 28th, 2014: President Obama attends a press conference wearing a white spread-collar shirt, a gray and red striped tie. And a tan suit.
These cherry-picked tan suit instances, or tansuitstances, are proof of little except that slim-fitting khaki suits had a nice little moment there in the earlier part of the decade. But the tan suit Adam Scott sandwich is telling, because it’s emblematic of the significant, if largely unsung, role that Scott played in fashion in the 2010s. And if, as I contend, he’s the decade’s most stylish man, it’s not for the style trails he blazed, but for the styles he helped popularize. He didn’t launch the tan suit rocket, but he was the booster that propelled the tan suit, and other pieces like it, into the middlebrow mesophere, where they continue to orbit as we approach the year 2020.
While the most obvious style icons of the decade—the Ryans, the Chrises, the Idris, etc—were busy getting dressed for red carpets and magazine covers, Adam Scott woke up every morning and got dressed for a very regular job on television. Groggily, he reached to turn off his alarm, and then, eyes still presumably closed, he reached for and held down the button on his electric tie rack, a tiny merry-go-round of prep-inspired repp stripes and knit silk numbers. Around his character’s neck, these ties communicated equal parts futility and hope, sacrifice and honor. And while he played a numbers-obsessed bureaucrat, he did so while wearing the ties that a generation of men would begin wearing to their jobs for fun, during those post-financial collapse years when there ceased to be any rules for dressing for work. Ben Wyatt literally brought prep-inspired style to (televised) small-town America. He wasn’t a #menswear bro so much as a living and breathing embodiment of J.Crew's high-flying #MenswearLITE years.
Cue up Netflix and recall: Adam Scott spent five years over-dressing for a government job in Baracuta jackets, gingham shirts, flat-front khakis, and 1.25" tie bar, most of it seemingly produced by the many third-party brands available at your local J.Crew store. The effect was a spoon feeding of accessible-yet-aspirational #menswear-flavored clothing to the masses, and it went down as smooth as his relatable-without-being-cloying quirk. Gyllenhal in chambray and khaki? A little too out there for a man wearing pleats and square-toed shoes. That nice dude who sits next to you at work in chambray and khaki? The revolution is now at your doorstep.
Which brings us to the Ludlow suits. Scott—as Wyatt, but also as Scott, increasingly famous red carpet-walker—wore a lot of them. And because we either die young or live long enough to see capitalism devour any organic affinity for a commercial good a celebrity might have, Scott became a spokesperson for the suit that he helped popularize. Which, rather than being depressing, is kind of poetic: Adam Scott didn’t just wear a Ludlow suit throughout the 2010s. He was the Ludlow suit of the 2010s. He was this decade's Tom Petty of style: maybe not pushing the envelope, maybe not advancing the art form in a tangible way, but unquestionably a hall-of-fame worthy practitioner for his licks, for his consistency, and for his grooviness. As Ben Wyatt might pun unconscionably: there’s no accounting for taste.
Originally Appeared on GQ