Palm Beach Chic

Inspired by the Golden Age of Hollywood and the elegant resorts of the the 1950s and ’60s, we look at the enduring appeal of the pale coloured suit and the gentlemen who wore them.

Luke Middleton

Built in the 1920s, the era of Prohibition, the sprawling Palm Beach estates paid for by the beneficiaries of the Gilded Age didn’t run dry of liquor. When swathes of Hollywood were fleeing south to illicit resorts, such as Agua Caliente in Mexico in search of contraband pleasures, the Flagler, Phipps and Pulitzer families were intoxicating guests with stiff martinis at their poolside luncheons. Hobnobbing between mansions in the day, the men saw the practical and aesthetical advantages of wearing pale-hued tailoring.

Back then dress was more formal: three-piece Gatsby-esque suits, white or two-tone shoes, and Panama hat – a regular outfit. But the suits in the ’20s were not light in construction, and certainly not porous enough to negate the winter Miami heat. For them, pale colours, and more specifically white was crucial in reflecting the sun’s rays. White was also a symbol of wealth, whilst not forgetting its romantic virtue – a trait that has never wavered.

Coinciding with the Duke of Windsor spending winters at the newly opened Colony Club in the late 1940s and 1950s, Palm Beach ripened into an American version of the Belle Époque. Shunning the rigid properties of Victorian and Edwardian tailoring, the Duke of Windsor preferred comfortable clothes that allowed for freedom of movement – a style he described as “dress soft”. His dressing represented a modern paradigm – right on cue for the new class of Palm Beach wealth who desired similar liberations.

Deploying a more relaxed and multifaceted approach to tailoring, now you had American oil executive Charles B. Wrightsman sauntering down Worth Avenue in Neapolitan-style pale-coloured tailored separates. And outside of the polo ground you had champion player Stephen ‘Laddie’ Sanford, nonchalantly donning a loose-fitting off-white jacket with his polo attire. Suddenly, even high society were favouring this move towards casual elegance.

When thinking of sartorial revolutions playing out on the Côte d’Azur, Gianni Agnelli and Duke of Windsor spring to mind. Both are symbols of Riviera elegance, and authentic studies of sprezzatura, but unlike Alexander Kraft, their tastemaking never stemmed from their own clothing line. Under his label Alexander Kraft Monte Carlo, he has unlocked this new sub-division of high-end casual elegance, which is now superbly portrayed on this eponymous platform.

By masterfully manipulating colour, fabrics and construction using his dexterous design nous, Alexander Kraft has brought a very personal vision to classic garments. He’s forged this new identity of Mediterranean casual glamour. Wearing brown loafers, white trousers, and a pale shirt, there is a stylistic affinity with the famous picture of David Niven sitting on a bamboo sun lounger at his Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat home. But at Alexander Kraft Monte Carlo – the conceptions to change the way people dress on the Riviera run much deeper.

His Signature jackets feature a half-canvas construction with a partial lining for a perfect combination of lightness and comfort. Beige, off-white and Café au lait are all pale-hued colours to utilize and mix-and-match with one another. You only have to roam this platform to get inspired on how to navigate these colour combinations.

Until Cerruti famously dressed Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg in matching lightweight three-piece corduroy suits in 1969, the fabric had long shouldered a stigma for baggy dishevelment. The pair elevated its credentials to a soupçon of chic and louche, yet it didn’t comprise the right properties to wear with freedom during a European summer. Has it crossed anyone’s mind that corduroy can be worn with ease on hot Riviera days? It did with long-time resident Alexander Kraft, and he’s made it possible with an ultra-soft lightweight summer corduroy jacket. Featuring all the classic details you associate with bespoke tailoring on Savile Row, it benefits from a beautiful drape. And with the summer events season underway it is multifaceted in the way that it performs at weddings, glamorous sporting fixtures, and is comfortable enough for long-haul travel to business meetings.

For so many years light-coloured tailoring has been chained to certain seasons, rules and events, because of limitations in design. But with the burgeoning sartorial enactment taking place at Alexander Kraft Monte Carlo – to accommodate the lifestyle of the modern gentleman, the prospects of utilizing elegant pale-hued tailoring have become so much more diverse.

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