The history of the denim suit is not a pretty one

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Bing Crosby's denim tuxedo jacket
Bing Crosby actually makes this look good.
Image: Levi's

The Canadian tuxedo, the Texan tux, Justin Timberlake… denim-on-denim fashion choices have a short and infamous history. But they appear to be making some sort of comeback. Ralph Lauren recently unveiled its spring-summer collection for 2015 and among the usual combinations of men’s fashion were two curiosities. Two denim suits. One is more hipster:

Ralph Lauren denim suit
Your first date suit.
Image: Ralph Lauren

And the other, more Wall Street:

Ralph Lauren denim suit
Your wedding suit.
Image: Ralph Lauren

Will these suits take off? Perhaps among the world’s most fashion-conscious. But don’t expect to see any bank CEOs wearing one at the next press conference to apologize for rigging some key component of the banking system.

The origins of the denim suit don’t appear to go back far. One story goes that the singer Bing Crosby was denied access to a hotel in Canada because he was dressed head-to-toe in denim. Though they let him in eventually, Levi’s made him a custom double-breasted suit jacket so that he would “never have problems wearing Levi’s jeans, even in fancy establishments,” according to the company. The jacket—seen being worn by the crooner above—looked like this:

Bing Crosby's jacket
Crosby’s jacket was made out of Levi’s 501 denim.
Image: Levi's

And the jacket—which was presented to him at the 1951 Silver State Stampede in Elko, Nevada—also contained a leather label on the inside serving a “Notice to All Hotel Men” that denim was perfectly appropriate to wear on any occasion:

Bing Crosby's jacket
“Hotel men,” watch out.
Image: Levi's

The suit now lives in the Northeastern Nevada Museum in Elko. But Levi’s has made a limited run of 200 reproductions that can be bought this summer for just $1,800. Though before you decide to do that, you might want to take a look at Timberlake and his former girlfriend, Britney Spears, back in 2001:

Singer Britney Spears and boyfriend Justin Timberlake of the group 'N Sync arrive at the 28th Annual American Music Awards January 8, 2001 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. Spears is co-host of the awards show. FSP/RCS - RTRCPE4
The sad thing is, these outfits appear to be bespoke.
Image: Reuters

Not only are Timberlake and Spears showing what happens when you forget to ask for a second opinion before you leave the house in a his-and-her combo package, but the former Nsync-er is illustrating how the disaster of denim-on-denim can be amplified with clothes that don’t fit.

Ralph Lauren is unlikely to let you walk out of the store wearing such an ill-fitting jacket, and he may have a stronger fashion pedigree than anyone at Quartz. But unless you’re Miranda Kerr, you’re strongly advised to think twice before joining the denim-on-denim club, especially suited and booted.