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Advice on buying a first suit...


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37 replies to this topic

#1 of 38 OFFLINE   Bob Movies

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Posted April 05 2003 - 04:39 PM

Hi Everyone,

I've been thinking about buying a suit for the past month... I've read a few books on men's fashion, I've searched the past HTF threads, and I've tried on a few suits at some of the stores where I live (Toronto, Canada) but I'm new to the whole "suit and tie" approach to buying clothes. I want to start building a wardrobe where I can eventually wear a suit every day.

The first suit I'm going to buy is a Navy Blue single breasted, though I haven't decided whether to get a 2 or 3 button. I also had some questions for those who wear suits frequently:

I tried on an Armani suit that felt and looked great, but it was too expensive ($2000) for my budget. I'm just graduating from University, so I don't have a ton of money right now. Are the Armani suits really better than the competition? Or are you paying more for the name than the suit? Can someone recommend a lower-priced but high quality suit?

Maybe it's not so much the maker, but the fabric that I should be concerned with. What's the lowest type of wool I should buy (super 100's, super 120's, etc?) Should I get something that's a wool and cashmere blend?

What's the best way to build up to a suit every day, without buying 5 suits right away? I feel like it's probably better to get one suit with several shirts and ties, then get some dress pants that I can match with the shirts, until I can afford another suit. I experienced the same thing with the Armani dress shirts - they were too expensive ($325) but they really feel and look fantastic. I need to find a more budget-minded solution for now!

One more question, regarding shoes. I love the shoes that Allen Edmonds makes - does anyone here frequently wear their shoes? They're expensive ($500) and I love how they look... are they very comfortable? Do they hold up to a lot of wear?

As for ties... I love what Hermes makes, but once again I'm singing the "not enough money" song!

Bob

P.S. One more Armani/Price question - If you're in the market for a really pricey suit, is it better to just have one tailored for you? I've heard that nothing beats custom made, be it shoes, suits, or shirts.

#2 of 38 OFFLINE   Reginald Trent

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Posted April 05 2003 - 07:03 PM

Stick with navy, darker grays, & dark browns when just starting out. Reasoning is they are more versatile than the lighter colors. They can also be worn more often without standing out like a lighter suit would in a small wardrobe.

#3 of 38 OFFLINE   Max Leung

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Posted April 05 2003 - 10:29 PM

Dark suits are good!

What is your build? Slender men look good in most suits. If you're a little bit large, you have to be much more careful.

I strongly suggest you find a female friend (not your mother!) to help you evaluate different suits.

Yes, custom tailoring is the best! I had a custom-fitted tux for a wedding, and the girls were falling all over me. Too bad they were all married! Posted Image
Mahatma Gandhi, as you know, walked barefoot most of the time, which produced an impressive set of calluses on his feet. He also ate very little, which made him rather frail and with his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath. This made him...a super-callused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.

Gamesh....

#4 of 38 OFFLINE   Mike Voigt

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Posted April 06 2003 - 01:21 AM

Try Joseph A. Banks for some great suits. They also have good sales every now and then.

You may also want to go the route of a blazer with various pants. For example, you can match a blue blazer with darker gray and with a darker green. This gives you some versatility at the beginning before setting up a half-dozen suits or so.

If you want a really cool suit - try a white one. Wear it with a dark shirt, to dinner. While not exactly en vogue (suits aren't either) it is a very good look.

Mike

#5 of 38 OFFLINE   Todd K

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Posted April 06 2003 - 05:16 AM

I second Joseph A Bank. I bought my most recent suit from them and I am very happy. They always have nice sales and remind me of them in the mail. You could get five of them for the price of that Armani you mentioned. You ruin an expensive suit like that and you're screwed, but you can deal with it on a $400 one. I like the three button single breasted jackets. Definitely looks better than the 2-button, yet it is still conservative enough that it outlast the trends now for like the 6 button jackets.

I also second the vote for a blaze to back up the suit. You can create a lot of different combinations.

#6 of 38 OFFLINE   Philip Hamm

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Posted April 06 2003 - 05:50 AM

I third Jos. A Bank for a suit. Also, I've had very good luck at Macy's men's shop, also Lord and Taylor.

Stay safe - go with a conservative two button suit to start, maybe for your first three.

The brand name discount stores like Marshall's and Ross can have good stuff sometimes. It's very hit-or-miss.

Expect to spend about $100 on alterations once you buy the suit.
Philip Hamm
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#7 of 38 OFFLINE   Khoa Tran

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Posted April 06 2003 - 06:03 AM

Banana Republic Shirts
Claireborne jacket, vest, and pants

you'll look armani but a fraction of the price

#8 of 38 OFFLINE   Khoa Tran

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Posted April 06 2003 - 06:05 AM

oh yeah if you have a club monaco in your area, try their shirts too

#9 of 38 OFFLINE   andrew markworthy

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Posted April 06 2003 - 07:50 AM

Remember that a suit is for formal occasions. And what do most formal occasions consist of? Weddings, funerals, job interviews, formal receptions and similar social events hosted by companies, etc. Choose something that is classic and restrained. Choose a really 'cutting edge' design if you must, but be prepared to get a new suit every year to keep up with the latest trend. You can always liven up the suit or tone it down through judicious choice of shirt and/or tie.

It's my personal experience that most times when you wear a suit it's likely to be in a stuffy room with way too many people in it. Personally I always try to get a suit in the lightest weight material I can get away with.

A tip - when you've stopped growing, save up and buy yourself a made-to-measure suit. It seems expensive, but (a) a good personal tailor can make practically any man look god-like and (b) if you choose a classic style, it will last you decades.

#10 of 38 OFFLINE   Jay H

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Posted April 06 2003 - 08:36 AM

I am dreading the day of a multi-day suit event. I have one suit so it becomes the wedding, interview suit. It's light grey so most likely if I ever go to a formal funeral then I'd be stuck. But luckily, for work, we've only had to do either one day meetings or we've decided to go casual after the first day. Whew! I hate wearing a suit and really hate to spend any more money than the bare minimum. Fortunately, I fit into the standard sized suits, just had to have the pants taken in cause I'm short. I've had the same Pierre Cardin suit since graduating high school, in fact, the dress shoes and socks I've got on permanent loan from my father since his shoe size is equivalent. He's got wider feet and the shoe is about 1/2 size to big for me, but I'll live.

Jay
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#11 of 38 OFFLINE   Bob Movies

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Posted April 06 2003 - 08:38 AM

Thanks everyone for the advice. I’m of a pretty normal height / weight (6 feet, 165 lbs) so I should hopefully be able to find some styles that fit me OK! I’m pretty sure that I wear a 40 regular, though the last store I was at the salesman had me trying on some 38 regulars – the jury’s still out on my actual size!

I’m not a big fan of the blazer / pants look. I think it’s OK, but I would rather suit up. Of course, it will take me a while to build up my wardrobe, so I’ll probably end up getting at least one sport jacket. It’s not that I’m against blazers, it’s more the gold buttons and the way you kind of look like a driver or a security guard when you wear them badly... I know that you can opt out on the shiny buttons, so I’ll need to try a few of them on. And I’d love to get a white linen suit, but I think that I’ll wait until I’ve got a bit of a fuller wardrobe.

I’ve never heard of Joseph A. Bank, so I’m guessing they’re only in the U.S. I’ll try to check them out the next time I’m in the States.

Buzz – my apartment is on Bloor Street, but I’ve never been to Prada. Maybe it’s because I just know that their stuff is too expensive and I shouldn’t be going in there! It’s kind of how I feel about the Armani suits. I agree that it would be pretty horrible to spend all the money and then spill soup on it or something like that!

As far as alterations go, where do I go to get the suit altered? Should I just look up “tailors” in the phone book? Can anyone explain what they’ll be changing in the tailoring process? I know that they can shorten the sleeves of the jacket and hem the pants, but I’m pretty clueless about all other tailoring alterations.

Bob

#12 of 38 OFFLINE   PatrickM

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Posted April 06 2003 - 10:57 AM

In Toronto, I'd suggest going into Harry Rosen and see if you can find a salesman who isn't a goof. There are many who are not.

They have an excellent selection but tend towards more expensive suits which I would suggest since cheaper suits just don't drape and wear well.

Even the Bay has a nice selection of suits. Picked up a Strellson there and its excellent.

Patrick

#13 of 38 OFFLINE   Philip Hamm

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Posted April 06 2003 - 12:24 PM

You can find a tailor in your area for alterations by using the phone book or just look around. Many formal wear shops and dry cleaners do alterations. Many stores, especially big ones, do them in-house - that's the most convenient.

Don't spend big bucks on a megasuit unless you're loaded. You can often find good suits for sale prices if you look around. It's not uncommon to find a $500 suit discounted to like $350 ot $250 and they'll be fine. You don't need a Hart Schafner & Marx or Burberry suit to look good.

For God's sake don't get a double breasted suit. They're bloody awful.

Is there a Nordstrom in your area? During sales you can get some really nice shirts and ties. Their suit prices are pretty astronomical though. I personally like Hathaway and Burberry shirts, they seem to fit me well. Avoid any shirt that is sized S/M/L/XL - they're not fit for a suit. Get your measurements and get a shirt that really fits. I wear a 16-1/2 36. (Orangutan arms)
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#14 of 38 OFFLINE   Luis Esp

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Posted April 06 2003 - 02:43 PM

Check out Sears ( formerly Eaton's) downtown in Toronto, they always have a sale on suits (usually on the weekends) and they carry many designer names such Calvin Klein, DKNY, Guy Laroche.

Sometimes you may even find a suit from last season on clearance, with an additional percentage off. I remember last season Sears had DKNY suits at clearance, with an additional 40% the clearance price. I could have gotten a DKNY suit, normaly $395, reduced to $199.99 then another 40% off, for $120.00!

Even though the Armani suits are well designed, I find that the suits hang better on a certain body shape.

Above all else, make sure your suit is made from 100% wool, preferably a worsted wool which will hold it's shape better than any man made fibre. Suits with a wool/lycra are also a good fabric. Stay far away from suits that are made from 100% man made fibres, they just won't last and look cheap no matter who's name is on the label.

I have a hard time buying suits off the rack. I wear a 40 jacket with a 32 pant ( I have no butt, it's really sadPosted Image )
and by the time I take in 34 pant at the waist, the back pockets are saying hello to each other.
I'm not nice...people just make that assumption of me.

#15 of 38 OFFLINE   ThomasC

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Posted April 06 2003 - 03:12 PM

Any opinions on the Men's Wearhouse?

#16 of 38 OFFLINE   Philip Hamm

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Posted April 07 2003 - 01:06 AM

Quote:
Any opinions on the Men's Wearhouse?
Decent stuff for good prices. They have some crap, but some nice stuff, too. It's strange, some MW stores have nothing but crap, whereas some have a better selection. There are two near me, one is awful the other is OK. I bought my tuxedo at MW.
Quote:
I have a hard time buying suits off the rack. I wear a 40 jacket with a 32 pant ( I have no butt, it's really sad )
and by the time I take in 34 pant at the waist, the back pockets are saying hello to each other.
Have you tried "Athletic cut" suits? The selection is much more limited, and you'll have to go to a more upscale store or a menswear specialist to find them, but they should accomodate you much better.
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#17 of 38 OFFLINE   Anders Englund

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Posted April 07 2003 - 01:57 AM

John Phillips, London... Rumor has it that Arafat buys his there.
Posted Image

--Anders
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#18 of 38 OFFLINE   Angelo.M

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Posted April 07 2003 - 02:00 AM


A few thoughts...

When you've narrowed it down to a few suits, inquiry about the construction and stitching. Many jackets are glued together to keep prices down, and that's something you do not want to be involved with come dry cleaning time. Make certain everything is stitched, preferably by hand.

Avoid double-breasted, avoid more than three buttons. The four-button look is trendy, and some people pull it off very well, but like all good trends...

Also, have your pants lined. You will likely have them altered anyway, and a few extra dollars (usually $20 or less) will get them completely lined (not just lined in the seat). This will make it much more comfortable, particularly if you're buying a wool or wool-blend fabric.

And inquire about free pressing. Many decent menswear shops that sell suits will also provide some service along with it, like free pressing.

Good luck.


#19 of 38 OFFLINE   Dave Morton

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Posted April 07 2003 - 02:02 AM

I've gotten my last two suits from Marshall Fields. I've been pretty happy with the quality of the suits. Plus I get 20% off which makes it more appealing to me. I don't wear them that often so I get the classic style.
------ Dave ------
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#20 of 38 OFFLINE   Jeff Savage

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Posted April 07 2003 - 06:05 AM

Have your company fly you to Singapore on business and get a custom made suit out of top of the line fabric. Then just e-mail the tailor when you want more stuff Posted Image Ok this may not work for everyone but I was just in this situation and got a compete suit, 2 extra pairs of pants (they wear out quicker), a custom tailored shirt, and a tie for $550 USD. The material was a cashmere something or other. Great suit with no glue. So if you are ever in Singapore or Hong Kong make sure to take advantage of the tailors there.

My other suits have been from Men's Warehouse and they have all seemed to hold up fine.

Laters,
Jeff
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