The Men’s Suit

Note – the following is a Google Knol I wrote a while back; while a decent introduction, I feel it can be improved upon and welcome any comments to help me in that endeavor.

Introduction to the Men’s Suit

The men’s business suit is the most universally appropriate item in a gentleman’s wardrobe. There are few events at which a man in a good looking suit will be out of place, particularly if the man has a firm grasp of fashion and an understanding of his personal style. The path to elegance begins with the suit, the cornerstone of men’s fashion.

mens suitA suit is a pair of jacket and trousers of the same cut, made from the same fabric, and intended to be worn together. Such a simple definition, however, denies much of the suit’s personality, and it is that personality that has made the suit a lasting and essential element of a gentleman’s outfitting. The primary element of a suit is its jacket, so the discussion begins there.

Most experts agree that there are historically three major styles of suit, named for the countries in which they originated, though it is now quite common to find all three styles in any country as well as fusions of elements from one or more different styles. The first is the English style, typified by soft, unpadded shoulders, a long, hourglass body with a high waist, either double or single breasted, with two or three buttons and side vents. The next is the Italian or sometimes called Continental style, epitomized by a lightweight construction, squared & high shoulders, a short close-fitting single-breasted body, with two buttons and no vent. Rounding out the group is the American Sack Suit, a natural-shoulder suit with a straight and somewhat roomier body, two or three-buttons, and a back vent. Today you would be hard-pressed to find a tailor who hasn’t been influenced by all three styles, and most suits take only a few of the distinctive elements from one style or the other.

mens suit jacketSuit jackets are defined by many things: the fabric from which they are made (to include its color and weight); the style or cut of the suit; the details or trimming applied; and the degree of customization to its wearer, etc. Of these, the cut, or more precisely the fit, is paramount – a poorly fitting suit will never look right on the wearer, regardless of the quality or detailing.

The cut of a suit is a product of two elements: the overall silhouette and the particular proportions of the man who will be wearing it. A good tailor will cut a suit to flatter the wearer’s strengths and hide his weaknesses. For this reason alone a man should consider custom clothing; with a suit covering 90% of your body the message it sends more often than not trumps anything that may come from your mouth.

Assuming equality of cut, a custom-made or bespoke suit will flatter more than a made-to-measure suit, which in turn will have a better fit than an off the rack suit. Bespoke suits are custom-tailored to a gentleman’s measurements and built by hand by a master tailor; a custom pattern is created for each man, kept on record and pulled out only when small alterations or new garments are made. Made-to-measure suits are off-the-rack suits that have been fitted and altered to the wearer’s frame, made from a combination of various pre-built parts. Off the rack suits, as the name suggests, are garments built in mass based on the mythological average man; because they are made to an average specification they do not naturally fit a man without extensive tailoring; and even here, it is a compromise.

mens suits on hangersAfter cut and customization, fabric is the next consideration. While the difference in quality between an off the rack and bespoke suit is imminently obvious, both can appear quite stylish; that is not the case with poor quality fabric, which can make even the most expensive custom suit appear cheap. The most traditional suit fabric is wool. Suits, particularly for summer, are also available in silk, cotton, gabardine, as well as linen – a traditional favorite not without its own unique challenges – and even mohair and cashmere. There is also the tweed suit, a rugged classic best suited to weekends in the country or more casual affairs; its thick, coarse fabric is designed to repel wind and water in inclement weather. The choice of a suit’s color is an equally important decision, and one best addressed in a separate discussion.

The next indicator of quality is the suit’s trimming and overall style; it’s this selection of details which give a suit it’s ultimate distinctiveness. Options on a men’s suit include pocket styles, linings, button materials, and the addition of subtle signals of the suit’s quality such as ticket pockets and functional sleeve buttons. These little elements, though they may seem extraneous, are signs of the suit’s personality as well as the wearer’s. Good details won’t make a poor suit into a quality one, but they do elevate suits at every quality level from the ordinary to the individual. Below we go into the suit’s details.

The Suit in Detail

Single or Double Breasted Jacket

The first and perhaps most noticeable element of a man’s suit is whether the jacket is single or double-breasted. Single-breasted suit jackets have a single row of buttons down the front, with the jacket flaps overlapping enough to permit buttoning. A double-breasted suit jacket has two rows of buttons, with the front overlapping sufficiently to allow both flaps to be attached to the opposite row of buttons. The choice between a single or double-breasted jacket is a matter of personal taste, though the vast majority of American men choose the single breasted option as that this is what is readily available to them. In addition, a lack of familiarity with the double-breasted suit jacket may account for the single-breasted suit’s dominance. It’s unfortunate, as that the double breasted jacket has a number of advantages for certain men. Thin gentlemen, in particular those who are somewhat taller, can benefit greatly from double-breasted suits as they give a fuller appearance to the figure; on larger men, double-breasted suits can have a tendency to draw attention to the midsection, so

careful attention and an expert tailor should be employed. When it comes to formality, all things being equal a double-breasted jacket is more formal as that it is always buttoned, although a man wearing a single breasted jacket can negate this advantage by throwing on a vest. But for the modern man, the single breasted suit is the current standard bearer; a dark, well fitting, concervatively build single-breasted jacket is perfectly acceptable at all but the most formal of occasions.

Jacket Buttons

A suit jacket has either one or two rows of main front buttons. A single-breasted jacket has anywhere from one to four, though two and three button jackets are most common. The three-button jacket is the most traditional configuration, taking its cue from English riding jackets; properly worn, it gives the illusion of height. It’s common practice to button the middle or second buttons when standing, though the top two buttons may be fastened to produce a slightly more formal appearance (A great way to remember this is Sometimes – Always – Never). Two-button suits are a slightly later innovation, and because they show more of the shirt and tie, can have a slimming effect. Only the top button of a two-button jacket is fastened. With the exception of a the one button jacket, the bottom button is never fastened.

Double-breasted jackets most commonly have either four or six buttons on each side – where there are six buttons, only the lower four are for buttoning, though due to the design of the suit, only two will actually be buttoned at any given time. There is also an extra hidden button on the reverse of the outside flap of a double-breasted suit, onto which the inside or “hidden” flap attaches. Contrary to the habits of certain celebrities, a double-breasted jacket should never be left unbuttoned when standing; it is always securely buttoned upon standing and remains buttoned until one is again seated. Additionally, while the bottom button of a single-breasted jacket is always left undone, both of the operable buttons on a double-breasted jacket are fastened. As with the gorge of the lapel, the height of the waist buttons can been altered slightly to accentuate or diminish height, but this must be done carefully.

Lapels

Lapels come in a wide variety of styles, and have been the subject of fashion experiments for decades. It’s hard to look back at the 70’s and not cringe at the sight of lapels extending to the shoulders, and I’m sure years from now we’ll be embarrassed with our current obsession with slim cuts, especially on men who this does not flatter. As is the case with much of classic fashion, the most timeless lapels are of a moderate width and are matched to the proportions of the wearer rather than the winds of fashion. By doing this you can ensure your jacket doesn’t look too big or too small, despite it fitting you perfectly in other areas. The late Carey Grant used to have the notches on his lapels lowered so that he wouldn’t appear tall and lanky. A small, but effective, tailoring technique.

The vast majority of suit lapels fall into two styles: notched (seen to our left), which has a wide V-shaped opening where the lapel and collar join; and peaked (seen to our right), which flares out in a sharp point with a very narrow deep V at the join. Notched and peaked lapels are equally classic, though the latter are most commonly found on double-breasted jackets and somewhat signal a higher level of formality. A peak lapel on a single-breasted jacket is an excellent way to raise its level of formality, but is almost impossible to find on anything but a custom made suit.

Main Jacket Pockets

The most formal are jetted pockets, where the pocket is sewn into the lining of the jacket and only a narrow horizontal opening appears on the side of the jacket. These pockets, being nearly invisible, contribute to a very sleek, polished appearance, and are most frequently found on formal-wear. The next style, the flap pocket, is slightly less formal, though it is perfectly acceptable in all the circumstances where a gentleman is likely to be found in a suit. Flap pockets are made identically to jetted pockets, but include a flap sewn into the top of the pocket, which covers the pocket’s opening. These are the most common pockets on suit jackets, and in the very best, are fabricated so that the wearer may tuck the flaps inside, mimicking the jetted pocket. There are also diagonally-cut flap pockets known as hacking pockets, though they are somewhat less common; the

hacking pocket is derived from English riding gear, and is most prominent on bespoke suits from English tailors, particularly those traditionally associated with riding clothes. The least formal are patch pockets, which are exactly what the name implies: pockets created by applying a patch to the outside of the jacket. Patch pockets are the most casual option; they are frequently found on summer suits that would otherwise appear overly formal, as well as on sports jackets.

Ticket pocket

Some men’s suit and sport jackets, particularly those with a bespoke or made-to-measure heritage, include a small ticket pocket above the right side pockets (as see here in conjunction with the hacking pockets on the right). This pocket serves as an indication of the suit’s quality, although for tall men it can help them look less lanky.

Breast Pocket

Moving up the jacket is the breast pocket, which is always open, and into which only one item is ever placed: the handkerchief or pocket square. The reason for this is twofold: First, like the side pockets, any items placed in the breast pocket create lumpy projections which distort the sleek appearance of the suit, and second, the breast pocket and the inside left pocket share the same space in the jacket’s lining, meaning that objects in the breast pocket tend to force items in the inside pocket into the wearer’s ribs, which is quite uncomfortable.

Jacket Vents

Moving on from pockets we find the jacket’s vents, flap-like slits in the back bottom of the jacket which accommodate movement and offer easy access to the trouser pockets. There are three common styles: Ventless, Center, and Double. Ventless jackets, just as the name implies, have no vents, and are popular on Continental suits; they provide a very sleek look to the back of the jacket, though they can lead to wrinkling when the wearer sits down. This style works well for athletically built men, but larger men had best avoid it. Center-vented jackets, very popular on American suits, have a single slit at the back, allowing the jacket to expand at the bottom when sitting. Because of its placement, center-vented jackets have a habit of exposing the wearer’s posterior, though most seem not to mind. The popularity of the center vent is not in it’s functionality, but in that it is the least expensive vent to manufacture. The crown jewel of vents is the double or

side-vented jacket; it has two vents, one on either side, generally just behind the trouser pockets, to provide easy access and freedom of movement. Side vents facilitate sitting more easily, moving as needed to prevent the rumpling of the jacket back. Double vents do an excellent job of covering a man’s backside, especially when compared to the single vent.

Sleeve Buttons

There are numerous historical reasons for jacket sleeves bearing buttons, from encouraging the use of handkerchiefs to allowing a gentleman to wash his hands without removing his jacket (a traditionally grave social offense in mixed company). Whatever the reason for their arrival on jacket sleeves, sleeve buttons now form an important part of the detail work or trimming of the jacket. Most traditionally, jacket sleeves bear four buttons, though it is not uncommon to find three. Regardless of number, there should be at least as many of them as there are buttons on the waist, and they are always placed within a half-inch or so above the hem. On bespoke suits, and even some of the higher-quality made-to-measure jackets, the sleeve buttons are functional. When the buttons are functional, there is some temptation to leave one button undone in order to draw attention to the feature – and by extension, the quality of the suit – though this is a matter of personal taste.

Trouser Waist Band & Pleats

Trousers should not be the focal point of a man’s outfit; rather, their job is to draw the eye upward to your jacket or downward to your shoes, perhaps subtly flattering your legs. With that being said, the fit and design of your trousers is important; nothing is more uncomfortable for a man than a pair of pants too tight in the crotch or so loose in the backside as to cause a draft.

Here to our left we see a classic expanded waistband. Most men are familiar with the extra button inside a pair of dress slacks; few understand why it is there. The purpose of extra buttons in the waist area is to make the trousers

fit more comfortably. The idea is to distribute the weight more evenly, thus eliminating pressure points in your trousers while ensuring a snug fit. In order for this to work though, your trousers need to fit. Having them expanded or pulled in by an experienced tailor is well worth the trouble; having your trousers built custom is the best way to never have this problem to begin with.

To have your trousers pleated or non-pleated doesn’t seem to be a difficult decision for most men; whether or not they made the right one is another story. Fat fronts compliment thin men, while pleats flatter those who are a bit larger or just prefer extra room in that area. Your decision here does have consequences – it may determine your trouser cuff decision.

Trouser Cuffs

The general rules with trouser cuffs are this – Tall men should cuff, those vertically challenged should not. Also, if you chose to go with the double pleats, you should cuff while flat fronts should never be cuffed. And now that I’ve said this, you’re wondering “What if I’m tall and thin or 5?4? and 250lbs…..according to these rules and the ones above, I’m a contradiction.”

Perhaps this is a good way to wrap this up. All of these rules, all of these laws of fashion and style, well, they are more like guides. They are paths that have worked, they are techniques that have been tested; but they are not absolutes.

Conclusion

The journey to sartorial excellence is long, yet rewarding. This article only scratches the surface of the iceberg; writers whom I admire have written multiple volumes on men’s style and clothing, and still only capture a fragment of its essence. The truth of the matter is that there are as many styles as there are men; within each of us is our own personal style, in part dictated by our physical characteristics but more importantly determined by how we see ourselves.

Questions and A Tailored Suit’s Answers

The Question –

How important is my interview suit. I have multiple meetings, can I wear the same outfit to every meeting?

Answer –

The devil is in the details, and when you are looking to land a 6 figure job, you better believe they notice these things. With two weeks between interviews, and the fact you wore a conservative suit, a different shirt and tie will suffice. But in my opinion, you ought to look at avoiding this dilemma in the future and consider purchasing a new suit soon.

If you expect to be wearing a suit daily I would plan on slowly buying 5 suits, 15 shirts, and 10 ties. You’ll also need at least two pairs of quality shoes, although I recommend most of my clients own 4 to 5. If you plan it right and go with conservative colors and patterns that interchange easily, you’ll not only be able to dress without worrying about how you look but you’ll go months between wearing the same thing.

When looking to buy clothing, remember to look for these three things –

The Proper Fit – I don’t care if the suit has a 90% discount; if it doesn’t fit you it will not look good. And when you find a suit that fits you well, take it to get tailored so that it fits you perfectly. Nothing is as important as fit.

Timeless Style – Ensure the clothing is classic in style. You want a suit you can wear not only this season, but 5 years from now. Avoid fads like the current thin lapels, and instead opt for styles that compliment your individual body style. Spread shirt collars on the narrow faced man and point collars for the round faced fellow. Go with conservative colors such as navy blue or my favorite charcoal grey (which does not accentuate youth, thus helping you avoid looking like your 17).

Quality – Go with Wool if you can afford it, a blend with up to 40% man made fibers is OK if you are cash strapped. Wool is sought after because it maintains its shape, retains heat, absorbs moisture without showing, and it has the look other fabrics are judged by.

Question -

I’m interviewing with a company and have been invited to one of their receptions at a local hotel. How important is this? I’ve heard if you are not a people person these can be dangerous to your chances. Can I bring my significant other along?

Answer -

These receptions are very important, here’s why –

Think of it like dating; everyone there is looking for a partner to make a commitment to. At these receptions you have the opportunity to stand out, to make a great first impression, and meet the people who will be looking at your resume. If you are not a top student or don’t have as impressive a resume as your peers, this is your shot to get in. A good conversation with a recruiter can help them overlook your less than stellar grades, or your display of wit can help them forgive your lack of experience in their field.

This is also your opportunity to interview them. Are these people you want to spend time with? Do you fit into their culture? If you don’t look out for yourself in the hiring process, no one else will.

Your right, it may be dangerous for some, especially if you have no social skills but have a killer resume. But how far is this going to get you anyway? You may land an internship or job, but within 6 months you’ll realize the match is a bad fit for both of you and you’ll either be fired or worse continue on and hate your job.

As for taking your significant other – unless they were invited I would say no. You want to focus on the job at hand, and make no mistake, this is work. You should know who is going to be there, information about the firms you are interested in, and get a list of names from career services so you can look out for them.

The Man & Jewelry

For a man wearing a suit the right jewelry can upgrade your look from smart to brilliant. At the same time, ostentatious ‘bling-bling’ is distracting and unattractive; men’s jewelry should always be subtle. The watch passes the test by virtue of its functionality; cufflinks and tie clips earn provisional legitimacy on the same grounds. The wedding band is respected for what it represents, and other rings may be subtle enough to work to a man’s advantage in the right setting. Piercings have featured prominently in so many counter-culture movements, from pirates to camp to punk rock, that they immediately arouse negative reactions from many. If you are going to wear an eyebrow stud with a suit, the suit had better fit you like your own skin if you don’t want to be remembered as ‘the guy with the eyebrow ring.’

A general rule of dressing says to match metal to metal. That means that if your belt buckle is silver, for instance, so should be your cuff links, tie clip, and anything else shiny you wear. As with all things, this is a general guideline, not a hard and fast rule: a man with a gold wedding ring can wear silver cuff links if he likes, and one who wears an heirloom silver watch is free to wear brass buckles. Another rule says not to wear gold after dark (nor button-down collars, nor brown shoes, for that matter). This is good to keep in mind when dressing for the night-life, and again, it is a good suggestion rather than a cardinal law.

Men’s Watches – A Guide to Wearing a Timepiece
The watch is one of those elements of dress by which some people will choose to define you. The gaudy, bejeweled timepieces that bulge from the French cuffs of investment bankers certainly have their place, as do the thin, un-numbered dress watches seen on gallery curators’ wrists. Some men have a treasured timepiece that they wear exclusively for decades; others own several watches, for different occasions or simply for day-to-day variety. The latter requires more effort for the American man, though, who must reset all his clocks twice a year, and for men who’s work or fancy require them to know the time to the exact second.

As with most things, the simpler a watch, the more formal. When one dons a tuxedo or tailcoat, tradition decrees that one not wear a watch at all, as keeping track of time isn’t something we associate with partying. Those few whose professions still demand rigid formality in dress, such as politicians and trial lawyers, ought to wear classy timepieces free of jewels, moving bezels, excess dials, and the like. Gold and silver are equally suitable, as are metal and leather bands. For those whose positions grant more flexibility, any decent watch will do; take advantage of this opportunity for personal expression and find something that’s really you.

Cufflinks
When you choose to wear French cuffs on a dress shirt, you have the opportunity to wear cufflinks. Cufflinks come in many styles, of gold, silver, gunmetal, and brass, with all variety of precious stones and other embellishments. When you select them for purchase or wear, know that people will examine them closely and make a decision about the wearer based on them – are they bold, classic, gaudy, or novel – and more importantly, do you want to be perceived as this. Really think about what they say about you, and make sure it aligns with how you seek to present yourself. Our advice is to stay with simple classic designs or with cufflinks that have some type of sentimental value; avoid the diamond studded pink Playboy rabbit links unless you are Hugh Hefner.

Tie Accessories
A tie clip will keep your tie from flying over your shoulder on a windy street while evoking an on-the-go lifestyle that requires such assistance. A simple stripe of gold, silver, or some other metal is acceptably classy; anything more appears gaudy. Tie clips look best worn at an angle to counteract the rigidity they connote for some. A tie chain works much the same as a tie clip, but instead of a fixed bar holding your tie in place you have a drooping chain of silver or gold. Lastly there is the tie tack; it looks something like a stud earring with an inch of fine chain extending from the back. One sticks it through the center of the tie and then attaches the chain to a button hole. Since it requires poking a hole in the tie and thus damaging it, we do not recommend it’s usage.

Rings
Unlike other pieces of jewelry, a man does not have a rotation of wedding rings to be coordinated with the day’s other jewelry. A man should be advised that a plain band, of gold, silver, or platinum, is the most stylish choice available. If you are already married and have something more ostentatious on your finger, do not fret, few people notice it and no one will think less of you for it. Besides a wedding ring, other rings of symbolic value may have a place on the well dressed hand. A class or fraternal ring is seen on many stylish men’s hands. Rings worn entirely for their own sake are somewhat dubious however, since most contemporary societies frown upon such blatant displays of wealth. If you are in a position where looking rich works to your advantage, though, a ring embedded with precious stones can accomplish this within the boundaries of professional attire.

Sean Combs – A modern American interpretation of classic style

10 years ago I would not have rated Sean Combs very high on a list of well dressed men. Today, I find his modern approach to classic style not only refreshing but original and enduring enough to rank him in the company of fashion gurus such as Ralf Lauren and Jean Lacoste.

A recent article quoted him as saying

“I can’t live without a fine tailored suit. That’s what will separate me in the end. I want to be timeless and elegant. I want my picture in the books next to Sinatra and Quincy Jones. I can do the ghetto thing all day. I can be on a yacht in the South of France with my shirt off wearing a big diamond chain, you know what I mean? I definitely know how to do that! But at the end of the day I feel most relaxed in a custom-tailored tux.”

Here is the original article on him and his Sean John line.

Although Sean Combs claims that his goals in the men’s fashion world have been achieved, I feel there is still so much work to be done when it comes to the average man understanding proper fit, classic style, and the right fabrics for his complexion. Most men today walk through their lives in clothing that neither compliments nor enhances any part of their natural style….. which although a shame, does give a leg up to the man who takes the time to realize his appearance is just as important as his education/achievements. You doubt this? As open minded as we try to be in this modern age, we still judge people by their looks.

I would love to see Sean Combs immortalize himself with some literature focusing on classic style with a modern American twist…..something to connect the classic styles of yesterday with the modern ideas of fashion.

Mens Pocket Squares – Folding, Fluting, and Finesse

The art of the dress handkerchief doesn’t end with selecting color, pattern, and fabric. Equally important is the way in which the pocket square is worn. A quality square can appear unbecoming if it is improperly handled and haphazardly stuffed into the pocket. That isn’t to say that the handkerchief must appear excessively arranged. Many of the finest examples have a casual, fluff-like appearance. All well worn pocket handkerchiefs, however, have one thing in common: the wearer knew what he wanted, arranged the handkerchief so, and then wore it as a subtle display of his fashion prowess.

Dress handkerchiefs can be arranged in an infinite variety of ways; for simplicity’s sake only the three basic types of folds are covered here: squared, fluted, and pointed.

The Square Fold
The square, sometimes called the Presidential or the TV fold, is the simplest and most understated of the folds. In modern times, it is also one of the least often seen. This fold is very similar to the standard square fold of the for-use handkerchief, except that it must be somewhat longer and narrower in order to fit into the pocket and remain visible. The precise length and width will depend on the pocket in question as well as the wearer’s preference, but it is generally in the area of 5? – 6? long and 3? – 3½” wide. If the handkerchief is made of linen or cotton, it should be lightly starched to provide a crisp look; if it is made of silk, it should not be starched, but should be folded so the hand-rolled edges are visible.

To create a square fold, one starts with the handkerchief completely unfolded on a flat surface. Begin by folding it in half so that it is now the same width but half the length. Be sure to crease the edge of the fold, and each fold to come. Next, fold in half again, so that it once again becomes a square, one-fourth of its original size. Finally, fold in half one more time, so it becomes half as wide as it is long. This is then inserted into the jacket pocket with between ½” and 1? of the handkerchief visible.

The finished product can be inserted in many different ways: tilted diagonally is a popular style. Such details are up to the wearer, and it is best to try several options at first to find ones preference.

The Flute or Puff
The next style is the flute, sometimes called the balloon or puff. This style is quite possibly the easiest to create, but the hardest to perfect. With the handkerchief open and on a flat surface, pinch it from the middle and lift it up. With the other hand, create a ring with the thumb and index finger around the top of the handkerchief, right below the pinch, and pull downwards, forming a column or “flute.” Fold so that about ? of the fabric is on the “flute” end, ? on the “point” end, and tuck into the pocket, so that 1? to 1½” remains visible. If necessary, adjust to fill the width of the pocket; should the flute be too tall or too short, re-flute, folding as needed to achieve the desired size.

Pointed Fold
The final style, the points, is the opposite of the flute, and is created exactly the same way. However, instead of folding so that the flute is the longer end, fold so that the points are the longer end, and then insert. Adjust as necessary to fill the width of the pocket, and to keep the points from clustering too tightly. This style may require a linen or cotton handkerchief to be starched somewhat more, in order for the points to remain upright. A more disarranged appearance can be achieved by shaking the handkerchief around after pinching the middle, just before creating the flute.

Finally remember that each fold has its own distinct personality, conveying different messages about the wearer to those he meets. The best approach to finding ones own preferred style is to try different variations and choose the one that best compliments your personal style.

The Pocket Square: Colors and Patterns

Pocket squares come in a variety of colors and patterns. These are appropriate to most ensembles, and should be chosen to contrast with the shirt and tie while still being set off against the color of the jacket. What one should look for in a pocket square is coordinated contrast. That is to say, a combination of pattern and fabric that is different than the suit, shirt, and tie, but not so unlike as to clash.

Solid White Handkerchiefs – Linen and Cotton
Perhaps the most classic dress handkerchief is the solid white square, made of linen or cotton. Depending on the chosen fold, it may be lightly starched to provide body. The white square is acceptable for almost any ensemble but looks particularly good with dark, conservative suits where its crisp clean appearance is most pronounced.

Silk Handkerchiefs
Silk squares are what a gentleman is most likely to encounter in the department store; many have dozens of options on display. These handkerchiefs come in nearly every color and pattern imaginable, and offer far more opportunity to make a bold and distinctive statement. By the same token, these are also the handkerchiefs that produce much of the stress associated with wearing a square, as the variety of colors and patterns presents what can seem a daunting choice, though that need not be the case. One particular detail to note when choosing a silk square are hand-rolled edges; these are a sign of quality and attention to detail and should be present on a well-made square.

Remember when selecting the type of fabric for a dress handkerchief, the fabric of the jacket and tie should be considered. Mix silk squares with heavier tie fabrics, and more textured handkerchiefs with smooth ties is an excellent way to add contrast, while silk squares against a rough jacket like tweed is particularly distinctive. Wool suits, the most common option, are equally at home with linen or silk, as are silk ties – indeed, the variety of patterns available in silk may require a silk square for some ensembles.

Handkerchief Patterns
In choosing pattern for a square, one should look to the most brightly colored or patterned item in the ensemble. In most cases, this will be the tie, though should it be the shirt, or even in some cases the suit itself, that element should be given focus. One has nearly every color and pattern to choose from, though this will obviously be constrained by the examples available in ones wardrobe. With solid ensembles, patterns are particularly distinctive, and while solid squares may seem a safer choice for patterned ties, a contrasting patterned square provides a very elegant look.

Handkerchief Color
As for color, it’s best to determine the base color for whatever item is being matched then opt for a complementing color. Also, it is best not to match the square directly to a prominent color; instead, match it to a secondary color as an accent. As with everything else in classic style, the choice of color should also be mindful of the occasion; though it is only a few inches of visible material, a boldly colored square might well be out of place at a funeral or wedding.

Dress Shoes – Different types and various levels of formality

Different Types of Dress Shoes

Dress shoes come in many styles, and each has its place. The particular constructions and colors one chooses are surely a matter of personal style. Nonetheless, there are a few conventions one should keep in mind when selecting shoes for purchase, or deciding which pair to don on a particular day. In general, the sleeker the shoe, the more formal; black is generally more formal than brown. Lace-ups rank ahead of slip-ons, and closed lacing is a notch above open lacing. (In the closed lacing construction, the sides of the shoe emerge from the top side by side and fan slightly outward to form a V where the laces tie them together. A shoe with open lacing has separate side pieces folded over the tongue to meet at the center). Broguing–rows or patterns of perforations–take shoes down in formality, the more so the more there are.

The Oxford Dress Shoe
The gold standard of dress shoes, the Oxford features round toes, usually with a cap, and closed lacing. Plain cap-toe Oxfords are the most formal option for business wear, and can do double-duty as formal shoes.  Oxfords with broguing along the cap’s edge, or trimming the uppers, are still formal enough for a worsted wool suit; ‘full brogues’ are more appropriate with tweed or flannel. If you own one pair of dress shoes, they should be black Oxfords; Allen-Edmonds Park Avenue’s, made in the United States, are an irreproachable selection and well worth their price.

The Wingtip Dress Shoe
The wing-tip, with a brogued cap coming to a point at the center of the top curving back and down along the sides, is suit-level in black and business casual in brown. In the United States, it is associated by many with Ronald Reagan and the eighties in general, and in any country it is going to draw some attention to itself. This is not necessarily a bad thing, of course, but it does reduce the shoe’s potential for frequent wear: while you might wear the same pair of brown Oxford’s three days a week without anyone noticing, the man who wears wing-tips more than weekly risks having them integrated into his reputation.

The Derby and Blucher
The derby is similar in shape to the Oxford, but bears open lacing. It is still appropriate for wear with a suit, and supports a khakis-and-blazer look more naturally than the Oxford. The blucher is a slightly sleeker open-laced shoe of similar versatility. Plain or with a brogued cap, these dress shoes will match a suit in formality; with more decoration they carry a blazer well. In suede, rather than smooth leather, these are among the best shoes to wear with jeans or khakis.

Boots
Dress boots bring some ruggedness to dress footwear, making them a worthy option in the winter. In addition, their slip on and off feature along with superior comfort make them a favorite among travelers and those not requiring the formality of the oxford. In the same family, but of a more regional nature, is the cowboy boot. Although men like former Texas congressional representative Charlie Wilson could pull this off, most men might want to skip on this unless they are an oil magnate.

Loafer and Monkstrap
Slip-on shoes are casual by nature. Those appropriate for business casual wear include bit loafers, with a mettle link across the middle; monkstraps, with a buckle closure; and penny loafers, with a slotted leather band across the top. Tassel loafers, which are exactly what they sound like, are accepted as business formal in some circles while relegated to weekend wear in others.

White Bucks
White bucks are Oxfords made of white buckskin, a rough leather than in reality is not exactly white. They are the traditional companion to the seersucker suit, and equally compliment such summer fabrics as tan gabardine and white linen. Thus, they could be called professional between Memorial Day and Labor Day, or during whatever one considers summer.

Black Tie Dress Shoes
Patent leather Oxfords are the most formal of men’s shoes; they are standard with a tuxedo, and clash with most everything else. Opera pumps, shiny black slippers with a bow on top, are another option for formal wear.

How to choose a Tailor

How to choose a Tailor

Picking out a tailor used to be simple; you either went with the tailor who had been servicing your father or you headed to the experienced suit salesman who would get the right introduction.  Nowadays regrettably, the job is more arduous – expert tailors are tough to come by, and the ordinary menswear salesman does not hold the knowledge to guide you in the proper direction.  In this article, I outfit you with the tools to determine a good men’s tailor whose services can transform you and your clothing.

The below steps are in order of action to be taken when searching for a tailor, and they are intended to be applied in concurrence with each other.  The 1st point is the most crucial, and shouldn’t be passed over.

1.    Educate Yourself
Prior to you talking with a tailor or seamstress, you want to possess a grounding in the fundamentals of men’s style.  The most arduous thing for most men to do is to find a couple of hrs to sit and learn about suits, shirts, and other menswear; yet most gentlemen find once they begin studying the material they become captivated.  Learning about the intricacies of quality menswear you begin noting men’s clothing particulars you never considered before; you pay attention to the fit of suit jackets, working sleeve buttonholes, and the break along a pair of pants.

Stepping into the universe of tailoring, you will realise just how crucial your clothing is in broadcasting messages about who you are.  Most folks you go past daily know you solely by the clothing you have on; your appearance is the only way they can make any sense of who you are and what you do in this world.  The suit, shirt, and tie combination you put on in the morning covers up ninety percent of your body, and before you speak this garment combination declares who you are and indicates to other people whether or not you merit attention.

To build a firm base in the fundamentals of men’s style, I recommend reading any book by Alan Flusser, Nicholas Antongiavanni’s “The Suit”, or Bernhard Roetzel’s “Gentleman”.  An extraordinary internet resource is A Tailored Suit’s Style Guide, a trove of men’s style articles. Once you have a foundation, you ought then to then interact with experienced people at places like Style Forum, an internet community of men’s clothing partisans.  When you find you can talk the tongue of bespoke menswear, you’re ready to begin questioning tailors.

2.    Tailor Recommendations
Be heedful here – most gentlemen are not discriminating in picking out their tailor, and remain with their current tailor just because they are oblivious of a better alternative.  Aggregated with the reality most men do not understand what proper fit is, it’s very possible that a tailor who gets high praise only does so because of the cluelessness of his patrons.  Don’t presume since somebody addresses themselves as a tailor or seamstress that they know anything about men’s style or can evaluate proper fit.

Conduct a critical look at your acquaintances – who amongst them is a natty dresser?  These are the folks you would like to ask for tailor recommendations.  You’ll be able to widen your search by asking women also, only be careful.  The manner garments fit on an adult male vs. the way they should fit on a woman are very different.  A skilled woman’s tailor doesn’t necessarily possess the correct skills to tailor men’s clothing.

3.    A Tailor’s Communication Skills – does this tailor listen and understand you?
You now have a list of tailors – now you should start speaking with them.  You will be able to do this over the telephone or e-mail; your goal is to determine if this is a individual you are able to work with.  Do they have superior communication skills?  Do they really listen to you, or are they attempting to drive in a direction you know you do not need to go down?  Do they have time to speak, or are they in a hurry?  To be fair, you should not hold the last one against a tailor if you call up their workplace out of the blue – however any master tailor ought to be willing to put aside twenty minutes to talk with a prospective customer at a determined time within a few days of phoning.

You would like to work with a tailor whom you feel confident in – this decision is very personal and ought to be based off the tailor’s knowledge and communication skills – ideally you encounter a tailor with solid skills in both arenas.  Regrettably, a combination of the 2 in a tailor is uncommon except in bigger urban centers.  You could find a very skilled tailor, but if he doesn’t understand you or the tailor decides he should ignore your wants and execute what he believes is correct, both you and the tailor are going to be frustrated.  Communicating is critical, and ensuring that both sides clearly understand and respect one another is important to a long term partnership.

4.    When is the Tailor satisfied?
There’s one answer here; the tailor shouldn’t be content until you’re satisfied.  This does not imply that a accomplished tailor or seamstress always gives you what you wish or doesn’t make errors – nay, a tailor really worth retaining is one who learns what your idea of the ideal fit is and perpetually works to accomplish this.

5.    Does the Tailor understand style?  Does the tailor understand timeless fashion?
I brought this up earlier, but don’t presume a tailor or seamstress understands classic men’s style.  While a lot of accomplished tailors are experts at constructing anything you are able to conceive of, their eye for what colour material or style of jacket suits a man is oftentimes inconsistent with reality.  Culture differences could also play a factor here, because a lot of the best tailors nowadays are native Chinese, Thai, or Indian – what worked for tailors in Mumbai in 1970 might not be practical nowadays.  With your base in classic men’s style (see point 1), you ought to be able to figure out quickly if the tailor possess an eye for timeless fashion.

6.    Samples of the Tailor’s work – Can the tailor present you his custom suits and tailored shirts?
Pictures, example pieces, alteration miracles – you’re seeking samplings of their work that validates the tailor’s claims of greatness.  If the overall garment appears fine, spend a couple of minutes analyzing the details – does the stitching look firm and neat, is the build and silhouette something you want in your clothing.  Be weary of a tailor who does not have anything to display or pleased clients to refer you to.

7.    Tailoring turnaround times?  Is the tailor accessible?
A lot of the better tailors out there are really active folks.  They accept more work than they can handle, and alas wait times of more than a month  for a expert tailor’s time are not unheard of.  Ideally you want a tailor who can attend to your wants quickly, particularly when you call for a quick fix before an crucial appointment.  Be direct about your needs here, as that most tailors will accommodate emergencies aware it creates loyalty and good will.

Notice I did not bring up cost when picking out a tailor - this is the least significant factor and should be a small consideration even for those tight on money.  You need to find a good tailor who can assist you to realize your vision of the perfect tailored fit.  Saving 20 bucks on a cheaper tailor and not getting what you desire is a waste of money – spend a bit more and getting precisely what you envisioned by employing the skills of a master tailor – it’s always worth it.

The Importance of Proportion

The Importance of Proportion in Classic Men’s Clothing

The gentleman who gives attention to proportion in his apparel always looks good. Alas, this detail is sadly under valued nowadays; it is rare to discover an adult male whose manner is understated elegance, the sort of gentleman who folks feel is always well dressed without knowing why. Most apparel sold in shops is available in just a few standard sizes, and are built according to the fashion of their day. It is true that with suitable tailoring, many gentlemen can get a decent fit out of a retail suit or other garment, but with a suit particularly there are a lot opportunities for customization that one misses out on them when buying off the rack. In retail clothing, important particulars like gorge height, closure, button position, and lapel width are determined by the impulses of fashion instead of the needs of a wearer’s unique physical structure.

Nearly all clothes are cut for a theoretical fashion model, a one in a hundred human who does not exist. Knowing this, it is no surprise that most men wear suits that do not flatter them. Most of us would look better in clothing built to our bodies, as that the right cuts and proportions can enhance any appearance. The best dressers knew this. Douglas Fairbanks Jr. had his jacket shoulders built out to offset his rather large head; Gary Cooper had his lapels cut to end in a low gorge which breaking up his height. Just look at modern day examples such as George Clooney, Sean Combs, and Tom Brady; these men wear menswear that compliments their natural strengths. It is true that certain body shapes clash with certain articles of clothing, but by no means does one’s body type confine him to a particular style. An important step in dressing well is finding the clothing proportions that work for you and then ensuring those proportion standards are met in every article of clothing you purchase.

The proper proportions on a jacket are critical to yield a natural and attractive visage. If a man’s head is especially wide, wider shoulders will frame his noggin to great success. A narrow face does better with sloping shoulders, while a large round face should ensure it is surrounded by enough material in the shoulders to make it look normal in size. Short men look best with a high-gorge configuration, while a low gorge balances a tall man. Also the width of a man’s lapels should be in proportion to his torso; if not they will accentuate his girth or lankiness to ill effect. And whatever your size, your jacket’s length should be such that it ends at your thumb’s knuckle when you stand with arms relaxed at your sides, and the ends of your sleeves should line up with the ends of your arms where your hands begin.

The shirt has rules of its own. The shirt collar size and shape should be selected based off of the face of the man wearing it. Collars types such as straight points tend to elongate the face; a wise selection for the round faced man but not a good choice for the man who has a long face. Most men wear collars that are too small, which is a shame as that the whole purpose of a shirt collar is to frame the face by properly drawing the eyes to it. Cuffs should gently clasp around the wrist, with anywhere from three quarters to a full two inches of room permissible.

Many trends in clothing consist of breaking the rules of proportion. Every day designers blast the public with their images of attractive models striking enviable poses and clothed in their latest offerings. By objective standards, these may be too loose or too tight, excessively short or top-heavy, or otherwise unbalanced. Models have jobs because they look good in anything, but most of us are not so lucky. Trendy designer clothes only look good because they evoke the beautiful people on billboards and magazines. When tastes change, in a few years or a single season, those who paid full price for designer wares at the height of their fleeting glory are left with expensive clothes that look slightly ridiculous. How much wiser is the man who buys clothes that are right for him, and wears them confidently knowing his style transcends the pettiness of fleeting fashion.

Why purchase extra trousers and matching stripes on men’s suits and dress shirts

Question

Why Should I purchase an extra pair of trousers with my suit?

Answer

I always recommend purchasing an extra pair of trousers with a custom suit. My reasoning is

 

  1. The fabric from which the suit is cut is unique and likely to be discontinued by the mill eventually. If you tear the trousers/wear them out, you no longer have matching trousers for your jacket (typically men wear out their trousers 2-3 times faster than the jacket…..and a bespoke suit should give you 15+ years of wear depending on use).
  2. An extra pair of trousers allows you to change the style of the suit by changing the style of the trousers. Example, non-pleated flat front are less formal and can be worn with a nice dress shirt/no tie, and the jacket for one look vs. pleated trousers/dress shirt/tie and jacket for another look. More versatility.
  3. The cost is less to the tailor, and you should be able to receive some discount for this additional purchase.

Question

Should the stripes on a men’s suit or dress shirt match?

Answer

As for matching pin stripes, I am of the school that they should match. A lot of off the rack men’s suits do not do this as that it costs more money – it does require paying more attention to detail and uses more fabric – but it’s a small detail that isn’t looked over by the discriminating eye.