Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Man's version of "The Little Black Dress": The Suit

A Man's Guide to Dressing Well: How to buy and wear a suit

On Suits, Part One

Everyone wants to be Cary Grant. Even I want to be Cary Grant.
—Cary Grant

In the world of fashion, men have one choice up their sleeves, and it's an ace.

In fact, if dressing well were a baseball team, the suit bats cleanup -- and more importantly, you could slot the suit in for all nine spots and come out looking like a champ.

Without suits, men would have nothing. In the arena of style, a good suit remains a man’s only trump card. Even in our sad age of track pants and baggy jeans, the suit still carries an air of success, taste, and sophistication.

A suit is designed to make you look better and to break down boundaries between social classes. It can make a small man look taller, a fat man look slimmer, and it can make a man of modest means look like a million bucks.

The suit looks good in restaurants, ball parks, dinner parties, night clubs, or Paris; in short, everywhere you want to be. It is, in its best forms, a complete outfit that will never fail you.

And that is exactly what it will do, if you treat it right. Unfortunately the majority of suits you see look awful. This isn’t necessary.

Even if you work ten hours with your jacket on, being mindful of your clothing will keep you ready for cocktails after work. Too many men either don’t know or don’t care how to wear a suit, and, suitably, they look like shit. This is worth avoiding.

To start off, a few general rules should be observed when approaching a suit, and most apply to good dressing in general:

1. The suit, no matter the style, needs to fit your body, closely. Get over puberty, you're not going to grow into it. This means all pieces should be cut and tailored appropriate to your form as it is now. If you do gain a couple of inches, suits can be let out.

Surprisingly, this doesn’t require a lot of money, but it does take an eye, and the strength to ignore any saccharine compliments from salesmen.

In terms of money, $500 can, in fact, get you a new tailored suit. You can save money by buying one off the rack and having it tailored to fit you. And if you know your measurements, you can buy great quality second-hand suits online for a song, but take care in choosing size and quality. And these will definitely need some tailoring to fit.

2. Trends have six-to-eighteen-month shelf lives. If you plan to retire your suit in this window, feel free to splurge. Otherwise, shop conservatively.

3. Suits are made of wool or cotton, and their variations. Additional fabrics need not apply. What's that you say? That polyester suit is only $69 off the rack? Just keep walking...

4. You are an interesting, confident, multifaceted man of many talents. Let others learn that from how you behave, not from the label on the inside of your jacket.

5. A suit jacket goes with suit pants, not with jeans or chinos. If you want a casual jacket, buy a sport-coat or a blazer. Stand-up comedians are regularly shot over this rule.

6. If you’re not comfortable -— if you don’t feel the suit’s appropriate for you -— the salesman’s looking out for his commission, not your style.

7. A modestly, well-dressed man has never failed to impress. Yes, that's right, never.

Assuming you’re not an investment banker, you don’t need ten suits; you only need four. This means you can be a discerning shopper and spend time accumulating, then keeping your suits in good condition (learn to use a clothes brush, dry clean once a year, then more for spills; don’t you dare iron it yourself). Think of the process in terms of collecting, spending years searching for that mint condition Chewbacca in original packaging.

Next: Part Two -- The Fab Four

Originally published in "The Morning News" by Rosecrans Baldwin and Andrew Womack

1 comment:

The Jackal said...

Dry clean once a year?! I like the sound of that from a cost/convenience perspective...but certainly wearing clothes a full year (52 times, if you wear them once a week...especially the pants) necessitates cleaning more often! How do you keep them from offending those around you without cleaning at least every 4 wearings?!