Friday, April 24, 2009

The Cotton Suit

This past week was consistently in the 70's, and it's about time. So it feels like Spring finally arrived, and Summer is around the corner. It's the perfect time to add a cotton suit to your repertoire. With high end labels and inexpensive brands alike making cotton suits, you've got plenty to choose from. The cotton suit is versatile--it can be dressed down easily, or worn with a shirt and tie. Just make sure you get one with a good cut and fit. Check out How to Buy a Suit for more info. You can get a wide variety of colors, too. Just because it's cotton doesn't mean it has to be khaki. You can get navy or black or brown or whatever. The darker colors can be worn post-labor day, and the lighter ones even work later in the year if you're in a warm climate. One suit that is a summer only is the seersucker. I love seersucker suits. I don't have one currently but perhaps in the near future. Makes a bit more of a statement. Best worn with a white shirt and darker tie. They don't have to be white with blue stripes; you can find tan, navy, green, or other colored stripes. And the white part doesn't necessarily have to be white. An overdyed seersucker can be gray, navy, or black.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Skinny Ties?

GOB: "...these are $2,000 pants. Come on!" Here Will Arnette has his suit and his tie matched properly.

I've been asked a few times recently about skinny ties. You've probably seen them a lot on TV, in magazines, and in movies. The narrow tie isn't new, dudes were rocking them decades ago. You can probably tell from some of my posts that I'm partial to a narrower tie. I have a hard time getting behind any extremes, and ties are no exception. Some are way to narrow for my taste. But I favor narrower ties because I favor the slimmer suit, which have clean, tapered lines, and lapels that are a bit more narrow than the average. I've seen ties in stores lately that can't be much more than an inch and a half wide. No thanks. I got out the measuring tape and measured the lapels on my suits and some of my ties. Most of my lapels are around 3.5 inches. Not surprisingly, my ties are close to the same. I have a new sport coat with narrower lapels, they're not quite 3 inches at the widest point. I have a few narrower ties that are a little under 3 inches that look much better with this sport coat than my wider ties. A half inch doesn't sound like much, but it's a difference. So the rule is, narrower lapels=narrower tie. If you have big lapels, you musn't wear a narrow tie, and vice versa. So there you have it. If you like the look of the narrower tie, just make sure you're not pairing it with a suit with wide lapels.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

How to Buy a Suit

When it's time to buy a suit, you should go in with an idea of what you're looking for. Color, fabric, and number of buttons are just a few examples of the choices you'll be making. No matter how much you're looking to spend (see previous post Looking Good on a Budget) you can find something that will look great if you know how a suit should fit. If you're buying off the rack from a department store, it's especially important to know your stuff. Here are some tips; some ideas and pictures are from GQ:

1. Don't trust the sales guy. First of all, take a look at what he's wearing and how he wears it. It's a pretty safe bet that it's not going to be what you want, so you've got to be wary of what he tells you. Most of them don't know much about how a suit should fit, or at least how you want yours to fit.

2. Know what fit you like. Specifically, do you like a snug fit or a looser fit? Sounds basic, but if you know what fit you want, and you see a suit that doesn't fit your mold, you can move on immediately.

3. Know your size beforehand. Lots of times the sales guy won't even measure you. They'll just say "oh you look like a..." and then have you try on a jacket. I recently went into a department store in preparation for this post to see what the procedure was, and I wasn't impressed. The guy would have had me leaving with a suit that was at least 1 size too big. Once when I was younger and naive about suit buying, the sales guy got me into a suit with a pair of trousers that were a size 35 (I wear a 31 or 32). I have no idea why, but he had me convinced that alterations could fix any issue. NOT TRUE. Alterations are more for fine tuning. My size 35 pants, which are doubly bad because they're pleated, make me look like I've got balloons in my pockets.

Now for the various components of a suit that you should be familiar with:

4. Shoulders: The suit's shoulder's should hug yours. The shoulder pads shouldn't stick out past your shoulders. If you stand against a wall and the suit touches the wall before your arm does, the suit is too big.

5. Chest: You should allow for a fist's worth of space between your chest and the button when you have the suit buttoned. Not too tight though--you shouldn't have to strain to button it.

6. Length: With your arms hanging down, you should be able to cup your fingers under the sides of the jacket. Some styles have the jacket fitting shorter than that.

7. Number of buttons: Now we're getting more into the style of the suit. A 2 button suit is the classic, and is currently the most popular. The 3 button was popular for quite sometime, but can make you look '90s if you're not careful. If you can find one that doesn't look too high cut (you're not in the NBA) and that preferably has a roll-over lapel (you can button the top button or just do the middle button, the soft lapel will naturally roll over the top button) then the 3 button can be an acceptable choice. A 1 button suit is a bit more rakish but can be a good look if you're a bit more daring.

8. Vents in back: A center vent is all-purpose. Both modern and traditional. Side vents (2 vents on the side instead of 1 in the center) is a bit more stylish. No vent is a no-no.

9. Lapel: A notch lapel is the most common. Always a safe bet. A peak lapel is what you usually see on a double-breasted suit, it's the lapel that points upwards instead of sideways. They are quite nice on a normal suit as well, they look a bit more elegant.

10. When you're trying suits on, make sure you're wearing dress shoes, either your own or borrowed from the store.

11. The pants: they should fit comfortably, the rise shouldn't be too high or too low for your taste. Plain front (no pleats) is classic and also very popular right now, as is no cuffs, although cuffs are still very popular.

12. What alterations can and can't do: If the suit doesn't fit in the shoulders, move on. If a salesman tells you shoulder pads can be reduced or reshaped, they are lying. If pants are an inch or so too tight or too loose, that can be fixed. More than an inch (like my ridiculous size 35's) and it's a bad idea. Sleeves can be lengthened or shortened a bit. The sides can be tapered (and should be if your body calls for it) so it fits you more closely. If there is a roll in the fabric on the back up by the neck, alterations can usually fix this.