February 6, 2009

A return to conservative business suits and accessories.

An aesthetically pleasing side-effect of the economic crisis.

23 comments:

Host with the Most said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Host with the Most said...

Intriguing.

And yet the Wall Street Journal, which the article is quoting, printed an article the day before on just the opposite trend:

"Men's Clothes, Now in Technicolor" (subscription required)

Selected quotes:
Spring wardrobe memo to men: Think pink. And orange, lilac and cobalt blue, while you're at it.

As stores start filling up with spring fashions, the blacks, grays, navys and beiges that have long reigned in menswear -- even in spring -- are giving way to a rainbow of Crayola colors

Retailers are "out of options to try to get the customer to shop, so they have to be bold," says Mike Kraus, a retail specialist at consultant AllBusiness.com, who believes color will play well among men this spring.


Oh my! Staid Power Clothes or Power Color Clothes?

What's today's man supposed to do?

Ron said...

They should go to the Mad Men suits, not the Gordon Gekko suits...

Nichevo said...

Where are we getting good value in men's suits today? I am thinking NYC of course. Trooper? Anybody? Thots?

rhhardin said...

Bermudas are for everywhere.

I'm wearing Bermudas now, under sweat pants, in acknowledgement of the necessities of bike riding in 0 degree temperatures. A perfect combination, incidentally, as to ventilation and warmth.

Established as programmer wear at work in 1963; and for air travel by 1975.

Pioneers take the arrows.

Lawyers are out of it.

Balfegor said...

Where are we getting good value in men's suits today? I am thinking NYC of course. Trooper? Anybody? Thots?

Samuelsohn is a good brand. Not sure who retails them in NYC, but their suits are well-constructed, floating canvas, etc. I think they manufacture for Paul Stuart, though not sure about that (they're cheaper than Paul Stuart, mind). H. Freeman is another decent manufacturer, also does floating canvas. Less expensive than Samuelsohn, though still in that thousand dollar range. There's someone in NYC who does measurements for their made-to-measure program, but I forget who. You can also, occasionally, get decent suits at Filene's Basement -- Hickey Freeman and suchlike (and Oxxford and Canali, if you're into that kind of thing) -- but my experience is that generally the suits one could actually wear without embarassment are gone almost as soon as they appear.

I use a Hong Kong tailor now myself. They're pretty good, will do floating canvas, forward pleats, backup pair of trousers and so on for me, and they're far cheaper than anything in NYC. On the other hand, you have to go to Hong Kong to get measured, and they don't remeasure you for every suit, the way a traditional tailor would. And I haven't been using them long enough to say whether they'll wear well or not -- the stereotype is that they fall apart after a few wearings, but the tailor I'm using came recommended by someone who has used them for many years.

somefeller said...

This is a good trend. I remember when business casual became all the rage in the early 2000s (thanks to dot-coms, Enron in my part of the world, etc.). A dapper old partner at the law firm I worked at loathed the idea, and he said that a lawyer's uniform is his business suit, and he should be proud to wear it, just like a policeman is proud to put on the badge and a military man (he was a fighter pilot in his youth) is proud to put on his uniform. I thought that was a great way of looking at it.

Plus, most men look better in suits than in polo shirts and khakis, past a certain age. Life is cruel, but that's the way it is.

Also, you don't need to spend thousands of dollars on a suit to look good. If you get on the mailing lists of good stores like Brooks Brothers, Jos. A. Bank, etc. (and all you have to do for that is buy one suit full-price, from what I've seen), you can get clued in for all the good sales.

ricpic said...

Larry Kudlow on CNBC is a snazzy dresser in a formal kinda way.

ricpic said...

Somefeller's right, Jos. A. Bank has been running some fantastic sales recently, more than 50% off fine wool suits.

Nichevo said...

I blush to admit, I meant what is the best suit you can buy for say $300-$500. I've been to Pail Stuart and like their stuff but the cheapest thing on the rack there wad $750 and this was maybe 10 years ago.

I did get a Redaeli (sp?) for $500 also about 10 or 12 yrs ago, which I thought well worth the money, down at Austin Burke in Miami. (I liked their tropic-weight selection, but they were full of good stuff there.) Sadly Miami is not feasible and my next stop would likely be SYMS.

I don't know what floating canvas means but I am aware some suits are cut and made better than others. I am a fabric guy - the thing that feels best in my hand is the one I will probably buy. Tailoring, fit, color, style are also key but back in zee old country, great-gramps was a fabrics broker, so I guess it's in the genes.

I can pick the best/most expensive suit out of the rack literally blindfolded. Been doing that since I was about six - knocked the saleslady on her ass when I picked out a $300 tweed, or actually knocked my mom over when the saleslady told her "Your son has expensive tastes..."

So I like the good stuff, but a business suit is a tool. I think $300-500 is quite reasonable - or did 10 years ago; what must one pay now? What can one get away with paying now?

I've heard Joseph A. Bank is a mistake, like brides who don't know any better registering for Mikasa. Went to Men's Wearhouse once, was not impressed.

Where can one get something DECENT if not better? Will this Samuelsohn or Hickey Freeman, or a Hong Kong or Thai tailor, ever meet my spec? Or do I have to readjust and by how much?

Nichevo said...

I should say, I never saw the pricetag. I said, "I like that one, Mommy!" and she agreed it was nice...downhill from there.

If I were still six I would try Natan Borlam's - they are within about ten blocks of my house - but IIRC they are women's and kid's.

somefeller said...

Somefeller's right, Jos. A. Bank has been running some fantastic sales recently, more than 50% off fine wool suits.

Very true. I've added several very nice suits to my wardrobe lately from sales there.

I've heard Joseph A. Bank is a mistake, like brides who don't know any better registering for Mikasa. Went to Men's Wearhouse once, was not impressed.

Obviously disagree per Jos. A. Bank. However, there is a big difference between their lowest-price suits and their better suits, as is the case anywhere else. If you go with their lowest-price suits, that is a mistake, in a way that it is not a mistake at Brooks Brothers. There is admittedly a bigger drop in quality as one goes down the price chain at Jos. A. Bank. But the key thing to do is to wait for when the $800-$1000 suits go down for seasonal sales. If you do that, you will be in good shape. Also, I've heard a lot of people say that Jos. A. Bank is good for what I've heard called the Standard American Aging Jock build, but if you are particularly tall and slender or short and muscular, Jos. A. Bank isn't the place for you. A tall German friend and a short Asian friend basically gave me that analysis.

I'd agree with you about Mens Wearhouse, though. Great ads, but disappointing from what I've seen in the stores.

Balfegor said...

I blush to admit, I meant what is the best suit you can buy for say $300-$500. I've been to Pail Stuart and like their stuff but the cheapest thing on the rack there wad $750 and this was maybe 10 years ago.

Paul Stuart nowadays is ridiculously overpriced. For $300-500, I know you can get HK tailors to do you something decent for that, but the ones that sell at that price point are usually a little lower quality -- can probably get something better off the rack.

When the suit sales at Filene's Basement come around, my recollection is that you can get Hickey Freeman suits for ~$400. With tailoring (adjust sleeves and trouser cuffs -- no body work), that might come in at $450 or so, just around your price point. But again, most of the stuff they sell is not appropriate for business. Or casual. Or anything, really (though, I admit, I get a kick out of browsing from time to time). They also have Southwick at about the same price or a little lower (maybe $300?) once in a while, although Southwick is only half canvas (still a solid, well-made suit).

Suit sales are probably the best time to look. Hart Schaffner Marx is, I think, usually just a little out of the price range you mention, but in a suit sale, they probably come down into the middle there. My experience with them has been pretty good too. I have a blazer from them, and it's held up quite well.

All that said, though, the usual advice applies -- doesn't really matter how expensive a suit is, so long as it fits you well and suits your body type. And, you know, isn't polyester or anything. I just have a fetish for floating canvas ever since a glued/fused suit I had got puckered all up and down the front, with little bubbles where something went wrong with the fusing.

somefeller said...

Suit sales are probably the best time to look. Hart Schaffner Marx is, I think, usually just a little out of the price range you mention, but in a suit sale, they probably come down into the middle there. My experience with them has been pretty good too.

Agreed, Hart Schaffner Marx is my other favorite brand. I've found you can get good deals on them at places like Macy's, but the problem with Macy's is you have to wade through a lot of crappy suits to find good ones. But if you're willing to put up with that hassle, you can find great deals at that store when they run sales, also.

Christy said...

Nichevo, canvas is the layer between the fashion fabric and the lining that gives the suit body and helps maintain shape. Low end suits use a synthetic fiber that is fused, or melted, into the underside of the fashion fabric. Adds body but doesn't, in the long run, do much for maintaining shape. A floating canvas is hand sewn in such a way that it floats with some degree of independence of both the lining and the outside fabric. It will absorb much of the pull of regular wearing which keeps the fashion fabric looking good and maintains the fit.

Balfegor is right. Fit is everything. Which is why I looked at that purple dress of Michelle Obama that everyone was raving over and could only see that the armscye was ill-fitting.

You might get a kick out of English Cut the blog/marketing tool of a Savile Row bespoke tailor. One of the first blogs out there, and for a long time the only one I could find, about sewing/tailoring. My hobby.

Nichevo said...

I do know glued is bad, didn't know the other name - floating canvas? Is that what you see inside an 'unconstructed' (apparently, unlined) suit jacket? Basically around the chest/shoulders. Yeah, I thought they called that hand-stitched or some such.

Happily it seems that nobody would fuse/glue a jacket with cloth I find acceptable. They tell you to look for 100/120 wool, right? I guess that is the fineness, grain, thread count?

I get so confused with the names, worsted, gabardine...it's all about taking it between your thumb and two fingers. (heh)

Also, I like the 2 pr pants idea, how to select for that?

Is anybody doing silk suits anymore? I had one once, long long ago - so comfy.

OTOH, does anyone tolerate any nylon, rayon, poly, etc., whatsoever in a blend?

Henry Buck said...

I prefer suits, but I think we'd all be better off if high-powered lawyers and bankers were forced to wear clown suits. That would strip away the facade that they know what they are doing, and we would actually be forced to make decisions based upon arguments and logic, rather than by the intimidating force of "power suits."

class-factotum said...

Plus, most men look better in suits than in polo shirts and khakis, past a certain age. Life is cruel, but that's the way it is.

Not just men. Business casual is equally hideous for women with the added advantage that khaki pants make one's ass look a mile wide.

Balfegor said...

I do know glued is bad, didn't know the other name - floating canvas? Is that what you see inside an 'unconstructed' (apparently, unlined) suit jacket? Basically around the chest/shoulders. Yeah, I thought they called that hand-stitched or some such.

I think unconstructed mostly means very little padding. The unlined (or only semi-lined) suits may be canvassed or not -- I think Oxxford usually makes 3/4 lined, so you can see the interior stitchwork or something. Summer suits in hot countries where they wear suits through the summer (basically Hong Kong, China, Japan, India, and South Korea, to my knowledge -- maybe Singapore?) are also often 3/4 lined. Less common in US, but you do see it.

Canvas is like this. You normally wouldn't see it on a finished suit, although you might see it on an in-progress suit. A suit made with good cloth isn't always canvassed, even half-canvassed (which I understand to be the situation where they shape lapels and so on with canvas, but it doesn't shape the entire suit body), but if it's fused, it would tend to be good fusing. I hear fusing is much better nowadays than it used to be, so it's probably not the case that you need floating canvas for a decent suit -- I just have a complex about it, on account of my bad experience with fusing.

Nichevo said...

I associate un/semi/deconstructed jackets with the Miami Vice era. Unlined and you can see the tailor musta been busy.

If I want to check for fusing, I pinch the outside and feel if there's a separate layer, not the silky lining, that moves independently of the outside, yes? Hmm, will do.

What does this English mope get for a suit?

Nichevo said...

Oh, and if the gay/Negro color choices are in, does that mean navy, grey, black might be on sale?

Nichevo said...

Yes, I can see I need another life goal: accumulate five grand I don't need and buy some clothes. Sigh.

Kelly said...

@ nichevo about what you've said that navy, grey, or black? hmmm i think someone or somebody have a website like mens clothing stores etc.