Thursday, May 26, 2011

How to Choose and Care for Your Favorite Suit

When I'm wearing my favorite suit, I seem to grow by two inches. The right suit inspires confidence and brings attention to the man in the suit, whereas the wrong suit brings attention to the suit itself and pulls energy from its wearer. Where did the mens suit as we know it come from, what makes a good suit and how do you properly care for your suit?

Basic History

The suit as we know it was adopted after the first World War with its origins stretching back to the twelfth and fourteenth centuries in Europe. Since then, many fads and trends have shaped the suit slightly with growing and shrinking lapels, number of buttons, size of the shoulder pads, and the cut. Some well known examples of this include the Zoot Suit of the 1940's and the Disco Suit of the 1970's.

How to Find the Best Suit

You don't have to spend a lot of money to get a great suit. Five hundred dollars can get you everything you need in a suit, although you can certainly spend a lot more. Remember when choosing a new suit that trends only tend to last one or two years, so unless you plan to retire the suit in that amount of time, your best bet is to choose a somewhat conservative suit.

You have a lot of choices before you even get into size. Details like single breasted vs double, lapel size, color, fabric, the pocket style, the number pockets and number of buttons all come into play. These will come down to personal preference although there are a few unspoken rules. When it comes to color, the big four colors are navy, grey, black or any of the previous three with a stripe. As for the fabric, the most common is wool (and its variations like wool gabardine) and your other choices include cotton, linen, and seersucker. You also have the choice of two buttons versus three when choosing a new suit.

Find the jacket first. Try on a lot of jackets to find what is most comfortable and looks best on you. Once you have the jacket, the pants will follow as they can be more easily adjusted by a tailor. No matter which style you choose make sure the cut fits your body. If you don't feel comfortable in the suit you have chosen, it's either the wrong size (I'm not talking about the small adjustments your tailor will perform to make it perfect) or the wrong style - keep looking.

Regardless of which suit you choose, there are a few things you can do increase the life of your suit. I would suggest half lined pants as this will help to extend the life of your pants by decreasing the friction against the outer material. Since the suit jacket tends to last longer than the pants, I would consider purchasing two pairs of suit pants for each coat. When selecting a suit, turn the jacket inside out to examine the quality of sewing in the seams.

At The Dry Cleaners

Not all dry cleaners are created equal, nor should just any dry cleaner care for your suit. Improper cleaning and pressing will cause your suit to pill, shine, and wear faster. The dry cleaner you choose should use freshly distilled solvent on each load for the main bath. Many discount cleaners only distill a fraction of their solvent after each load which means you're getting dirty solvent to clean your suit. When your suit is pressed, the lapel should be rolled and NOT creased. The suit pants not have a double crease (which looks like railroad tracks down the front of your pants) and there should be no impression down the side seams.

Be sure to point out any repairs you need or any stains you've picked up, no matter how minor. If your dry cleaner has to guess what the stains are, there is a greater chance the stains will become permanent. Also, by keeping up with minor repairs, you'll avoid causing costly damage to your suit later. When you notice a loose button, have it reinforced before it is lost as it is nearly impossible to match a single button to a set; you'll be forced to replace all of the buttons to ensure they match.

In Closing

There are a lot of choices when choosing a new suit. By hashing out the details, you'll get a suit that looks great on you and lasts for a long time.

Now its your turn – what tips on suits can you offer?

Photo Credit: brennuskrux

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