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Help needed creating a business wardrobe - Seeking advice

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

Hello SF,



First off, i'm quite new to being 'stylish'. I put my hand up to being terribly dressed most of the time. Jeans and a polo shirt man with a pair of addidas.... i know. The shame.


However, you can call it a renaissance or whatever you like, but i'd like to shake off this bad habit. Especially at work. The last 2 years i've bought RTW suits from Boss & Paul Smith after having terrible experiences with local tailors whilst working out here in Beijing, China.


I’m 31, 6ft 3inch, 95kg and with a reasonable physique, more rugby player than football. My stomach is flat(ish).

It's time to up my game and dress 'the part'. I work for a financial instition and i'm starting to feel that i could apply more effort as I am very client facing. I had planned to do some shopping in either Singapore or Hong Kong, yet i've decided that a shopping trip back in my native England would be best.


Current wardrobe

ill fitting Paul Smith suit and a uninspiring james sharp Boss suit. Local chinese 'tailored' shirts, fake cufflinks and a pair of Churchs New Yorks and a pair of Olivier Sweeny's. I have a nice Ferragamo belt bought as a gift to me and a few assorted ties (including a yellow Hermes silk number, again a gift).



Complete overhaul! I've set a budget of around £10,000 excl VAT for a new business wardrobe. I can push the boat out a little more if needed.

I want to get 3 Suits, 5-7 shirts, 2-3(?) cufflinks, 3-5(?) ties, Breifcase, Gym bag, 1-2 belts, 2-3 Shoes and socks. Is there anything else I should consider?



Living in China the climate varies from -10c in winter to 35c and humid in the summer. What material weight should I use? I’d like to be able to wear the suits all year round and to be honest, when I’m at work I don’t spend much time in the elements as I have a car etc.

For the suits I was thinking (again, looking for advice):

1) midnight Navy with light pinstripe, 3 piece, 2 button – traditional English style

2) Charcoal Gray, 2 piece, 2 button – Italian style, modern.

3) Dark Charcoal gray with light pinstripe, 2 piece, 2 button

As for where to get them made I’d like to use (open to suggestions/opinions?):

A Saville Row Bespoke and/or MTM (Hardy Amies, Kilgour and RichardAnderson). £3000-3500 excl VAT?

Tom Ford - MTM – Selfrdiges? Any idea on price?

Suitsupply and/or Cad & The Dandy for one. £700-1000?


Is this a good combination? Would a Saville Row tailor be open to discount 3 suits? Is it vulgar to ask? I guess if I could get 3 for 7,000 or 8,000 excl VAT I’d do it all there? Or would 3 MTM Saville Row be the better option? Would you use Tom Ford? I do really like the look of those though as an alternative to a traditional English style suit.



3 White, 1 light blue and a light Salmon? What and where would you get them from? I’m guessing around £150-200 per bespoke shirt? What combination would you choose?


Cufflinks, Ties, pocket squares and socks?


Where is a good place to get these? What would be a good combination of these?



Was looking a Bottega V or a Mont Blanc? Any less known brand that produce a nice modern, leather briefcase?



I’m set on a pair of Gaziano Girling Deco Papworth’s in black (pig skin?) and also a pair of Santoni brown brogues. Should/can I wear the (dark) brown brogues with all 3 suits I have in mind? Or just the Navy pinstripe?

I also bought a pair of Barker Johnny online recently.



I have a Rolex Submariner at the moment but it’s far too big and chunky for work/suit wear. Any suggestions on a nice leather strap or ceramic watch? This isnt included in my budget and I don’t really have a price in mind, I’m open to suggestions – $5,000? $10,000? $15,000+?



Is this a good choice? Can you think of a better option? What would you do if your wardrobe was burnt down and you had to start again from stratch?


Thanks in advance for your advice SF!



post #2 of 10
Thread Starter 

No one?

post #3 of 10
You might get better replies if you edit your post a bit (too much detail is better than too little but your post is a lot to read and that probably puts people off). Here are some things for you to consider (search function may be your friend on specific points too):

1. How often do you plan to wear a suit? If you're wearing a suit once a week, two is sufficient. If you want to wear a suit everyday, you're going to need a lot more. In any event, stick to solids.

2. You left odd jackets off your list. I find odd jackets helpful for when I am dressed more casually (grey flannel trousers and a dress shirt for example) and want to dress a bit nicer in the evening without changing into a suit. Having a few odd jackets that you can throw on in settings where you don't want to wear a suit is very useful for a well dressed man IMO.

3. If you go the custom tailored route (either made-to-measure or bespoke), only commission once piece at a time (unless you want to try a couple of tailors, in which case you can get one from each). Also, Hong Kong is perfectly fine for shirts / suits and you can probably save some money in addition to being closer and able to possibly do more than one fitting.

4. Do you have problems fitting into off the rack clothes? If not, made to measure may be a better option for you. Bespoke will get you a better product over time, but made to measure is a lot less expensive and could be a good way to build up a wardrobe for a reasonable price.

5. Get more shoes. They are the foundation of your wardrobe. If you are spending what you suggest, I think five pairs of shoes is a minimum. Loafers and derbies are more casual; oxfords are best with suits. Darker colors are more formal than lighter ones. Pick your shoe models out based on this.

6. There really is no such thing as a year-round suit. Summer suits really don't work outside of summer and most fall / winter suits are too warm to wear comfortably in summer. You can get away without winter weight garments since you throw a coat on anyway when it is cold, but being too hot in the summer is just not fun.

Just some things to think about. If you can edit your post down a bit, that will probably help you get more detail.
post #4 of 10
Too much thinking and too ling a post.
post #5 of 10
Unfortunately while you've clearly taken the time to write out a really well written post there are just too many questions to be answered, and most people willing to answer would probably not know enough to be able to adequately answer ALL of your questions.

For a start, it is really important to know how often you will wear a suit.
post #6 of 10
If you're up for traveling, go to WW Chan in Hong Kong. Great bespoke suits, for about $1500-$2000 each (about 1200 GBP?). Dont order them all at once if you can avoid it--get one, make sure its right, then get the others. They probably do shirts as well. Drop in The Armoury while in HK as well.

Get a solid navy, solid charcoal, and maybe a solid mid-grey or lightly patterned (birds-eye, prince of wales check, etc) mid-grey. Even better, get four suits, and get a navy and mid-grey in a light cloth for summer (Minnis fresco is the forum darling) and get a navy and charcoal flannel for winter.

Too many white shirts--light blue is better. Get 3 light blue, 1-2 white. To start, youll need more shirts than that eventually.

Dark brown shoes go with everything, and those are some nice shoes youve picked. Make sure you have at least three pairs so you can rotate them.

Think about odd jackets unless you have to wear a suit every day. They are very useful. I personally wear them more than suits.
post #7 of 10

Can't be bothered to read such a long post,  but on this general theme (in a climate with significant temperature variations), this was a good post:



Originally Posted by J. Cogburn View Post

Several years ago, I lost 75 pounds and had to rebuild my wardrobe from scratch. I live in Washington, DC and am happy to have a “white collar,” non-profit job that requires a suit four days a week (no need for one on “Casual Friday”). I do a fair amount of business travel and since I may get called-on to do a TV appearance with only a few hours notice, I need to dress accordingly. Hence, I’ve had a chance to do in real life what so many of you fantasize about on this board; build a serious, tailored, multi-season wardrobe from scratch.

Learn from me.

Your first four suits will be versatile mid-weight essentials that can be worn year-round (9 ½ - 11 oz). Purchase #1 will be a single-breasted darkish grey or darkish blue suit with notched lapels. Doesn’t really matter which; go with whatever color you like best. Purchase #2 will be whichever of those two suits you passed on for purchase #1. If possible, both should be purchased with a vest to make it more comfortable to wear in the winter. Purchase #3 will be a double-breasted darkish grey or darkish blue suit (again, your call). Purchase #4 will be whichever of those two suits you passed on for purchase #3. With these four suits, you can go through life appropriately dressed for any occasion calling for tailored clothes.

These are workhorse suits that you’ll be wearing a lot (at least for a while), so you want only subtle texture so as to be appropriate in the most environs possible and so as not to call attention to the fact that you only have a few suits (for now). Choose between pick & pick (sharkskin), a subtle herringbone, nailhead, and tic-weave.

Your single-breasteds are your default suits for typical business wear. Your double-breasted suits are when you want to be a bit dressier; grey DB for daytime, blue DB for nighttime.

Re color, if you are a high contrast type (light skin and dark hair), you will likely look best in navy blue and charcoal grey. If you are anything else, you’ll likely look best in marine blue (a shade a bit lighter than navy with a green tone) and Oxford grey (a slightly lighter grey than charcoal). To minimize sartorial boredom, consider a marine blue and Oxford grey SB and a navy blue and charcoal grey DB (the darker colors are incrementally dressier, which comports well with the DBs).

If you’re on a relatively tight budget, your two SBs can be RTW because if there’s one thing the merchandisers can provide, it’s dark, mid-weight SBs in subtle texture. But if you can manage it, save up for bespoke DBs. It’s awful hard to find a well cut, well fitted DB off the rack.

Somewhere in here (probably after you’ve got the SBs) you should get a lined tan trench coat so that you can handle cold weather and warm, wet and dry. If funds allow, supplement the trench with a navy blue, charcoal grey, or tan knee-length overcoat for colder weather (make the tan a polo coat if you’re going in that direction).

Your shoulder season suit rotation is now adequate. If you have one or more black-tie functions a year, you will now buy a complete soup-to-nuts rig. If not – or once you have – you now purchase two odd jackets; a navy blue blazer (or a textured blue odd jacket if you can’t stand metal buttons) and a patterned, earth-toned, mid-weight tweed. The blazer should be a serge; a blue odd jacket could be in a small herringbone, Donegal, or something of that nature. The latter should feature a tasteful pattern (large herringbone, gun club check, windowpane, etc.).

You will wear these odd coats on Casual Friday, on weekends, and for all of those ridiculous “business casual” events. The blue coat will be for “city” occasions and the tweed for “country.” You will pair them both with (tailored!) mid-grey flannel trousers.

While you don’t need to see a tailor to get the business shirts you’ll need (and hence, it’s off-topic) you will want to see a tailor to get at least one – and preferably several – custom white shirts. These will be for your dressier occasions but can also be worn whenever you want to look sharp. Medium point collars are the most versatile and best for four-in-hand knots (which you should be tying). Spread collars are more stylish but may not look good on the round-faced and are less useful away from the suit.

If you live in a locale with major seasonal temperature changes (like I do), you will next want to either concentrate on summer or winter suits depending on whether the most extreme temperatures you’re going to face come in the warmer or colder months.

DC is far more hellish in the summer than winter, so I turned next to warm weather suits. Warmer weather calls for lighter shades, so pick either marine or airforce blue for your single-breasted and a single-breasted Oxford or Cambridge grey to go along with it. Again, these are workhorse suits, so go with subtle texture.

DBs are hard to wear comfortably in the summertime, so forgo those and opt instead for your first run at patterns. This trades off the DB’s “dressiness” for a different kind of style. Choose two; a mid-to-light grey with cream pinstripe, a navy blue with cream pinstripe, a black & cream glen plaid, or a black & cream mini-houndstooth.

If you’re buying RTW, you’re pretty much forced into buying tropical wool. Linens are available, but they’re too casual for suit & tie business wear. If you’re going bespoke, however, you have more choices. Choose between fresco, mohair-wool blends, and the better tropical wools.

If you have a really dressy, summer nighttime occasion, suck it up and break out your mid-weight, dark blue DB. That’s because pinstripes are associated with business and you don’t want to suggest business after hours. If you have the funds and you like to dress up in the heat of the night, however, you would be well-advised to pick-up a black mohair suit for exactly this purpose.

One can easily rationalize skipping the winter suits given the warmth of modern offices and the ease in which an overcoat can keep us warm outdoors. But … skipping the winter rotation deprives you of heavy cloth (which drapes like a dream) and the killer look of flannel which is too warm wearing during any other season.

A mid-to-dark grey flannel suit is perhaps the most handsome suit one can wear, so this is your first priority. A dark blue suit makes sense for all of the reasons it made sense in our mid-weight wardrobe, and since flannel looks better in grey than blue (the mottled texture is easier to see and the grey is flecked with black and white giving it more interest), this is a good place for the heavy worsted in pick & pick (if you want a little texture) or birdseye (if you want a little more). If you like or need to be dressy more often than not, go with DBs. If not, go with SBs and a vest for each.

Stripes look best on flannel suits, so it would be a shame to not capitalize on this for our winter rotation. Pick two; cream chalk stripe, cream pinstripe, cream windowpane, or black & cream glen plaid, all but the last in either dark blue or dark grey flannel. All but the glen plaid work best as DBs (the glen plaid has its origins as a “country suit” which puts it at a bit of tension with the dressier nature of a DB).

These are your essentials. From here, indulge. Like brown suits, tweed, linen, unusual fabrics like dupioni silk, unusual suit patterns like shepherd check, or blazers for all seasons? Need to work on your “in-between” wardrobe (when neither suits nor jeans/chinos will suffice)? Go nuts. Your bases – thanks to my taste and your money – are covered.
post #8 of 10
I didn't read it either but really it's simple. People buy or build up business wardrobes all the time. The best solution go to a good maker drop some's easy really and you don't have to be Cary Grant to do it. I was talking to Mike Hill from drakes a while back about Prince Charles being a style icon, I said that while he was well dressed I wouldn't consider him a style icon, michael replied "well David, he gets his suits from Anderson and Shepherd and his shirts from Turnbull of course he's going to look good.
post #9 of 10
Originally Posted by CharlieChaplinC View Post

Hello SF,
However, you can call it a renaissance or whatever you like, but i'd like to shake off this bad habit. Especially at work. The last 2 years i've bought RTW suits from Boss & Paul Smith after having terrible experiences with local tailors whilst working out here in Beijing, China.

Sanlitun Clothing Market was it? You might want to try Hong Kong instead.

Can't be bothered to read the rest.
Edited by MikeDT - 4/28/13 at 1:25am
post #10 of 10
Dear Charlie

We will have to break this down.

Re suits:

If you're working in finance, you will presumably need more than three suits. As you have already identified, climate is an important consideration. You might wish to start by considering the thread below. Some posts are tongue in cheek, but most are very useful and informative. I don't suggest you need ten suits, but this will give you food for thought. Cogburn's thread extracted above is also great, but one man's experience.

At 6' 3", as am I, you will only get a proper fit and silhouette with bespoke. You will get better bang for buck in HK than in SR. And it's probably better to refine your tastes before you commit to SR. In HK, WW Chan, A Man Cheong or Gordon Yao - and, as recommended above, one at a time. The consensus is that HK is better than Shanghai for bespoke.

For comparison of HK tailors see series of 3 articles by Jonathan Lai on A Suitable Wardrobe.

Also, before you go any further read:

Re shirts:

Different views expressed, but see:

And there are others.

I used to wear white shirts predominately. I have evolved to the light blue school of thought. I have 10 white dress shirts and now only wear one at most once a week. Light blue is more versatile and suits most skin tones - plain blue, gingham and bengal stripe. Get them made at Ascot Chang in HK.

Re shoes:

I would have thought if you are working with an English company, the expectation will be black shoes for business - but that might be different in China.

Generally speaking, there is a difference between English practices on the one hand, and American and Italian sensibilities on the other hand. In England (and generally in Australia), the conventions of conservative business dress dictate black shoes with dark suits. In the US and Italy, brown, oxblood and burgundy are acceptable and even preferred. Even allowing for these different approaches, dark suits require a dark shoe - whether black, dark brown, espresso, ebony or deep burgundy. Light brown, tan and cognac shoes are for light suits.

Your suggestion of G&G is upper end, and so expensive. Also consider, depending on foot width, in no particular order:

Church's Custom Grade
Crockett and Jones
Alfred Sargeant
Lobb and EG (if you are in that price bracket)

Re ties:

At your height, and depending on the length of your torso, circumference of neck, etc you will probably need something 62-64" long. Four in hand knot only. You will need made to order. Best choice is Sam Hober - see website and Appreciation thread here:

Nuff said.

For combinations see:

Re pocket squares:

For mine - white linen, the last thread above, and this -

Re watch:

This is a highly personal choice, and I suggest you wade through the Watch Appreciation Thread paying particular attention to Dino.

For me, the One Watch which would do both sport and suits would be the AP Royal Oak. But it's not to all tastes. IWC Portuguese, Rolex Datejust, PP Nautilus, the list goes on. Best start with a Sinn 556 on a metal band and see whether a mechanical watch actually suits your needs.

Hope this helps.

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