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[UK] Help a newbie up his business-wear game? (new suit(s), new shoes)

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 

Hello all

 

I hope this kind of post is allowed here, please let me know if not. I've been reading through the primers as well as other resources online, and think I might be suffering from a bit of "analysis paralysis". I feel like there is so much to know and I know very little!

 

Background

 

I'm in my late twenties, 6'3, typically approx 200lb, though I'm walking around 10lb too heavy thanks to Christmas! I'm a financial adviser in a small business. The office is shirts, trousers, shoes, suit jackets, no ties.

 

What I'm wearing currently

 

I bought three suits, each with two pairs of trousers on a trip to Thailand 18 months ago. Grey, charcoal, dark blue. I have been rotating these since then, along with a selection of about ten off-the-shelf shirts from Charles Thyrwytt (15 1/2" collar size slim-fit). These are the best fit I've found without looking at MTM, and come it at ~ £20 per shirt when bought in packs fo four or five ("usual" price is £40-£60 though I doubt anybody ever pays this).

 

My shoes are my biggest downfall currently, I reckon. I tend to buy one or two pairs of Marks & Spencers shoes at ~£80-£100 each, and wear them into the ground. Current pair are pretty much ready for the bin, the backs are going etc.

 

I'm not entirely convinced by the existing suits, as I have no clue what the material is etc. but they do fit better than any off-the-shelf effort I've worn in the past. I'm an odd shape (tall and pear-like, really, with big thighs as I squat a lot at the gym), and the current crop of clothing definitely works better than any I've had in the past.

 

Some examples:

 

 

What I want/Budget

 

I was thinking of getting a new suit and a high quality pair of shoes, with a view to getting another in 6-12 months time. I was going to buy just one pair of shoes but I'm wondering if there's any point (I'd really need to buy one good pair and one cheaper pair, or possibly scrub the current pair up to something approaching acceptable condition and wear them on alternate days until I pick up a second pair of good shoes).

 

Planned budget was ~£500 on suit (possibly a bit more if a second pair of trousers was bought too), £200-£250 on shoes.

 

Suits

 

I was looking at online MTM tailors like "a suit that fits", "cad and the dandy", and have seen Austin Reed to a MTM package at about the right budget. I've found it very hard to find reliable third-party feedback/reviews on any of these, though, which I find a bit worrying. Another option is a tailor in my hometown who provided my wedding suits (on hire). It's a very old-fashioned tailor, and he thought he could probably do a bespoke suit for £500-£600 using UK-sourced materials. My main worry here is that I'd end up with a suit that looked like it was from the '60s, and that should be worn with a flat cap and walking stick!

 

Shoes

 

I started off looking at Barkers, but from reading around here and other places much better shoes can be got for similar money. I'm actually within driving distance of various of the Northampton manufacturers, and they seem to have factory shops, so I was considering that. I've seen shoes from Cheaney that look reasonable (and currently on sale), but I don't really know what style to get. Is something like this: too showy?(Cheaney Cardiff Oxford in black calf's leather, currently £215 from £315).

 

My questions

 

Am I on anything like the right lines? 

Should I plump up the extra £ for 2 pairs of good shoes with the idea of wearing them every other day (and using shoe trees etc in the meantime to maintain them)? How long could I reasonably expect the shoes to last in this case?

With regards to suits, any feedback on the online MTM providers? I understand they're all made in Nepal/Thailand/India and shipped over, but given the budget what (if any) other options do I have?

 

Thanks in advance!

post #2 of 21
I have come to the point of rarely being surprised at how some men do not know how to dress nor how to find out for themselves. Web boards are rarely much use as no one knows you, your colouring, your employer etc.

There is also an all too rarely used feature to 'Search'. That has the answers to a diatribe like this one.

So you answers in order:
  1. Vaguely
  2. Yes
  3. Yes
  4. Depends how much you wear them and on what surfaces
  5. Universally dreadful, search and you will find out for yourself
  6. Correct on location of the sweat shops.
  7. Local MTM in a bricks and mortar shop, even the dreadful 'A suit that Fits' has local places where at least their representative takes responsibility for the measures, even if all he has had is five minutes training.
post #3 of 21
This is all advice stated better and at more length elsewhere, but you need to get the basics right:

Get a couple of pairs of calf leather Oxfords from the Loake 1880 range, or perhaps Cheaney if you've got the cash. (Consider one black, one brown: depends on your office.). Keep the things clean and well polished and invest in a couple of shoe trees, good polish and a decent brush. Look after them: shoes should last years, not months. Keep the M&S stuff to wear in the rain.

If you like your shirts' fit, no problems there. Plain white, pale blue, and pale blue bengal stripe would be the way to go initially.

Always wear a tie, even if no-one else in your office does very much. Go for plain, reserved colours or neat patterns and avoid satin or 'wet' silk fabrics. Knitted ties are popular here, but bear in mind that despite being available everywhere now they are still seen as the preserve of geography teachers and hipsters across much of the UK. The same sort of caveat applies to pocket squares: now mainstream, but people will associate them either with footballers or Quentin Crisp. If you go for it, stick with plain white linen.

Lastly, the suit. The existing ones don't look inspiring, but I guess you knew that. As per the advice above any local tailor who isn't a complete charlatan will probably give you a better result than online MTM. Pay attention to the fabric choice (I'm sure you know the drill: worsted, navy or charcoal, nothing shiny). By the sound of it you don't need to worry about him giving you an overly-fashionable cut - this is a good thing, by the way- but keep an eye on the button placement.

But as GBR says all this is partly dependent on your colouring, your colleagues' expectations, and what your own aspirations are.
post #4 of 21
Thread Starter 

Thanks for your advice. I appreciate there are bits and pieces of similar advice dotted all around this board (and the wider web).

 

Quote:
I have come to the point of rarely being surprised at how some men do not know how to dress nor how to find out for themselves. Web boards are rarely much use as no one knows you, your colouring, your employer etc.

 

Where is a good place to start, to get a basic education in (businesswear) style? A lot of the online resources I have found seem to focus on the £2,000+ suits and £500+ shoes. This is out of my (and I would assume large swathes of the populations') price range.

 

Quote:
There is also an all too rarely used feature to 'Search'. That has the answers to a diatribe like this one.

 

To be fair, I had spent the prior 90 minutes wrangling with the search function. "a suit that fits" rendered very little of use. "uk online tailor" brought up some posts from 2009 in relation to raja tailors. "first pair of shoes" brought up many diverse threads, ranging from gucci loafers to handmade bespoke shoes far out of my price range. If I'd have managed to narrow down some answers without needing to post my diatribe, I would have done so.

 

Quote:

So you answers in order:

  1. Vaguely
  2. Yes
  3. Yes
  4. Depends how much you wear them and on what surfaces
  5. Universally dreadful, search and you will find out for yourself
  6. Correct on location of the sweat shops.
  7. Local MTM in a bricks and mortar shop, even the dreadful 'A suit that Fits' has local places where at least their representative takes responsibility for the measures, even if all he has had is five minutes training.
  1. That's at least vaguely reassuring, then
  2. Thanks
  3. Thanks
  4. Daily (or every other day, as stated), during the work week, on carpets, pavements and car pedals (mostly the former)
  5. I tried and found little (as stated above), but thanks for steering me off them.
  6. OK
  7. None of the major online tailors have bricks and mortar locations. The tailors in the city I live closest to tend to cater towards traditional Indian clothing, although I've enquired and they've said they'll do a MTM (albeit with some of the needlework completed in India), for a few hundred.

 

Quote:
Get a couple of pairs of calf leather Oxfords from the Loake 1880 range, or perhaps Cheaney if you've got the cash. (Consider one black, one brown: depends on your office.).

How do Loake 1880s compare to Cheaneys, generally speaking? I can probably pick up some Cheaneys for ~£200-£250 mark, which seems to be the same ballpark as the Loakes. 

 

More generally, are the example of the cheaney oxfords posted above a reasonable choice? When it comes to style choices in shoes I'm completely lost. There were a number of plain toe-capped oxfords that I saw when browsing on a shopping trip, but these look particularly old-fashioned to my uninitiated eyes. 

 

Quote:
Always wear a tie, even if no-one else in your office does very much. Go for plain, reserved colours or neat patterns and avoid satin or 'wet' silk fabrics. Knitted ties are popular here, but bear in mind that despite being available everywhere now they are still seen as the preserve of geography teachers and hipsters across much of the UK. The same sort of caveat applies to pocket squares: now mainstream, but people will associate them either with footballers or Quentin Crisp. If you go for it, stick with plain white linen.

Ties are an interesting conundrum. In my section of the financial services industry, I'd guesstimate that 75-80% of advisers don't wear ties. Certainly my co-adviser/boss doesn't and never has. I was reading interesting discussion on a thread I'd found in search on whether you should wear a tie when your boss doesn't, but didn't really draw a conclusion from it. You don't happen to know any good UK-based tie shops? Budgetary considerations for ties?

 

Quote:
Lastly, the suit. The existing ones don't look inspiring, but I guess you knew that. As per the advice above any local tailor who isn't a complete charlatan will probably give you a better result than online MTM. Pay attention to the fabric choice (I'm sure you know the drill: worsted, navy or charcoal, nothing shiny). By the sound of it you don't need to worry about him giving you an overly-fashionable cut - this is a good thing, by the way- but keep an eye on the button placement.

I don't know the drill! I was thinking navy might work as I am lacking a navy suit. I think I'll ring them up and see if his offer still stands (he seemed to think he was offering a very keen deal - manufactured on-site by him from UK materials for the price stated).
 

Once again, thanks for both of your replies, I really do feel like the fog is starting to lift! 

post #5 of 21
Cheaney are considered the better made, but I mentioned Loake as you should be able to get them discounted fairly easily. The 1880 range is pretty nice for the price. Don't pass up a very good deal on some Cheaneys, though.

I suppose the tie is partly determined by your job. If part of it involves putting clients 'at ease', it may be that some managers would prefer their staff dressing down a bit. On the other hand, people feel a suit and (tasteful) tie reflects competence, it reassures people. So you'll have to play it by ear: do any of your client-facing colleagues wear a tie? How do they get on? Having said all that, I personally think if you're going tieless, you may as well ditch the suits and go for a jacket and trousers - the formality of most suits demands a tie.

Sam Hober does some nice ties if you don't mind ordering from outside the UK.

See if the tailor will confirm what fabric/s he can use and get a sample.
post #6 of 21
Thread Starter 

I was thinking of maybe these: 

 

 as a very traditional option (£200)

 

and these:  as something a bit different. (£215)

 

Am I committing a terrible style sin with the second pair? Do the prices seem reasonable? They are sale items and seem to be in the Loakes 1880 range of cost.

 

You mentioned brown. I think I could probably get away with a brown pair, but there are many shades! The latter pair are available in a "dark leaf":  - are these too light?

 

Back on the ties. It is odd (and I've always wondered why we bother with suits at all if we wear no ties). My office consists of me, my boss, and a small admin team, so I have very little to go on. It's fair to say my boss is not a paragon of style, and he is happy with a mid-range M&S suit & shirt, no tie. I'm not sure he'd have a huge issue with me wearing a tie, but it would look a little odd if/when we conducted joint meetings.

post #7 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by popdop View Post
 

 

Am I committing a terrible style sin with the second pair?

Personally I would argue to get classic first, ideally 3 pairs given the british weather, and once you have those then consider getting something more quirky. 

 

When you start getting into bespoke clothing or higher end its tempting to go with the art of the possible and it may be great to have a 16oz tweed 3 piece suit with plus fours but you'll get infinite more use out of a medium weight navy suit unless you work on a country estate. I dont know anyone who hasnt fallen into this temptation before having all the basics covered (myself included).

 

As to the colour brown, colour reproduction accuracy is difficult to judge on the internet, if you look at Crockett & Jones website they have several shoes called the same colour but the photos are notably different from each other. Is the name or image correct? A general rule of thumb, the darker the colour the more formal the shoe and almost without exception in a fairly formal outfit the shoes should be darker than the trousers (though you'll see plenty of trendy City boy in their royal blue skinny suits with tan shoes).

post #8 of 21
Thread Starter 

Noted on the colourings. I definitely want something classic, no need for a tweed suit quite yet! :)

 

I just had correspondence from a local tailor who have said they will make a bespoke suit onsite for £1,200 (out of my price range), or have a German subcontractor do a MTM starting from £700. This seems on the high side for a subbed out MTM? Or should I be asking more questions?

 

Based on the strength of this thread I have ordered the toe cap oxfords from Cheaney at £200. If I like the fit I'll pick up another pair sooner rather than later. Are there other "classic" styles so that I don't have to end up with two or three of the same shoe?

 

I'm also about to put in an order for shoe trees on Amazon. I should pick some proper cleaning equipment up at the same time - I currently have the little spongy squidgy Kiwi thing which I suspect is no good for the kind of shoes I've bought.

 

I've read around the forum and there seems to be some consensus that Saphir creme is the way to go when you don't want a high shine (I don't) ?

 

The only creme I can find on Amazon is Woly - how does this compare? Alternatively I could order from elsewhere (e.g. Herring ) - is this the right kind of product? Should I get a black creme for black shoes or a neutral one?

 

Sorry if these questions have all been answered before a hundred times, I am reading through the shoe care thread and there are lots of (conflicting) views!

post #9 of 21
You're lucky to live near Northampton. Go the outlets. Crockett and Jones, Barker, Trickers. If you're lucky they'll have very slight seconds or cancelled MTOs in your size and suitable for business. If you can't be bothered with that, as has been mentioned, Loake 1880 is best at the price point. It would be a waste of time only having one pair of Goodyear welted leather soled shoes when you wear them every day. Get at least two pairs, more when you can afford and rotate. Get a pair with dainite soles for our very wet climate. At that budget with suits, as mentioned get RTW that fits as good as possible and alter accordingly. This just involves trying on as many brands as possible and getting something that fits in chest and shoulder and length. Arms etc are a bonus.
post #10 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by popdop View Post

This seems on the high side for a subbed out MTM? Or should I be asking more questions?

Are there other "classic" styles so that I don't have to end up with two or three of the same shoe?

I'm also about to put in an order for shoe trees on Amazon. I should pick some proper cleaning equipment up at the same time - I currently have the little spongy squidgy Kiwi thing which I suspect is no good for the kind of shoes I've bought.

I've read around the forum and there seems to be some consensus that Saphir creme is the way to go when you don't want a high shine (I don't) ?

The only creme I can find on Amazon is Woly - how does this compare? Alternatively I could order from elsewhere (e.g. Herring ) - is this the right kind of product? Should I get a black creme for black shoes or a neutral one?

Sorry if these questions have all been answered before a hundred times, I am reading through the shoe care thread and there are lots of (conflicting) views!

1. Not remotely on the high side for MTM of any sort. Not even on the high side for fully canvassed RTW.
2. Classic styles for business: Oxfords, wholecuts, semi-brogues, monkstraps, boots in those styles too. Just stick to thinner soles and blacks/Browns and closed lacing.
3. No it's not appropriate. You will need at least three horsehair brushes, a selvyt buffing rag and if you don't like as much shine, cream rather than wax. Saphir if possible but don't get hung up on it. Woly and herring are respectable. I don't see the point in paying loads for black cream, I just use kiwi wax. If it's good enough for the British army, it's good enough for me.
post #11 of 21

There are certainly some with higher prices than £700 for MTM and those with lower too. The "outsourcing" element isnt really that important, after all most Row tailors outsource the actual construction to self employed coatmakers etc but doesnt stop them charging £5k plus Germany isnt exactly a low cost offshoring operation.

 

Classic shoe styles? There are many but it really depends on your personal tastes and what level of formality you want. For a start there is a list of different toes (plain, toecap, wingtip, apron, split and wholecut), different levels of broguing  and different types of closure (oxford, derby, monk, slipon) and most of these can be cross combined so you can get a monk shoe with toecap or derby wingtips with full broguing. This is all before you introduce boots to the mix :)

 

Saphir Medaille dOr supposedly stop their official retailers from selling via Amazon or eBay which is why there is limited amounts available on these types of sites. Personally the cost difference isnt enough considering how long one pot lasts me to not buy Saphir (or another highly respected brand). Personally I use creme as it gives a better colour transference and wax gives a nicer finish (and shine if its wanted). My low shine boots get just one layer of wax without the techniques for high shine. High shine there is a couple of layers of wax with an increasingly damp cloth on each layer to build up a better shine.

post #12 of 21
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Astaroth View Post
 

There are certainly some with higher prices than £700 for MTM and those with lower too. The "outsourcing" element isnt really that important, after all most Row tailors outsource the actual construction to self employed coatmakers etc but doesnt stop them charging £5k plus Germany isnt exactly a low cost offshoring operation.

 

Classic shoe styles? There are many but it really depends on your personal tastes and what level of formality you want. For a start there is a list of different toes (plain, toecap, wingtip, apron, split and wholecut), different levels of broguing  and different types of closure (oxford, derby, monk, slipon) and most of these can be cross combined so you can get a monk shoe with toecap or derby wingtips with full broguing. This is all before you introduce boots to the mix :)

 

Saphir Medaille dOr supposedly stop their official retailers from selling via Amazon or eBay which is why there is limited amounts available on these types of sites. Personally the cost difference isnt enough considering how long one pot lasts me to not buy Saphir (or another highly respected brand). Personally I use creme as it gives a better colour transference and wax gives a nicer finish (and shine if its wanted). My low shine boots get just one layer of wax without the techniques for high shine. High shine there is a couple of layers of wax with an increasingly damp cloth on each layer to build up a better shine.

 

Just to be clear, are you saying that I should be getting creme and wax, and applying creme followed by wax?

post #13 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by popdop View Post
 

 

Just to be clear, are you saying that I should be getting creme and wax, and applying creme followed by wax?

It is what I personally do, but I wouldnt claim to be any expert. Creme on its own to me doesnt give a great finish even if you dont want high shine

post #14 of 21
Cream with an occasional wax also works. I dare say that beyond the essential requirement for cleaning / some form of polishing / tree usage it's really a matter of preference in the end. The main thing is that they don't end up looking scuffed, creased or with a bananalike curve, like most of my colleagues' shoes.
post #15 of 21
Thread Starter 

Well this shoe-buying business is expensive!

 

I'll receive the Cheaneys tomorrow and will try them on for fit. If they don't fit I think I'll have to head to the factory shops one weekend and get the lay of the land. I've also ordered two pairs of shoe trees and some saphir kit, bringing the cost to ~£280! I keep telling myself that the investment of the time/money today will pay dividends in the future (less cracked/cheaped/poorly maintained shoes), but I'm thinking I might hold off on new suit until I've got the shoe thing sorted.

 

Referring to my original post, despite the suits I own not exactly being inspiring, is it fair to say they're a reasonable fit at least? (I've always been told that in most circumstance fit > quality when it comes to suits, or perhaps even clothing in general).

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