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New Member
Sep 2, 2006
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OK before I get heckled, I needed a suit for an interview and went to Men's Wearhouse - I needed it cheap and fast. Which is what I got - I did get the job so I am happy enough with the purchase. But I need some help on suits, suit quality, and what to look for.

Just a brief history, for years I was a jeans and t-shit guy, partially due to my field of work. Well a few years ago I was doing more office work than field work and I decided to try this "˜Dress for Success' thing. I know that is partially a joke but based on my experience I think there is a lot of truth to it (personally and personally)

Anyway, over the years I bought some pants and shirts from stores like Gap, Land's End, Territory Ahead, Sears's, Kohls, etc...this was partially predicated by money. Also, I was just trying out stuff - what colors looked good, what felt right, and so on. I also threw away all but my running sneakers and forced myself to wear shoes - now keep in mind they are not 500 dollar shoes, I started off with Doc Martins and some other cool looking shoes, I just needed to start to change.

Ok fast forward a few years, I look a billion times better than I used to. I do find dressing up at work has given me a level of respect and it seems like women really respond to the clothes. (I am also somewhat in shape, have good hygiene, and some great manners when I need to)

OK - so now, I want to bring it up a notch (BAM). I am almost ready to venture into a Brookstone type of store. I did purchase a pair of pants from Simon's in Boston and man they are comfortable. So, in the next few years I want to fill my closet with better quality clothes, and like 2 or 3 really nice suits and donate the Gap stuff to a thrift store.

Can you guys help me? Can you lead me to other websites, magazines, books were I can start my research? I skimmed magazines like GQ, Men's Vogue, Men's Health, Ebony (I'm a white dude, but some of those brothers looked good), Esquire, and Maxim
they didn't really help. I am moving to Portland, Oregon so if there any places in Portland or Seattle that I could start going to that would be awesome!

What I am looking for is stuff like:

What makes a good suit, a good shirt, a good pair of pants and ideas of where people shop and what people look for.

What to you look for in a suit

Different brand names and what they mean (like is it a faux pas to buy a suit from Macy's or Nordstom's) I am not a label whore, it would be nice to have knowledge of what I am talking about. And then I can start looking for bargains

Ebay (There is an Armani suit in my size for like 200 bucks - does that make sense, or is it a scam???)

Any thing else that could help?

Thanks in advance if any one responds!!!!


Senior Member
Sep 2, 2006
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if what you have has been working for you, you can take the time to build a really high quality wardrobe.

First things first, no more Men's Wearhouse, no Jos. A Bank, no Brooks Brothers, no T. Hilfigger, no Abboud. What I am saying is don't buy anymore glued suits. Fused suit jackets, those whose inner lining (the guts that give your jacket shape and drape) is glued to the outer fabric. These are the marks of mass-marketing and don't hold up for the long-haul. Considerably more expensive than what you have been buying, but not worth the money in my opinion.

What do you look for? "Sewn-in floating chest peice" is the term you want to use. This is the single hallmark of buying a quality made suit. I don't sell suits for a living, but I ascribe to what you have learned. People respond well to the well-dressed man.

Specifically, what you want in styling is a two or three button front suit (if a three button, then one where the middle button doe all of the fastening - not the top two). Also, the jacket should fit closely to the body without any pulling lines, or sqeazing you and making a bulge around your middle. Lastly, armholes are higher now and these may feel a bit constricting in comparison to your MW goods. Follow these styling clues and you will look like a page out of your recent reference mags.

Brands to look for: Hickey-Freeman, Samuelsohn, Corneliani, Ermengilda Zegn, Oxxford. These makers are traditional, but have updated their lines to make them very current in fashion. If you stay in shape expect 8 - 10 years wear.
These garments at full retail are at least $900 to $1800 for an off the rack, in-stock suit. With a little bit of tailoring for sleeve length, proper placement of the button to close the jacket front, and proper fitment of the trouser waist and hem, you will end up looking like a million bucks.

Where to start? Go to an independent men's store in your area that sells one of these brands. This is like shopping for a car that you really want and may or not be able to afford. It won't hurt to look, and someone whose sole llivelihood relies on the success of his shop will take the time to steer you towards a garment that fits you.

Right now we are still in the season where many of these independent men's shops are clearing their spring season merchandise. You will likeley find discounts from 20% to maybe even 75%, depending upon the retailer's motivation to clear-out goods that might have hung around for two-years.

If you are on a budget you may find the H-Fs at Nordstrom Rack. Look for the Madison model in a two or three button front. You can expect to get H-F for a 40% discount.

Some of the longer-term members here live and breathe for a good deal. Nothing wrong with that, but I wouldn't touch anything from eBay until I had a well established wardrobe and could gamble with my money. If you end up in NYC then you can look around for a phenominal find, but I wouldn't let that aspiration hold me up from starting to build a quality wardrobe now.

Shoe, shirts and ties...this post is already way too long.

Hope this long posts proves helpful to you. It best describes what I do.



Stylish Dinosaur
Dubiously Honored
Apr 21, 2005
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You've found the right site. This and Ask Andy About Clothes are the two best for the sort of info you're seeking, I think. Welcome.

Here's a basic primer on suits I wrote a while back, with a few additions. It's nothing great, as I wrote it quickly to answer a few basic questions. But you might find it helpful:

Construction quality is the key to a great suit. Best-quality suits have a "floating" canvas inside the jacket, to give the coat its shape and help it mold to the body. Lesser suits are fused, meaning they are held together with a glue-like fusible. Poor quality suits feel stiff and hard because of this fusing, which can even "bubble" and render the suit fit only for the trash bin. In between you'll find suits that combine fusing and canvas. A suit might have canvas lapels, for example, to give the lapels a more attractive "roll." Not all fused suits are bad -- some can be very decent -- but full canvassing is a prerequisite for a truly exceptional suit.

You won't find a fully canvassed suit at Men's Wearhouse or low-end department stores. Those are fully fused. Even partially canvassed suits don't come cheap these days. Some of Polo's suits, the made-in-Italy ones with the blue Polo label, are partially canvassed, and can often be found at bargain prices at stores such as Marshall's. They can make for a good starter suit.

To tell if a jacket is fully canvassed, pinch the fabric below the bottom buttonhole on the inside and outside. Gently pull the cloth apart. Can you feel a separate third layer inside? The layer in the middle is the canvassing. It won't be there on a fused suit.

A few other things to look for/know: Top-quality suits are expensive partly because they contain a good amount of handwork. The armhole inside the jacket, for example, will be handsewn -- look for small sewing irregularities instead of the smooth regularity of machine stitching. You won't find this on low-end department store models. The more handwork, the more expensive the suit.

Also, feel the fabric. Does it have a nice hand? Does it feel soft and smooth to the touch? Cheap suits use cheap cloth, and it's very easy to tell the difference once you've handled a few of each.

Check the lapels. Good suits have beautiful lapels that roll gently to the buttons. Cheap suits usually have lapels that are pressed flat, so that they form a hard "V". Similarly, nicer suits have nicer buttons. Are the buttons obviously a single-color plastic? Bad sign.

Look inside the trousers. How does the stitching look? Is it nicely finished or ragged? Is there extra material to let the waist out? Good trousers will have a "split" in the middle of the back of the waistband, to facilitate alterations.

The key step: Try the coat on. Does it feel good? Does the chest feel soft? Does the jacket move well with your body? Fused coats once were known for being stiff and unpleasant, but they don't need to be these days. At the very least, any decent suit will feel good to wear. Stay far away from any coat that is stiff or unpleasant. It will only bring you misery.

Finally, fit is king. If you can't afford a top-end coat, just make sure to buy one that fits, and you'll look better than 99 percent of guys. The key areas to look for are the chest, shoulders and length. Those are difficult to alter, while a tailor can easily take in a waist, say, or shorten the sleeves.

eBay can be a good way to get suits at bargain prices, but it can also be tricky. Some of the big names -- Zegna, Armani, etc. -- are counterfeited heavily. I would avoid NWT items from Asian countries for this reason, at least until you learn to recognize the fakes. But there are brands that are pretty safe: Oxxford is vastly undervalued on eBay, and pretty much never faked, for example.

Other good sources for deals are Sierra Trading Post and stores such as Filene's Basement. You can find top-quality suits for pennies on the dollar.

Before you go online to shop, I'd strongly suggest you go to some high-end stores, if you can and haven't already, to try on a variety of brands. An Oxxford fits much differently than a Canali or Brioni, for example. You'll want to find one that works well for your body type. I'm tall and thin, and I like Corneliani. But it might not work so well for a shorter, stocky guy.

Good luck with this. Check out the archives here and at Ask Andy. There's a huge wealth of information. And as questions arise, we'll be here to help.

(Sorry for droning on so long.)


Distinguished Member
Sep 13, 2004
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FIT is in my opinion the most important thing of all

Other posters are also correct that construction including canvassing (sewn chest piece, handwok, etc) is important, but this is a new journey that you are embarking on. As someone who has undergone a similar experience in the past few years, I would suggest a few points

1.\tFigure out what type of style you are going for. This allows you to buy pieces which will give you a cohesive look as you assemble your wardrobe. Even though they may all be high quality pieces, an Oxxford suit with a wide spread collar shirt with a Hermes tie and some Prada chelseas will likely not look well put together. In order to get the most ”bang for your buck”, try and understand the elements that go well together in for example a traditional American look, or an English look, etc and buy pieces accordingly. This may seem confusing at first, but you are on the right track looking at magazines and advertisements to see what types of brands stand out to you. Don’t look at the brand name, but rather the clothes and which ones you consistently like. You should then feel free to ask advice here. For example, “I really like the aesthetic of this Gieves blazer. Can someone recommend a shirt collar to go with it?”

2.\tFit- Know your measurements, and know what proper fit means. For example, if you are buying some flat front slim dress trousers, know that you should not have them cuffed and that the bottom should be slightly slanted to the back and that you want just a bit of break in them. Know how the shoulders should fit on a suit, and how long your sleeves should be. There are many articles about this on this site, and if you do a search you will be able to find some good stuff. 90% of the men out there are wearing suits that don’t fit them. If you get this down, you are already ahead of the pack. When you see a well dressed man on the street or in a magazine, it is not their luxurious cloth that jumps out first, or the canvassed chest piece. It is the fact that their clothes fit.

3.\tTailor – Find yourself a good tailor. They need not be expensive, but they should know and understand your desires on “fit” This cost is the best spent one of all. Some will disagree with me here, but I stand firm. A guy in a well tailored Men’s Warehouse suit paired with a well cut shirt and decent looking tie will look 10 times better than a Kiton suit which is the wrong size, but purchased because it was “on sale”, badly altered, with an ugly ass Hermes tie.

4.\tKnow how to put it together. Understand color and pattern matching. Learn to use pocket squares and tie knots. These are the small things that people cant put their finger on, but will make you consistently “well dressed”

5.\tEnjoy yourself and don’t take things too seriously. By reading this board you may get the impression that you need 500 dollar shoes, 300 dollar jeans or custom shirts to look good. Keep in mind that for most of us this is a passion, but these things are not necessary to be well dressed and look good. Find the clothing you like, wear it correctly, carry yourself well, and you are there.



Well-Known Member
Oct 11, 2004
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You guys have summarized years of experience. i think we should create a quick and dirty guide to good dressing. with this and a little more we can do it.

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