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How many suits do you really NEED vs. OWN?

Alan Bee

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As a New Yorker with limited closet space, I try to get by with a very small selection. I have four worsted business suits: charcoal, navy pinstripe, mid grey, and solid navy. Then I have two glen-check linen suits which can also be worn with odd trousers. Finally, I have three sport coats: brown houndstooth, plain navy, and "fun" dark grey check. So that's six suits and three sport coats for 9 jackets in all. In the hottest days of summer, I am restricted to four of these, but that is not much of a limitation. I basically have to wear solid navy twice a week, which is fine. I feel that I don't need any more, and I'm actually stumped as to what to get next (I mean, green herringbone obviously but I can't find the perfect one).

And if I can pontificate for a moment, I feel that a small wardrobe fits better with my personal ethic of classic menswear. For me, it is less about having the perfect pairings, and more about having quality clothing that I will care for and use until it wears out. If I were to have enough clothing so that I would always have the perfect item to pair, I would need to own vastly more clothes than I could ever wear through in my lifetime. And at that point, buying durable, well-constructed clothing and shoes loses much of its practical purpose. I want my wardrobe to be grounded in practically and value, and to achieve that aim, I need to use every item I have to its fullest extent.

Every item also has its own story as it ages - shoes moreso than other items. I think the hobby of fine leather shoes is similar to having a fishtank. It looks very boring to the visitor who only sees a snapshot of the finished product, but the owner sees a deeper story of how it has changed over time. Developing a shoe's patina is an obvious example, but developing one's sense of how to wear a particular jacket or trouser can be just as deep. The different alterations that I have done to my jackets make them "old friends" that have a history with me over my lifetime. On Saturday, I just sent in the jacket that I wore to my wedding for alterations. When I wear it, I think back to my wedding vows, a family vacation, etc. I think about how I wear it differently now than I did when I first purchased it, because I myself have changed.

I like classic menswear because the items of clothing are not disposable - they are meant to be chosen carefully, worn hard, cared for, and repaired. For me, personally, I find it more rewarding to work with a small wardrobe. This is a personal preference, and I don't think it's better in any objective way compared to someone else like Alan Bee who has a large wardrobe - these are just different ways to enjoy the hobby.
@coldsalmon @smittycl

No question in my book about the economy and utility of a well curated capsule wardrobe. Particularly if one were constrained as you are, to the living quarters in NYC. I lived in NYC many years.

Like many, I began my journey into CM buying high end RTW like Kiton, Borrelli, etc at very deep discounts online and at outlets. Then graduated onto Oxxford MTM and the occasional odd Bespoke piece. Due to my figure (12-14 inch coat drop, athletic thighs & glutes), nothing ever quite fit including the Oxxford MTM. I arrived the point of frustration where a I grabbed everything in my wardrobe, a made a big pile, and gave it away to a younger protege of mine.

I sat down and asked myself, what would an ideal wardrobe look like? And I began a hypothetical journey of creating one on paper just as something "to do". Well, like many on here afflicted with OCD, that something "to do" became a project which has taken me around the world, taught me things I could never even imagine, and introduced me into a world far removed from my world of high finance.

Overall I am a better person for it and like you said, when I look at my wardrobe, I don't see just clothes. I see a story of my many trips to Europe, the faces I met, the nights out in Chaia, Napoli, the various Pitti Uomo attendances, fittings at Maison Bonnet in Paris amongst many others in Florence, Milano, Roma and Napoli.

So in conclusion, you are very correct about the story behind what is merely visible to the casual onlooker. I can not imagine that buying a large wardrobe off the rack at say, Saks 5th Avenue or Bergedorf Goodman in NY, or even Harrods in London, will give the same satisfaction and create indelible memories. I consider myself indeed very fortunate to have had the benefit of this experience and every item in that wardrobe I know intimately. I can recall even the smallest moments where I was negotiating with the vintage dealer for a 2.5 meter piece of cloth for a Tweed jacket - out of the trunk of his car in the middle of a park in Napoli. Or arguing with my old Neapolitan tailor for hours over the most minute detail during a fitting, then stepping out to the balcony to share a cigar with him like we hadn't just fought inside (I always bring him a cigar).

Go figure :)

Above all, this is the joy of building a broad and comprehensive wardrobe. Utility and variety are simply an added benefit and merely incidental.

Alan Bee
 
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FlyingMonkey

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It's odd seeing this thread lurch into some kind of life again. I posted on it when I had just arrived here and didn't know all that much. Since then I've been through the standard lifecycle of CM posters, going from vintage and ebay and SF 'bargains' through bespoke and out the other side. I wear suits only when I want to really - basically when teaching undergrads (I like to keep a certain professional distance) or when giving major presentations and big conferences or industry / government events. Otherwise I rarely even put on a tie these days and half the time, even at work, I'm wearing the same kind of mix of Japanese workwear I wear at home.

For financial reasons, I had to stop having anything bespoke when we started building our house and that was that. When I was still getting stuff made, the best choice I ever made was actually to go with the flow here and get a couple of CM's old favourite 'blazer suits' (SB suits with blazer-style patch-pockets) made in Minnis Fresco (one RAF blue and one the forum's own custom tobacco - 2nd version). Along with a lightweight blue and white cotton suit from Isaia, these are still the suits I wear most often when I need to take suits on my travels or the warmer 6 months of the year. I have five suits I wear most in Fall to Winter - a beautiful Polo RL navy pinstripe, a grey flannel with subtle purple overcheck from Dunhill, a gorgeous DB in PoW check from Salvatore Feragamo (from another forum member), and a couple of vintage early 1960s London worsted 3-pieces (a DB in RAF blue and SB in mid grey) from a vanished tailor, acquired on a whim from ebay. And then for the depths of winter, I have a couple of bespoke heavier tweed suits, both of which are a little flamboyant (Dashing Tweeds fabric). I also have a black tie rig, which I have worn twice ever, and both times I was overdressed.

That's 12 suits - all of which I like. And that's fundamentally the only reason I still have them. So I guess, looking back on my first post in this thread, that although the numbers have change, the reasons haven't changed that much.
 

IJReilly

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I need one suit, since it’s required for formal meetings at work about once a week (I could probably get away with a sports coat, but it wouldn’t feel right to me). I own two, a navy for formal occasions and a brown one just because I think it’s a beautiful garment. I wear it casually, but also formally sometime if the occasion is right.
 

coldsalmon

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Can you really repair CM studf though (except shoes but when upper start to crack it’s all just sentimental value)

I can see repairing workwear, but suits or dress pants other than changing lining if they really need to be repaired they probably need to be let go...
The zipper on a pair of my Gap trousers disintegrated a few weeks ago. I threw them in the garbage and bought another pair for $20. If the zipper on my suit had broken, I would have repaired it. Some damage is irreparable of course, but it's all a matter of degree.

@Alan Bee a lovely sentiment beautifully expressed! My own "personal preference" is of course largely a matter making a virtue of necessity.
 

clee1982

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Zipper agree but fundamentally what’s their to repair in CM, you can’t patch it like you do in workwear (you can patch it physically but if it’s a business suit I would not recommend it)
 

smittycl

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Can you really repair CM studf though (except shoes but when upper start to crack it’s all just sentimental value)

I can see repairing workwear, but suits or dress pants other than changing lining if they really need to be repaired they probably need to be let go...
I get rid of them as well. I can have seams fixed, collars reattached and such but if there is a noticeable tear or stain then I let it go.
 

Alan Bee

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I think we could use some liven up the thread with commentary from @dieworkwear. He's in the habit of upsetting the apple cart ........ just a little bit. Which I quite like :)

Alan Bee
 

smittycl

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Okay, more detail: I wear a suit or sport coat and tie daily. Didn't start dressing like an adult until later in life and embraced it not only for work but as a hobby. I do like to experiment, though, and went through a mini-Dirnelli journey through as many makers as I could get my hands on.

For standard Navy and grays I wear Oxxford, BBGF, Hickey Freeman, Zegna and RLBL/RLPL. I'll mix in some lighter blues from Canali and a brown from Partenopea. For summer suits I like unlined fresco or other thin wool. I really don't like cotton suiting, it wears hot (to me at least). Have some featherweight summer suits from Sartorio, Eidos, Canali and Kent Wang. For winter I wear some heavier-weighted fabrics from Paul Stuart, BB and one Santandrea. I like to cover the bases and have solids, plaids and pinstripes in the various categories.

Sport coats run from the go-to Oxxford navy blazer to solids and bolder patterns (except pinstripes. Maybe only for rowing blazers?). Linen blends for summer and tweedier stuff for cold weather. Overcoats run from nicer cashmere from Sartorio and Zegna to wool workhorses from BB. Pea coats and other casual stuff from Billy Reid, Canali, Zegna, LBM 1911 and such. Trenches from BBBF and Burberry (am seriously eyeing Coherence and Private White).

Lots of fun mixing it up. Clothes flow like a river for me and I'll pass things on that I get tired of without too much emotion involved. Luckily my son is my size. Commissioning a suit this Friday with Steed here in DC. Wintry gray flannel with light overplaid from Fox Bros!
 

scurvyfreedman

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I have four lighter weight suits that can be worn most of three seasons, but definitely all spring and summer (double breasted navy fresco, navy hopsack, light brown windowpane, grey POW). I also have three heavier weight suits that can be worn all fall and winter (double breasted pin-stripe twill, charcoal pinstripe twill, mid-grey chalk stripe worsted flannel). I have three fall-winter sport coats (green/grey herringbone tweed, navy cashmere, camelhair cashmere) and two spring-summer sport coats (navy, creme/light blue/rust check). Finally, I have one single breasted, one button, peak lapel dinner suit.
 

Fishbone

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I own 14 suits

3P
Brown pinstripe
Charcoal solid
Navy solid
Charcoal tweed herringbone
Navy pinstripe

DB
Nazy Solid
Charcoal Checkered
Green Solid

SB
Black solid
Black solid
Charcoal solid
Blue Checkered
Navy solid

In addition to these suits I own 3 sportcoats and 4-6 pairs of trousers.

All are MTM, except for my black suits which are OTP, and my Navy DB suit that is bespoke from Henry Poole. I am moving to Florida soon in which I am quite worried if I will get to be dapper without being weird(I am Japanese and live in Japan which it is normal to be dapper)
 

clee1982

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Owned too many, if being realistic, probably <5 suits would do...
 

7_rocket

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I wear a suit less than 5 times a year if that. I own a charcoal and a light grey for my up coming wedding. I would say I need ONE suit for my purposes, but I would WANT a Charcoal and a Navy just to break things up.
 

SS 376

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I wear suits 4-5 days a week. I'd say I only need 3, but I own (I think) 9-10. I try to be intentional about what I own and wear, so I do wear all of them, though 3-4 are seasonal. To me, if you're in a business casual office, you likely only need 1 or 2 suits. It seems a waste in terms of money and closet space to have a slew of suits if you're only wearing them a couple times a year.
 

IJReilly

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I own two, and I need two. One for super formal occasions and one for a bit less formal. Usually I wear a suit once or twice a week. I generally prefer a casual, brown suit to a sports coat. Just think it's more stylish. Both are from Saman Amel.
 

ezev

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I owned 3 but wear only 1. When I moved I took only the 1, a navy Suit Supply Havana suit. That thing is a workhorse for me, I wore it to 10 weddings last year, accompanying engagement parties, and chopped up the dance floor, only split the pants once. I like the idea of a suit more than I need to since I work in a very casual environment.
 

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