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What i have learned

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by brescd01, Oct 3, 2004.

  1. brescd01

    brescd01 Senior member

    Likes Received:
    Apr 23, 2004
    I have been privately mailed with several questions about my adventures in fashion. I do not at all object to such inquiries, but just for the convenience of forum participants here and on AAAC, I will provide a summary of what I have learned in my mission to re-vamp my wardrobe, which essentially began in April. If this post is useful enough, perhaps one of the super-administrators will sticky it to the head of the posts.

    1) suits: The "bespoke versus ready-to-wear" war has been fought many times, and many magical properties are ascribed to both kinds of clothing. The real winner is....it depends. If you are an easy fit off the rack or with minimal (read inexpensive) alterations, then economics favors high-quality RTW from eBay or similar sources. One of the great contributions of these forums is the identification of "trusted sellers." My favorites are Worldclassconsignment, Honestgoods, Virtual Clothes Horse, and Worldsfinest. These are not the only trustworthy sources of clothing, but they consistently have rich selections of clothing at great prices. For Edward Greens, there is English-shoes, probably the only chance you will get to find EG's at discount short of going to Northampton. Yoox is another possibility. Bluefly good for RL-branded EG's occasionally. If you are in a metropolitan area like NYC or Boston with excellent discount stores, these are an important source.

    Bespoke has advantages and disadvantages. Practical, not theoretical, problems is that not everyone is close to a reputable tailor, it is much more expensive than discount RTW, and it takes time and fittings. For example, I just bought a grey Sartoria Castangia suit from World Class Consignment (Andrew Harris) for 600 dollars. Alterations will cost 55 dollars. In contrast, my bespoke Centofanti suit cost 2600 dollars. Practical advantages are that you get to pick exactly the fabric and model you want in bespoke and the fit is perfect (not just dimensions, but type of shoulder might be more flattering with bespoke, etc). I do not believe supposed virtues like that it lasts longer. Variables like fabric and construction makes such comparisons ridiculous. By the way, I had the same skepticism about cheap versus expensive shoes. I think bad shoes last just as long as good shoes. They just look uglier for that time, while the nice shoes look nice. I think people stack the deck by not taking care of clothing they do not like. I murdered a pair of Aldens, otherwise outstanding shoes, because of deep-seated hostility and anger towards my parents, over many years. It can be done.

    For those of you without a sense of humor, this is a joke.

    MTM is an attractive though expensive option for people close to one of the major department stores, but not a reputable tailor. Kind words have been written about MTM from Isaia, Oxxford, and Zegna. All things taken into consideration I live in Philadelphia and have spent an average of 1000 dollars on my jackets and 1500 dollars on my suits. Watch for postings by Andrew Harris in particular on the subject of suits. Mark Grayson, the pseudonym of the most controversial figure on either forum AAAC or SF, has written quite a bit of useful things about various tailors. He is histrionic so his posts have to be taken in that spirit. Be aware, he has a personal vendetta against an English-style tailor who is expensive but has an impeccable reputation, Leonard Logsdail, of NYC. This tailor's gimmick is that he measures you in NYC and the suits are actually made in France and on Saville Row. Two darlings of the forums are Darren of Saville Row and Raphael of NYC. I do not doubt either of these tailor's talents, but be aware that Darren participates generously in the forums and so has inspired a lot of good will. There are other more quiescent tailors who are just as good. His prices are probably the most advantageous of the Saville Row-type tailors though.

    2) shoes: the king is Edward Green. Even on the Internet they look nicer than any other brand. CJ Handgrades are the runner-up, and considerably less expensive ($500 dollars versus $700 dollars). Each of us has our comfort level and mine is 350 dollars max. For this price good options are Alfred Sargent Premier or Knightsbridge lines, Grenson Masterpieces, Albaladejo (very hard to get), and Aldens. I used to think Aldens were well-made but clunky. A shop devoted to Aldens called Aldens of Carmel sells special stylish models that solve this problem. My personal favorites are Alfred Sargents because of the variety of models they sell and their excellent quality-to-price ratio. Their lowest line, Classic, based on the horsebit loafer I bought, are well-priced and constructed, but the leather used is comparable to Kenneth Cole. Avoid this line unless you see the model you want in person or you just want something for knock-around. I have not mentioned John Lobb because these are hard to find, expensive, and most people consider them inferior to EG. This precis applies only to RTW: bespoke is a different animal about which I am not qualified to say anything. Very few will pursue bespoke shoes, though this may be an important option for someone with orthopedic peculiarities. I also have glossed over Italian shoes. Quality Italians are hard to find at discount. The highest quality (Santoni Fato a mano and Lattanzi) are over 1000 at full price. I spend an average of 280 dollars for shoes. Pediwear is an excellent source of AS's and CJ's via the web. Jcusey is the undisputed master of shoes: watch for his posts to learn more.

    3) shirts: I am no expert on the vaguaries of shirt construction. I can appreciate good fabric, comfortable and flattering fit, and single-needle tailoring and solid construction like well-sewn-on buttons. There are those for whom only bespoke or MTM fit will do. Ascot Chang has been repeatedly recommended. I can say from personal experience that from the standpoint of web orders Liste Rouge has to be easiest. The champion from virtually every perspective is Jantzen, whose shirts are cheap ($45) but whose customer-service is appalling. The main drawback is the web site and fabric selection, which is really impossible, and the owner is very reluctant to send swatches. There are many wonderful shirts RTW: Borrelli, Barba, and Lorenzini are frequently available at discount from the above recommended sellers. I spend an average of 120 dollars per shirt. Shirtmaven, a low-priced shirtmaker in NYC who runs Cega shirts, is an expert on shirt construction. I would recommend him except that I have never used him and he will not do anything by internet or through the mail. If you are in NYC, he has been universally praised and you should give him a visit.

    4) slacks: After a long Land's End MTM adventure, I do not recommend them. I benefited from the experience because I have an inexpensive pair of pants with perfect measurements I can have coppied elsewhere. But the fabrics are really cheap. I currently am having two pairs made bespoke and I just ordered 2 pairs Incotex (the king of slacks according to everyone) and one pair Barba from one of the sellers listed above. We will see how this goes.

    5) underwear and socks: Several posters have complimented Nordstrom's, Target Merrina, and Brooks Brother for t-shirts. Pantherella is the king of socks supposedly, Zimmerli the king of briefs. Sierra Trading Post is an excellent source of discounted Pantherellas and discounted luxury briefs from competitors of Zimmerli like Sunspel or Calida.

    6) ties: the champion is not so much a brand as a type, the seven-fold, and in my uneducated opinion these really are better. I love Carlo Franco brand, a web-based company that designs various clothing items from a connoisseurs' perspective. Their shirts are excellent too, though there is a very limited selection (I think only 4 fabric choices). Socks and pants are supposedly in the works. Kiton and Barbera also make seven folds, available at discount from the above sellers.

    7) leather goods: some forum participants have a knowledge about various items that borders on the maniacal, and leather is no exception. The less I say the better.

    I have my own little innovation to contribute: where does one put all your purchases? Organize Everything is a much less expensive Internet source for storage items than Hold Everything, the yuppie darling. Shoe hangers, for example 80 dollars at Hold Everything, were only 15 dollars at Organize Everything.

    So, to sum up what I have learned, had I to do everything over, I would have started with slacks rather than finished, then I would have bought shirts, and then suits and jackets. If you are ambitious, you will find a way to cajole Ricky of Jantzen to send you fabric swatches (if I had made Jantzen a going proposition at $45 dollars/shirt, think of how much I could have saved over my average $120/shirt). And there are some shoe models I could have skipped. Ordering over the Internet is not perfect.

  2. Alias

    Alias Senior member

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    Oct 7, 2003
    Washington DC
    Your findings are pretty close to mine with regards to suits and shoes. My C&J Handgrade Audleys are simply just as durable as my pair of rubber-soled Rockports, but are less fun to wear in the rain. I think I'll be buying more tough, rubber-soled shoes for those days when I find myself walking uphill on jagged concrete, which happens quite often when I'm going through Seoul's older neighborhoods.

    Seeing as how I can't fit very well in off-the-rack suits, I'm sticking with the tailor I know. However, I might try an MTM program at the department store. Last I checked, prices for a domestic brand MTM started at around $600 for a decent half-canvassed. (Of course, there's also the Zegna store.)

  3. ROT

    ROT Senior member

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    Sep 29, 2004
    Richmond, Virginia USA
    Wow. Thanks for the post, brescd01. I found your notes to be very helpful. I'll agree with your idea that off-the-peg is a valid and less expensive option if you're an easy fit (I am.) Having said that, I've always wanted to go bespoke, but haven't been able to make the financial plunge.

    Until that day, any opinions about RTW suits that are the best in terms of construction? That fused chest piece has always bothered me.. .just waiting for it to buckle one day. Or am I looking at MTM? I thought I'd try Land's End half-canvassed, but I'm hesitant.

    The shoe issue is something I know very little about, but am looking forward to trying out a pair of EG's.

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