Where To Look First for a Suit (Part Two)

Finding the right suit can be really difficult if you’re not familiar with the terrain. And even when you are, it can still be hard. So I’ve put together a loosey-goosey guide on where one might want to look first for a good suit, given certain budgets. Yesterday, I covered stuff under $1,000. Today, I’ll talk about brands at the four-digit mark (either on sale or at full-retail prices). Again, many thanks to my friends listed at the end of this post for helping me put this together.

For a budget between ~$1,000 and ~$2,500

  • Ralph Lauren: Ralph Lauren’s Polo line (also known as their “Blue Label” line) has safe, but flattering cuts. They’re made in Italy and constructed from great fabrics.
  • Brooks Brothers Black Fleece: Brooks Brothers’ premium line, designed by Thom Browne. The jackets run a bit short (some being a bit more extreme than others), but if you’re a man of slightly shorter stature, these can be a nice buy. Like with most things at Brooks Brothers, you can reliably count on their 25% off sales. Black Fleece often gets discounted even further, especially at the end of the season. 
  • Sartoria Formosa: A famous bespoke tailoring house in Naples that is now offering a small ready-to-wear line. Style is very Neapolitan with soft shoulders and wide lapels, and construction quality is very high (e.g. lots of handwork).
  • Ring Jacket: A Japanese line with a bit of Italian styling. They’re not easy to find outside of Japan, but The Armoury and Khakis of Carmel are two stockists. Cuts are slightly fashionable, but not in a way that would look out of place in an office environment. 
  • Eidos Napoli: An interesting new line designed by Antonio Ciongoli, who formally designed for Michael Bastian and Ralph Lauren. Very Italian in style, and comes in at a very competitive price point, given the quality offered. You can find a list of stockists here.
  • Sid Mashburn: Slightly fashion forward suits with a lower rise trouser and shorter coat. If you’re going for a slightly trendier look, these can be a good option. Many have also said good things about Sid Mashburn’s made-to-measure service.
  • Lots of Italian brands: There are a ton of high-end Italian brands here that can be had on discount if you wait for end-of-season sales. Try looking for Zegna (their Milano and Roma cuts are nice), Canali, Caruso, Corneliani, Belvest, Boglioli, and Sartoria Partenopea. The retail prices of some of these will be high, but you can find them on sale through boutiques such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Barney’s New York, and Shop the Finest. You can also check each brand’s stores, as some will have their own shops. Again, the key is waiting for sales.

For a budget above ~$2,500

  • Ready to wear: The world of nice suits in this range is perhaps too big to cover. Just to start, however, you can find really great ready-to-wear models from companies such as Isaia, Kiton, BrioniAttolini, and Oxxford. All those will have good made-to-measure options too if you need something customized. If you don’t want to play the sales game, you’ll also find many of the Italian labels listed in the last category being offered here at full retail.  
  • Bespoke: In this price range, you’ll start to find some very good bespoke options. Again, that’s a topic that’s too big to cover in this post, but you can begin by checking out some of the bespoke tailoring houses talked about at StyleForum. Popular ones include WW Chan, Steed Bespoke, English Cut, Napoli Su Misura, and Rubinacci. The upside to these operations is that they regularly travel to different cities around the world, which makes it easier to get really high-end bespoke tailoring if you’re not able to regularly visit England, Italy, or Hong Kong (where these tailors are based). Savile Row tailors are also excellent, and many travel. You can find a partial list of the tailors there at the Savile Row Bespoke Association. Lastly, don’t forget to search your own local area for good tailors, as it’s not only good to support local craftsmanship, but it can be helpful to work with someone nearby. 

Ending Note

It’s worth stressing that this list isn’t meant to cover every worthwhile suit in each price tier. It’s a list of suggestions of where you might want to look first if you’re in the market to buy a suit or sport coat. As usual, fit is going to be most important, so while a $2,500 suit might be better built than a $750 one, it’s best to try on as much as you can. A perfectly fitting suit that’s fused will look a hundred times better than something fully-canvassed, but ill-fitting. Use our guides on fit and style when shopping around. Once you develop your eye, you’ll soon find what works best for you. 

(Special thanks to La Casuarina, A Bit of Color, This Fits, Ivory Tower Style, Réginald-Jérôme de Mans, and Breathnaigh for their help with this article. Also, credit to Ralph Lauren and Voxsartoria for the photos above. The Ralph Lauren photo is of a Polo suit, while Voxsartoria is wearing a bespoke 4x1 double breasted jacket by Steed, and bespoke trousers by Napoli Su Misura).

Flecked Sweaters for Fall

I don’t know if it’s too early to talk about knitwear, but I’ve been thinking about flecked sweaters a lot lately. Sometimes these are called speckled sweaters, sometimes Donegal sweaters, and sometimes even tweed sweaters. Not because they’re actually from Donegal (a county in Ireland), but because the irregular flecks of color on these yarns are reminiscent of the region’s hallmark tweeds.

The nice thing about flecked sweaters is that they can add a bit of visual interest where a solid knit might be too boring. I find this useful when wearing a sweater alone (over a shirt, but without a jacket). There’s just something about a very smooth, plain-colored merino, worn with wool or cotton trousers, that can sometimes feel a bit too uninspired (though, they do work well underneath tailored sport coats).

There are a number of brands with flecked sweaters this fall. At the top of the price pyramid end is Inis Meain, who makes them in a pure cashmere and wool-cashmere blend. Those are available at A Suitable Wardrobe, Barneys New York, Manufactum, and Frans Boone. Inis Meain makes some of my favorite knitwear in the world, and I find their quality to be unsurpassed, but their popularity in Japan and Europe has made them very expensive. If you’re not deterred by the price, Barney’s also has a few half zip sweaters by Fioroni worth considering.

For something a bit more affordable, check out these options by Drumohr, Billy Reid, Saturdays Surf NYC, APC, and Orvis. J Crew also has something on sale through their Wallace & Barnes line, and an extra 25% can be taken off at the moment with the checkout code FALLSTYLE. Perhaps most promising are these Howlin’ by Morrison Shetlands, which come in light grey, charcoal, and red (I really dig the light grey, personally). 

There’s also a range of Irish makers, none of whom I have any direct experience with. If you’re open to giving them a try, a quick Google search will reveal a number of retailers. Maybe start with Aran Sweater Market, Aran Sweater Shop, and Magee. This seller on eBay also has a range of intriguing options starting at $70.

Most affordable of all is J Crew’s mainline. They’ve done a number of these sweaters in the past and you can still find many of them floating around on eBay. J Crew’s knits, from my experience, stretch out pretty easily, but if the price is right, they can be a good buy. This one, for example, is available for $30 (the cut looks pretty boxy though). Mr. Porter also has this blue version brand new for $90. That’ll probably make it to their end-of-season sale, where it’ll be discounted by 50-70%. 

We Got It For Free: First & Company Coat Wallet

A few months ago, I received a coat wallet from First & Company, a relatively new leather goods upstart based in Southern California. I’ve wanted a coat wallet for some time now. My usual card case and money clip combination feels too dinky with a proper coat, so I’ve used this on occasions when I’ve worn a dress coat out. Not to say that coat wallets can only be worn with dress coats, but they do have a dressier sensibility to me that makes them better suited with tailored clothing.

I admit my first impressions were a bit mixed. On the one hand, the wallet feels great. The Italian nubuck leather is very soft and lush, and the wallet is a pleasure to handle between the fingers. I also like the simple and attractive design. There are six slots for credit cards, a flap sleeve for paper currency, and two internal pockets for miscellanea. I’ve been using this on trips abroad and have found the multiple slots useful for organizing paper money, jotted down notes, and folded up receipts.

I also like that the construction itself looks very clean. The leather is hand cut, but the pieces themselves are machine stitched. That might seem like a downside to people who think everything in the world must be handmade, but really each technique can lend different benefits. A hand-sewn saddle stitch can be more durable than machine-made stitches, but hand-sewn leather goods can look a bit rough-hewn if they’re not done well. I like that First & Company’s machine-sewn wallet looks very clean and elegant. You may also notice that the leather on the edges have been turned inward. This yields a more attractive and durable edge, since you won’t get the two leathers’ edges separating over time.

On the other hand, the threads used are pretty basic and untreated, and I was worried that they might break at some point. I told First & Company I’d review their wallet only after I put in at least three months of good use. Well, those three months have passed and this wallet shows no sign of wear or tear. I think it’s fair to say my initial skepticism might have been unfounded.

At the time I received the wallet, their price point was lower than where it is now. I was actually interested in reviewing it for readers precisely because this seemed like a potentially great deal. First & Company recently had to raise their prices, however. The wallet is now being sold at $195, which kind of expensive. If you have that kind of scratch, I think this is just as nice (if not nicer) than the house brand wallet I recently handled at Barney’s. A step up would be those made by companies such as Deakin & Francis or Valextra. There, the leather quality, stitching, and finishing are a bit better, but they cost double, if not more, than First & Company’s. For readers who want something a bit more affordable, I recommend Saddleback Leather Company, Frank Clegg Leatherworks, and Chester Mox. Not everything they sell is low-priced, but they do have some affordable wallets if you look around. The only thing is they don’t have coat wallets, for which if you have $195, First & Company sells a pretty decent option.

Barney’s Warehouse Sale Online
For the first time this year, Barney’s is offering its famous (perhaps too famous) Warehouse Sale online. There’s a ton of stuff for slightly-more-than-seasonal discounts in the range of 50-60%. Perhaps most notable are a surprising array of Crockett & Jones shoes for half price, which makes them less than $300, an exceptional deal.
We’ve taken the liberty of culling the herd a little bit for you with this link, which picks out a few of our favorite brands and gets you past the email collector at the front door of the website.

Barney’s Warehouse Sale Online

For the first time this year, Barney’s is offering its famous (perhaps too famous) Warehouse Sale online. There’s a ton of stuff for slightly-more-than-seasonal discounts in the range of 50-60%. Perhaps most notable are a surprising array of Crockett & Jones shoes for half price, which makes them less than $300, an exceptional deal.

We’ve taken the liberty of culling the herd a little bit for you with this link, which picks out a few of our favorite brands and gets you past the email collector at the front door of the website.

Q & A: Where to Shop For Men’s Clothes in San Francisco?
Chris writes from Germany: Next month, I’ll be in California for vacation and would like to get some recommendations for stores and boutiques in San Francisco that sell unique and classy clothes like the ones you cover in your blog.  I would be thrilled if you guys could offer some suggestions.
It just so happens that I’m a native of the ‘Sco, and I’d be happy to help you out.  San Francisco’s one of the best shopping cities in the world, and there are a wealth of choices.
Let’s start with new casual clothes.  The denim-only store Self Edge opened its first outlet in San Francisco some years ago.  If you’re interested in jeans, it’s probably the best store in the world.  Be aware, though, that you’ll be spending a few hundred bucks.
MAC, which stands for Modern Appealing Clothing, is probably the best store in the city for contemporary designer casual clothes.  If you’re the kind of guy who buys Maison Martin Margiela or Rick Owens, it’s a must-visit - you can find in Hayes Valley, a couple of blocks from City Hall.  Even if you’re not the designer type, it’s worth browsing.  Prices are, as you might expect, quite high.  Saks Fifth Avenue and Barney’s, both of which are off Union Square, are also great sources for that sort of thing.  Also worth checking out is Unionmade, which opened quite recently and offers authentic and “authentic” clothing for people who are really into, you know, craft and heritage and that kind of stuff.
If you’re looking for something a bit classier, there are options there, as well.  The classic is the men’s clothier Wilkes Bashford.  The owner, Wilkes, was forced to sell a year or two ago, but it was to sympathetic buyers, and he remains at the head of the operation.  It’s as luxurious a menswear store as exists in the world.  Wilkes is good friends with the former mayor (and famous dandy) Willie Brown Jr., and has outfitted him for many years.  Wilkes is, again, downtown near Union Square.
A little further downtown, you can find Cable Car Clothiers, one of the last true traditional menswear stores on the West Coast.  If you’re looking for a Sherlock Holmes hat, sold without irony, this is the place to visit.  They also sell British-made umbrellas and American-made suits and everything else that was as classic in 1945 as it was in 1965 as it was in 1985 as it is today.  Again, you won’t save money shopping here, but it’s a truly magical place.  It’s also not too far from the Alden Store, on Sutter, where they can show you the full line of Alden shoes for men.
If you’re interested in spending a little less, there are a lot of options there, as well.  I’m fond of many thrift stores in San Francisco, but I’m a little hesitant to blow up my spots.  I’ll say that the Town School Clothes Closet is full of wonderful things which are a bit overpriced, but prices come down during regular sales.  I’ve always enjoyed thrifting in the Mission, where I grew up, but if you head to the Fillmore, you’ll find more treasures.  That’s where rich people live, you see.  If you really want to get crazy, check out the Goodwill As-Is Store, South of Market, where you can literally fight people as you go through piles of clothes on long, narrow tables in what amounts to a dungeon of savings.
There’s plenty of vintage in San Francisco, as well.  I’ve been a customer at Clothes Contact, on Valencia at 16th, since they opened… 20 years ago, maybe?  I remember buying a bandleader jacket there because I thought it made me look like Michael Jackson.  (While you’re in the Mission, say hi to my friends Lan and Lino at the amazing vintage furniture and housewares store The Apartment).  La Rosa is the best of the vintage stores on Haight Street, and it’s also right nearby Amoeba Records.
It’s tough to find good men’s consignment, but Goodbyes does it better than any other store I’ve run across.  Quality goods, reasonable prices, and sometimes even helpful sales staff.  (One lady is super-mean, but mostly they’re very nice.)  You can also check out Jeremy’s, which has a stock that’s split between store liquidations and consignments.  A little pricier and often a little lower-quality, but also a little less fussy.
Hopefully that’s enough to fill your time.  
If I might offer some unsolicited tourist advice: many San Francisco tourist traps are great.  Cable cars, for example, are still cool to me.  Riding a bike in Golden Gate Park is wonderful.  Alcatraz is pretty neat, too.  Fisherman’s Wharf, though, is fucking awful.  Don’t go there.  If you do, skip everything except The Musee Mechanique, at Pier 45.

Q & A: Where to Shop For Men’s Clothes in San Francisco?

Chris writes from Germany: Next month, I’ll be in California for vacation and would like to get some recommendations for stores and boutiques in San Francisco that sell unique and classy clothes like the ones you cover in your blog.  I would be thrilled if you guys could offer some suggestions.

It just so happens that I’m a native of the ‘Sco, and I’d be happy to help you out.  San Francisco’s one of the best shopping cities in the world, and there are a wealth of choices.

Let’s start with new casual clothes.  The denim-only store Self Edge opened its first outlet in San Francisco some years ago.  If you’re interested in jeans, it’s probably the best store in the world.  Be aware, though, that you’ll be spending a few hundred bucks.

MAC, which stands for Modern Appealing Clothing, is probably the best store in the city for contemporary designer casual clothes.  If you’re the kind of guy who buys Maison Martin Margiela or Rick Owens, it’s a must-visit - you can find in Hayes Valley, a couple of blocks from City Hall.  Even if you’re not the designer type, it’s worth browsing.  Prices are, as you might expect, quite high.  Saks Fifth Avenue and Barney’s, both of which are off Union Square, are also great sources for that sort of thing.  Also worth checking out is Unionmade, which opened quite recently and offers authentic and “authentic” clothing for people who are really into, you know, craft and heritage and that kind of stuff.

If you’re looking for something a bit classier, there are options there, as well.  The classic is the men’s clothier Wilkes Bashford.  The owner, Wilkes, was forced to sell a year or two ago, but it was to sympathetic buyers, and he remains at the head of the operation.  It’s as luxurious a menswear store as exists in the world.  Wilkes is good friends with the former mayor (and famous dandy) Willie Brown Jr., and has outfitted him for many years.  Wilkes is, again, downtown near Union Square.

A little further downtown, you can find Cable Car Clothiers, one of the last true traditional menswear stores on the West Coast.  If you’re looking for a Sherlock Holmes hat, sold without irony, this is the place to visit.  They also sell British-made umbrellas and American-made suits and everything else that was as classic in 1945 as it was in 1965 as it was in 1985 as it is today.  Again, you won’t save money shopping here, but it’s a truly magical place.  It’s also not too far from the Alden Store, on Sutter, where they can show you the full line of Alden shoes for men.

If you’re interested in spending a little less, there are a lot of options there, as well.  I’m fond of many thrift stores in San Francisco, but I’m a little hesitant to blow up my spots.  I’ll say that the Town School Clothes Closet is full of wonderful things which are a bit overpriced, but prices come down during regular sales.  I’ve always enjoyed thrifting in the Mission, where I grew up, but if you head to the Fillmore, you’ll find more treasures.  That’s where rich people live, you see.  If you really want to get crazy, check out the Goodwill As-Is Store, South of Market, where you can literally fight people as you go through piles of clothes on long, narrow tables in what amounts to a dungeon of savings.

There’s plenty of vintage in San Francisco, as well.  I’ve been a customer at Clothes Contact, on Valencia at 16th, since they opened… 20 years ago, maybe?  I remember buying a bandleader jacket there because I thought it made me look like Michael Jackson.  (While you’re in the Mission, say hi to my friends Lan and Lino at the amazing vintage furniture and housewares store The Apartment).  La Rosa is the best of the vintage stores on Haight Street, and it’s also right nearby Amoeba Records.

It’s tough to find good men’s consignment, but Goodbyes does it better than any other store I’ve run across.  Quality goods, reasonable prices, and sometimes even helpful sales staff.  (One lady is super-mean, but mostly they’re very nice.)  You can also check out Jeremy’s, which has a stock that’s split between store liquidations and consignments.  A little pricier and often a little lower-quality, but also a little less fussy.

Hopefully that’s enough to fill your time. 

If I might offer some unsolicited tourist advice: many San Francisco tourist traps are great.  Cable cars, for example, are still cool to me.  Riding a bike in Golden Gate Park is wonderful.  Alcatraz is pretty neat, too.  Fisherman’s Wharf, though, is fucking awful.  Don’t go there.  If you do, skip everything except The Musee Mechanique, at Pier 45.

This is pretty much exactly what it appears to be.  My wife and I went to Barney’s to check out the sale (60% off a fair amount of stuff), and I walked away with a pair of Naked & Famous jeans.  These are their 24 ounce denim pants - a denim about twice as heavy as the usual.  Absurdly thick.  And seen here (while still wet!) standing up on their own.  Now that’s a pair of jeans.

This is pretty much exactly what it appears to be.  My wife and I went to Barney’s to check out the sale (60% off a fair amount of stuff), and I walked away with a pair of Naked & Famous jeans.  These are their 24 ounce denim pants - a denim about twice as heavy as the usual.  Absurdly thick.  And seen here (while still wet!) standing up on their own.  Now that’s a pair of jeans.

Barney’s Warehouse Sale starts today here in Los Angeles at the LA Convention Center.  Discounts are significant, but not monumental at the beginning of the sale - they cut pretty heavily by the end.  I went last year in San Francisco and got some great stuff.  The New York sale starts February 11th.