Q & Answer: If You Can Only Pick Three…
I received this question from Tumblr user “enjoynicethings” about where to start with pocket squares:
Slowly coming around to the idea of pocket squares, but want to keep it simple. If you were only going to have three pockets squares in your selection, what three would you choose?
I suspect my answers will vary quite differently from both Jesse and Derek, but I can only look at what squares I’ve worn most often in my rather modest collection. 
A safe first bet for the start of any collection is a solid white linen square. It’s conservative and goes well with any occasion in which you would wear a suit and all the way up to black tie. I also wear it quite often with a navy blazer. It’s my default in a rush, but also a bit boring perhaps too conservative when you’re wearing a sport jacket. 
I would suggest finding two squares — likely silk, but potentially blended with another material like wool or cotton — with two types of prints. One print ought to have some sort of medium to small scale repeating pattern on it. Look for dots, geometric shapes or something like the paisleys I have above. Ideally, the colors in the square should compliment a good number of your sport coats or more casual suits you plan to wear it with. Because it’s a pattern, the eye will be drawn toward its recognizable repetition. If you want to play it safe, consider navy dots on a white ground. 
Finally, the other print should be a large-scale design with a lot of colors. When folded up, you won’t see what’s on it, but it’ll blend the colors nicely as it peeks out from the breast pocket. Huge paisleys, giant florals or intriguing prints that one might find otherwise on a Hermes-style silk scarf work quite well. Try to find something unique that you feel a connection to and think you could stuff into your pocket in various way to express the multitude of colors. These tend to go well with solid sport coats, especially when you’re not wearing a tie, to bring some color variety.
This is where I’d start, but I think as you build a wardrobe of various textures and colors in your ties and jackets, you’ll likely want to start exploring more options. Derek wrote a great primer on how to wear a pocket square that’s worth reviewing if you’ve never worn one before. 
(Of course, at the Put This On Etsy store, Jesse has a solid white linen square and prints large and small worth checking out.) 
-Kiyoshi

Q & Answer: If You Can Only Pick Three…

I received this question from Tumblr user “enjoynicethings” about where to start with pocket squares:

Slowly coming around to the idea of pocket squares, but want to keep it simple. If you were only going to have three pockets squares in your selection, what three would you choose?

I suspect my answers will vary quite differently from both Jesse and Derek, but I can only look at what squares I’ve worn most often in my rather modest collection. 

A safe first bet for the start of any collection is a solid white linen square. It’s conservative and goes well with any occasion in which you would wear a suit and all the way up to black tie. I also wear it quite often with a navy blazer. It’s my default in a rush, but also a bit boring perhaps too conservative when you’re wearing a sport jacket. 

I would suggest finding two squares — likely silk, but potentially blended with another material like wool or cotton — with two types of prints. One print ought to have some sort of medium to small scale repeating pattern on it. Look for dots, geometric shapes or something like the paisleys I have above. Ideally, the colors in the square should compliment a good number of your sport coats or more casual suits you plan to wear it with. Because it’s a pattern, the eye will be drawn toward its recognizable repetition. If you want to play it safe, consider navy dots on a white ground. 

Finally, the other print should be a large-scale design with a lot of colors. When folded up, you won’t see what’s on it, but it’ll blend the colors nicely as it peeks out from the breast pocket. Huge paisleys, giant florals or intriguing prints that one might find otherwise on a Hermes-style silk scarf work quite well. Try to find something unique that you feel a connection to and think you could stuff into your pocket in various way to express the multitude of colors. These tend to go well with solid sport coats, especially when you’re not wearing a tie, to bring some color variety.

This is where I’d start, but I think as you build a wardrobe of various textures and colors in your ties and jackets, you’ll likely want to start exploring more options. Derek wrote a great primer on how to wear a pocket square that’s worth reviewing if you’ve never worn one before. 

(Of course, at the Put This On Etsy store, Jesse has a solid white linen square and prints large and small worth checking out.) 

-Kiyoshi

Q & Answer: My Arms Are Long. Where Can I Buy Clothes?
Abe asks: My question to you is how to shop if you have long arms? 
 In my case, I am 6’3” and my arm length is almost 40 inches. Given that tall/long clothing usually has 37 inch arms, what can I guy like me do in terms of off the rack clothing? Surely I am not the only one with this problem!
We get questions like this all the time from readers with extraordinary physical proportions. (I’m 6’3”, with longish arms, and they’re four inches shorter than Abe’s.) The truth is that you’ll simply have to go custom.
There are many retailers which offer tall sizes - online, I’d say you can check out LL Bean, Lands’ End, Banana Republic and J. Crew, for starters. That’ll work if you’re just a little taller than average. But if you’re way taller than average, or have much longer legs, or much longer arms, or a very, very small neck, or some other physical proportion that makes you Very Special… off the rack isn’t going to work for you.
The good news, though, is that we live in a golden age of custom clothes. It can sometimes take a few tries to get the fit right without an in-person consultation (and if you can afford it, I’d recommend a local, in-person maker), but if you can’t buy off the rack, it’s absolutely worth it. Derek wrote a series about custom shirts, and you can start there.

Q & Answer: My Arms Are Long. Where Can I Buy Clothes?

Abe asks: My question to you is how to shop if you have long arms?

 In my case, I am 6’3” and my arm length is almost 40 inches. Given that tall/long clothing usually has 37 inch arms, what can I guy like me do in terms of off the rack clothing? Surely I am not the only one with this problem!

We get questions like this all the time from readers with extraordinary physical proportions. (I’m 6’3”, with longish arms, and they’re four inches shorter than Abe’s.) The truth is that you’ll simply have to go custom.

There are many retailers which offer tall sizes - online, I’d say you can check out LL Bean, Lands’ End, Banana Republic and J. Crew, for starters. That’ll work if you’re just a little taller than average. But if you’re way taller than average, or have much longer legs, or much longer arms, or a very, very small neck, or some other physical proportion that makes you Very Special… off the rack isn’t going to work for you.

The good news, though, is that we live in a golden age of custom clothes. It can sometimes take a few tries to get the fit right without an in-person consultation (and if you can afford it, I’d recommend a local, in-person maker), but if you can’t buy off the rack, it’s absolutely worth it. Derek wrote a series about custom shirts, and you can start there.

Q & Answer: My Pocket Square Makes My Lapel Bulge!
Gus asks: I have a recurring problem with my jackets: the left lapel bulges open when I put a pocket square in the breast pocket.  Do you know of the cause of this and the cure?
The answer’s about as simple as you’d think it would be. Either your pocket square’s too big or your coat’s too small. With our squares, we usually cut at 16” square, though we go down a bit smaller for heavier fabric to prevent this problem. You can try a less scrunchy, more foldy pocket square arrangement - that might cut down on volume.
More likely though is that your coat is fitting tightly, either in the chest or at the buttoning point. So either have it let out a bit or hit the gym. The fad for tight-fitting jackets has led to a lot of gaping and bowing in our nation’s lapels, and jamming a pocket square in there can exacerbate the problem.

Q & Answer: My Pocket Square Makes My Lapel Bulge!

Gus asks: I have a recurring problem with my jackets: the left lapel bulges open when I put a pocket square in the breast pocket.  Do you know of the cause of this and the cure?

The answer’s about as simple as you’d think it would be. Either your pocket square’s too big or your coat’s too small. With our squares, we usually cut at 16” square, though we go down a bit smaller for heavier fabric to prevent this problem. You can try a less scrunchy, more foldy pocket square arrangement - that might cut down on volume.

More likely though is that your coat is fitting tightly, either in the chest or at the buttoning point. So either have it let out a bit or hit the gym. The fad for tight-fitting jackets has led to a lot of gaping and bowing in our nation’s lapels, and jamming a pocket square in there can exacerbate the problem.

Q & Answer: Dog Accessories That Don’t Suck

Tom writes: I am about to become the owner of a puppy and have begun the search for all the junk that comes with it.  It’s dawned on me that this is about to unleash (pun intended) a tsunami of ugly synthetic fibres, vulgar paw print patterns, tacky coloured nylon webbing and plastic crap-o-la all over the house. I’ll be the one tasked with the lion’s share of dog walking duties and don’t see why I should have to besmirch a well chosen outfit by accessorising it with a dog wearing a stupid looking collar, tag & lead with all the longevity and panache of a teenagers Velcro tabbed wallet.

Any leads (more punning I’m afraid) on where to buy well made and tastefully designed dog baskets, bedding and tackle would be really appreciated.

When my wife and I got our first dog, Cocoa (the brown one, above) some years ago, we started with basic dog equipment. Nylon collar and leash, a bed from Target. I was shocked at how quickly they became tattered and gross.

I replaced Cocoa’s collar and leash with Filson. They were a bit expensive, but not extraordinarily so, and they look and work even better now, five years later, than they did then. I clean them with a bit of saddle soap and put a little Lexol on them every few months, but besides that, I’ve done nothing. My only disappointment is that the hardware seems to be brass plated, rather than solid brass, so the finish has worn a bit.

My other dog, Sissy (the napper pictured above), is a bit smaller than Cocoa. Since Cocoa wears the small size Filson collar on the last hole, we thought we’d have to settle for nylon. Then we heard about Filson’s custom department from a post on Archival Clothing. We ordered a collar from them - there was maybe a $10 upcharge for the custom length - and she’s worn it ever since.

Somewhere along the way, my wife got annoyed with the clinking sounds the dogs’ tags made, so we replaced them with brass plaques. We got them from the internet for five or ten dollars each, and my friend (and cobbler) Raul attached them directly to the collars for us.

There are plenty of alternatives to Filson, of course. One of my favorite recommendations for folks who like Filson quality but want a lower price point is Duluth Pack, and they have a whole passel of dog items. LL Bean has a similarly large selection which are even cheaper.

I got my dogs’ bed from Sierra Trading Post, which usually has some good dog stuff as well. It’s made of Barbour oilcloth.

I’ve found that the key is to focus on products made for dogs with jobs to do - especially outdoor dogs. Those will be simpler, more masculine, and better-quality.

And if you might permit me a moment of preaching: get your dog chipped, so it can be returned if lost. Get your dog fixed, so it doesn’t make more dogs in a world with dogs that need homes. And don’t buy a companion dog from a breeder, adopt a dog from a shelter or rescue organization. My pups are rescues, and I’m happy they are every time I think of what a great life they have, and how they could have lived on the streets or been put down.

Anyway, Tom: you’ll get so much enjoyment from your new pal. Dogs really are your best friends.

Q and Answer: How to Wear A Pocket Square
Aaron writes us to ask: I just started using pocket squares, and am not sure how to wear them best. Do you have any tips? Should they match my tie? How about my shirt? What’s the best way to put them in the pocket?
The guiding principle for pocket squares isn’t too different from the guiding principle on how to dress well in general. You don’t want to look like you didn’t put in any effort (e.g. sweatpants, flip flops, and a dirty t-shirt), but you also don’t want to look like you put in too much effort (e.g. looking like you stepped out of a fashion spread). Neither looks particularly natural or good.
For pocket squares, that means not picking things at random, otherwise your square can become a distracting element, but also not matching things too closely, otherwise you’ll look too studied. Instead, you want to your pocket square to be complementary to whatever else you’re wearing. It should seem like you grabbed something at random (even though you didn’t) and things just happened to work out well. Which means:
Color (With Respect to Your Jacket): Make sure your pocket square is a somewhat distinctive piece. If you’re wearing a navy sport coat, don’t wear a navy pocket square. Instead, choose a color that stands out a bit more, such as burgundy, brown, or even white, but don’t venture into something too loud. Again, you want this to look harmonious, not distracting.
Color (With Respect to Your Tie): You never want your pocket square and tie to match. Tie + pocket square sets made from the same fabric should never be worn (let alone bought), but you should also not recreate this kind of look with whatever items you have on hand.
Color wise, you want your pocket square to complement, but not directly mirror, your tie. There are two ways of thinking about this. The first is to choose something that subtly picks up a secondary color in your tie. So if you have a burgundy tie with navy and cream pencil stripes, you can choose a pocket square with a bit of cream to pick up the color in your tie. You would not want, however, to pick a pocket square in the exact same shade of burgundy, as this would look contrived.
The other way of thinking about this is to pick a square in color that complements the main color of your tie. That can mean choosing things in a slightly different shade, or in a color that’s either adjacent or directly across on the color wheel (navy put with a medium blue, or a dark green put with burgundy). This is somewhat trickier, however, because you run a greater risk of your pocket square either looking too thought out, or chosen at random. Best to judge on a case-to-case basis.
Material: Silk or wool pocket squares can generally be worn with almost anything, although silk – especially cream or white silk – will look a bit dressier, especially if it has a “wet,” rather than a “dry,” finish. The shinier a square is, the more formal it can look. Linen is also very versatile, except maybe with tweeds and corduroy, where a silk or wool square might be better. The traditional white linen goes with pretty much anything, however. Cotton squares should be kept to summer suits, and wool has a cold-weather feel. 
Personally, I like wearing a square in a different material than my tie. So wool squares with silk ties, silk squares with wool ties, etc. This is just a personal preference, however. 
How to Fold: Gilt Manual covered the three main methods. I wear mine using a slightly different technique, which is shown here by Michael Alden. I find that produces a more appealing “puff,” but you can use whatever works best for you. Just don’t use a needlessly fancy fold that makes your pocket square look like origami, and if you wear your pocket square with the points up, don’t have them stick six inches into the air. Again, you want this element to be tasteful, harmonious, and charming, but not distracting.
The Reliable White Linen: When in doubt, wear a white linen in the TV fold (or what Gilt Manual called the “traditional fold”). You’re almost always safe with that.
(Pictured above: StyleForum member Manton)

Q and Answer: How to Wear A Pocket Square

Aaron writes us to ask: I just started using pocket squares, and am not sure how to wear them best. Do you have any tips? Should they match my tie? How about my shirt? What’s the best way to put them in the pocket?

The guiding principle for pocket squares isn’t too different from the guiding principle on how to dress well in general. You don’t want to look like you didn’t put in any effort (e.g. sweatpants, flip flops, and a dirty t-shirt), but you also don’t want to look like you put in too much effort (e.g. looking like you stepped out of a fashion spread). Neither looks particularly natural or good.

For pocket squares, that means not picking things at random, otherwise your square can become a distracting element, but also not matching things too closely, otherwise you’ll look too studied. Instead, you want to your pocket square to be complementary to whatever else you’re wearing. It should seem like you grabbed something at random (even though you didn’t) and things just happened to work out well. Which means:

Color (With Respect to Your Jacket): Make sure your pocket square is a somewhat distinctive piece. If you’re wearing a navy sport coat, don’t wear a navy pocket square. Instead, choose a color that stands out a bit more, such as burgundy, brown, or even white, but don’t venture into something too loud. Again, you want this to look harmonious, not distracting.

Color (With Respect to Your Tie): You never want your pocket square and tie to match. Tie + pocket square sets made from the same fabric should never be worn (let alone bought), but you should also not recreate this kind of look with whatever items you have on hand.

Color wise, you want your pocket square to complement, but not directly mirror, your tie. There are two ways of thinking about this. The first is to choose something that subtly picks up a secondary color in your tie. So if you have a burgundy tie with navy and cream pencil stripes, you can choose a pocket square with a bit of cream to pick up the color in your tie. You would not want, however, to pick a pocket square in the exact same shade of burgundy, as this would look contrived.

The other way of thinking about this is to pick a square in color that complements the main color of your tie. That can mean choosing things in a slightly different shade, or in a color that’s either adjacent or directly across on the color wheel (navy put with a medium blue, or a dark green put with burgundy). This is somewhat trickier, however, because you run a greater risk of your pocket square either looking too thought out, or chosen at random. Best to judge on a case-to-case basis.

Material: Silk or wool pocket squares can generally be worn with almost anything, although silk – especially cream or white silk – will look a bit dressier, especially if it has a “wet,” rather than a “dry,” finish. The shinier a square is, the more formal it can look. Linen is also very versatile, except maybe with tweeds and corduroy, where a silk or wool square might be better. The traditional white linen goes with pretty much anything, however. Cotton squares should be kept to summer suits, and wool has a cold-weather feel. 

Personally, I like wearing a square in a different material than my tie. So wool squares with silk ties, silk squares with wool ties, etc. This is just a personal preference, however. 

How to Fold: Gilt Manual covered the three main methods. I wear mine using a slightly different technique, which is shown here by Michael Alden. I find that produces a more appealing “puff,” but you can use whatever works best for you. Just don’t use a needlessly fancy fold that makes your pocket square look like origami, and if you wear your pocket square with the points up, don’t have them stick six inches into the air. Again, you want this element to be tasteful, harmonious, and charming, but not distracting.

The Reliable White Linen: When in doubt, wear a white linen in the TV fold (or what Gilt Manual called the “traditional fold”). You’re almost always safe with that.

(Pictured above: StyleForum member Manton)

Q and Answer: How Should I Wear Suspenders?
Joe asks: I really want to start wearing suspenders for work. It is a shirt and tie shop but not necessarily the suit crowd. I have one pair of pants in my closet of 20 that actually has buttons. Do I really have to replace the other 19 pair of pants or can I get the clip on suspenders?
We’re big proponents of suspenders here at Put This On. As a general rule, they’re more comfortable than a belt, reduce the amount that you have to mess with your pants, and pretty much keep your shirt tucked. They’re not for everyone, but I certainly wear them as frequently as reasonably possible. Suspenders are particularly comfortable if you carry a bit of weight in the middle, since your gut (be it small or large) doesn’t push down your trousers. (One note: generally in the UK, what Americans call suspenders are called braces. Typically “braces” is a bit of a fancier way of saying it, but generally, they’re interchangeable.)
There is a catch, though: suspenders are generally underwear, not outerwear. Nobody wants to be a Larry King. Suspenders are best hidden under a coat, or at the very least a sweater. Some say no one but you and your beloved should see your suspenders. I’m not that dogmatic - I take off my coat when I sit down to work - but I think they should be worn in a situation where you can reasonably expect that they’ll mostly be covered by your jacket.
Furthermore, suspenders work best with higher-waisted trousers that fit a bit more loosely around the waist than their belted counterparts. Belted pants must grip your hips with sheer friction. Pants with braces hang cleanly from the shoulders. The best pants for suspenders, of course, are fish-tailed pants. They’re designed to take the back central buttons a bit higher than the waistline, which gives a clean line to the back of the trousers. You probably won’t find those, though, unless you’re buying custom clothes.
As a result of this convergence of small reasons, most ready-to-wear clothing simply isn’t prepared to accept braces.
So where does that leave you?
First of all, clip-on suspenders are only appropriate if you’re on a work site. Even then, you can get a pair of Carharrts with metal fasteners for your suspenders that’ll hold those pants steadier than any clip. In an office environment, do not wear clip-on suspenders.
Second, you can convert non-suspender-supporting pants into ones that will work with your choice of holder-upper by having a tailor or alterationist add a few buttons. Again, this is more appropriate for pants with a longer rise and higher waist, but it’ll work on pretty much any pants. It’ll also be cheap - maybe $5 or $10. You can even have them remove the belt loops while they’re at it if you like.
Most likely, your best bet will be to wear a mix of belts and braces for the time being, as you add buttons to your trousers and add trousers designed for braces.
(Photo by Akeg)

Q and Answer: How Should I Wear Suspenders?

Joe asks: I really want to start wearing suspenders for work. It is a shirt and tie shop but not necessarily the suit crowd. I have one pair of pants in my closet of 20 that actually has buttons. Do I really have to replace the other 19 pair of pants or can I get the clip on suspenders?


We’re big proponents of suspenders here at Put This On. As a general rule, they’re more comfortable than a belt, reduce the amount that you have to mess with your pants, and pretty much keep your shirt tucked. They’re not for everyone, but I certainly wear them as frequently as reasonably possible. Suspenders are particularly comfortable if you carry a bit of weight in the middle, since your gut (be it small or large) doesn’t push down your trousers. (One note: generally in the UK, what Americans call suspenders are called braces. Typically “braces” is a bit of a fancier way of saying it, but generally, they’re interchangeable.)

There is a catch, though: suspenders are generally underwear, not outerwear. Nobody wants to be a Larry King. Suspenders are best hidden under a coat, or at the very least a sweater. Some say no one but you and your beloved should see your suspenders. I’m not that dogmatic - I take off my coat when I sit down to work - but I think they should be worn in a situation where you can reasonably expect that they’ll mostly be covered by your jacket.

Furthermore, suspenders work best with higher-waisted trousers that fit a bit more loosely around the waist than their belted counterparts. Belted pants must grip your hips with sheer friction. Pants with braces hang cleanly from the shoulders. The best pants for suspenders, of course, are fish-tailed pants. They’re designed to take the back central buttons a bit higher than the waistline, which gives a clean line to the back of the trousers. You probably won’t find those, though, unless you’re buying custom clothes.

As a result of this convergence of small reasons, most ready-to-wear clothing simply isn’t prepared to accept braces.

So where does that leave you?

First of all, clip-on suspenders are only appropriate if you’re on a work site. Even then, you can get a pair of Carharrts with metal fasteners for your suspenders that’ll hold those pants steadier than any clip. In an office environment, do not wear clip-on suspenders.

Second, you can convert non-suspender-supporting pants into ones that will work with your choice of holder-upper by having a tailor or alterationist add a few buttons. Again, this is more appropriate for pants with a longer rise and higher waist, but it’ll work on pretty much any pants. It’ll also be cheap - maybe $5 or $10. You can even have them remove the belt loops while they’re at it if you like.

Most likely, your best bet will be to wear a mix of belts and braces for the time being, as you add buttons to your trousers and add trousers designed for braces.

(Photo by Akeg)

Q and Answer: Elbow Patches
Shane asks:  I would love to hear some discussion on blazers / sports coats and the use of elbow patches.  Yes or no?
Several folks have written me about elbow patches lately, so I thought I’d offer an answer.
Traditionally, elbow patches patched the elbows of coats. After all, the elbow, being both a flex point and a point likely to be abraded, is the part of a coat that wears out quickest. Elbow getting thin? Want to keep the coat? Patch it. There’s no doubt that patching a worn elbow is kosher. My favorite cashmere sweater has patched elbows, and I’ve got an old herringbone tweed coat that’s going to need some soon.
Add elbow patches to an old coat, and it instantly becomes more casual. Indeed, it’s a maneuver that only works on coats that are inherently casual to begin with - you see patches on tweed, corduroy and the occasional flannel blazer, but you’d never seen them on a pinstriped business suit. The patched elbow is suitable for the man who lives in a casual sportcoat but values thrift. Hence the professorial associations.
In the last few years, patched elbows have been seen on ready-to-wear more frequently. Brands like Brunello Cucinelli have added patches to blazers and sportcoats with great abandon. It’s part of the re-casualization of tailored clothing, a specialty of the Italians of late. At its best, it can be a nice color and textural contrast to the primary fabric. Some folks have gone a bit crazy with the idea.
Adding patches to an existing coat is an inexpensive alteration, but be careful not to go too wild, or it can look affected.
(photo by Garry Knight)

Q and Answer: Elbow Patches

Shane asks:  I would love to hear some discussion on blazers / sports coats and the use of elbow patches.  Yes or no?

Several folks have written me about elbow patches lately, so I thought I’d offer an answer.

Traditionally, elbow patches patched the elbows of coats. After all, the elbow, being both a flex point and a point likely to be abraded, is the part of a coat that wears out quickest. Elbow getting thin? Want to keep the coat? Patch it. There’s no doubt that patching a worn elbow is kosher. My favorite cashmere sweater has patched elbows, and I’ve got an old herringbone tweed coat that’s going to need some soon.

Add elbow patches to an old coat, and it instantly becomes more casual. Indeed, it’s a maneuver that only works on coats that are inherently casual to begin with - you see patches on tweed, corduroy and the occasional flannel blazer, but you’d never seen them on a pinstriped business suit. The patched elbow is suitable for the man who lives in a casual sportcoat but values thrift. Hence the professorial associations.

In the last few years, patched elbows have been seen on ready-to-wear more frequently. Brands like Brunello Cucinelli have added patches to blazers and sportcoats with great abandon. It’s part of the re-casualization of tailored clothing, a specialty of the Italians of late. At its best, it can be a nice color and textural contrast to the primary fabric. Some folks have gone a bit crazy with the idea.

Adding patches to an existing coat is an inexpensive alteration, but be careful not to go too wild, or it can look affected.

(photo by Garry Knight)

Q and Answer: Should I Get A Suit in Hong Kong? Bangkok?
Jake writes: My wife and I are looking to take a trip to Asia in the new few months and I was wondering about your opinion of the custom tailoring outfits available there to get some suits made (specifically we are looking at Hong Kong and/or Bangkok).  I’m sure there are very fine tailors there that take a long time, but I’ve been told that there are places where you can get a pretty quick turnaround (necessary considering that we’d be abroad for ~2 weeks).  I’m worried that something made so quickly will be of poor construction.  Even if the suit were mostly fused, would there still be a value to getting something cut to my dimensions?
I get this question a lot, Jake. The promise of a $250 custom suit is powerful siren song. But will you be happy with what you buy?
The bad news is that if you buy a suit for a couple hundred dollars from a tout in Bangkok or Hong Kong, you’ll likely be disappointed. The good news is that buying a high-quality suit is possible, for a reasonable price, with a quick turnaround.
There are two challenges: the first is quality, the second aesthetics. Without knowing the terrain very well, you run a high risk of erring in one of those two areas. You can find a tailor who does good work, but who lacks a sophisticated understanding of your (presumably Western) aesthetics. You can also find someone who simply doesn’t make a good suit. It is, however, possible to address those problems and come out on top… but it’ll probably cost you more than the $300 you might be imagining.
First, time: by all accounts, you’ll need at least a week or so. If you do have that bit of time, though, most Hong Kong tailors are used to making clothes for visitors with limited timelines. Make sure to go for your first fitting at the start of your trip, and make sure the tailor can schedule two fittings before you leave. Generally the tailor will do the fittings, make adjustments, and mail you the final product.
Using a good tailor will cost you more than a couple hundred dollars, though. In Hong Kong, expect to pay somewhere between $800 and $1500 for a well-made suit. That’s half what you might pay in the States, but it isn’t $300. Do a lot of research, and you might find a passable suit for a few hundred dollars, but I’d really only recommend this to folks who both don’t have the money for better quality and need custom clothing because they can’t wear off-the-rack.
When you choose a tailor in an unfamiliar, choose carefully. I’ve never been to Hong Kong myself, but many users on StyleForum and other clothing fora recommend Gordon Yao, Lee Baron and WW Chan. Ascot Chang is a legendary Hong Kong shirtmaker; on the budget side, many enthusiasts like Jantzen for cheaper shirts. You can check out this exhaustive thread for more information.
Outside of Hong Kong, it can be tougher to find quality makers of tailored clothes. Some of the Hong Kong tailors have branches in the mainland, but places like Thailand and Vietnam have a much smaller tradition of quality tailoring. Some places, like South Korea and Singapore, do have a broad tradition, but you can run into the aforementioned aesthetic issues. It can also be tough just to find decent fabric, especially in the second and third world, and if you yourself aren’t comfortable judging textiles you can easily be sold a bill of goods.
That said, shirts are a much simpler proposition than coats, and you can find decent quality shirt makers in places like Bangkok (or in Vietnam, or India…). My one visit to Bangkok lasted all of 10 hours, so I’ll refer you to these forum threads on Bangkok tailors for information there. Again, you’ll have to be vigilant about fabric and fit, but once that’s settled, you may be able to order shirts based on your pattern for years to come.
(Photo by JMR Photography)

Q and Answer: Should I Get A Suit in Hong Kong? Bangkok?

Jake writes: My wife and I are looking to take a trip to Asia in the new few months and I was wondering about your opinion of the custom tailoring outfits available there to get some suits made (specifically we are looking at Hong Kong and/or Bangkok).  I’m sure there are very fine tailors there that take a long time, but I’ve been told that there are places where you can get a pretty quick turnaround (necessary considering that we’d be abroad for ~2 weeks).  I’m worried that something made so quickly will be of poor construction.  Even if the suit were mostly fused, would there still be a value to getting something cut to my dimensions?

I get this question a lot, Jake. The promise of a $250 custom suit is powerful siren song. But will you be happy with what you buy?

The bad news is that if you buy a suit for a couple hundred dollars from a tout in Bangkok or Hong Kong, you’ll likely be disappointed. The good news is that buying a high-quality suit is possible, for a reasonable price, with a quick turnaround.

There are two challenges: the first is quality, the second aesthetics. Without knowing the terrain very well, you run a high risk of erring in one of those two areas. You can find a tailor who does good work, but who lacks a sophisticated understanding of your (presumably Western) aesthetics. You can also find someone who simply doesn’t make a good suit. It is, however, possible to address those problems and come out on top… but it’ll probably cost you more than the $300 you might be imagining.

First, time: by all accounts, you’ll need at least a week or so. If you do have that bit of time, though, most Hong Kong tailors are used to making clothes for visitors with limited timelines. Make sure to go for your first fitting at the start of your trip, and make sure the tailor can schedule two fittings before you leave. Generally the tailor will do the fittings, make adjustments, and mail you the final product.

Using a good tailor will cost you more than a couple hundred dollars, though. In Hong Kong, expect to pay somewhere between $800 and $1500 for a well-made suit. That’s half what you might pay in the States, but it isn’t $300. Do a lot of research, and you might find a passable suit for a few hundred dollars, but I’d really only recommend this to folks who both don’t have the money for better quality and need custom clothing because they can’t wear off-the-rack.

When you choose a tailor in an unfamiliar, choose carefully. I’ve never been to Hong Kong myself, but many users on StyleForum and other clothing fora recommend Gordon Yao, Lee Baron and WW Chan. Ascot Chang is a legendary Hong Kong shirtmaker; on the budget side, many enthusiasts like Jantzen for cheaper shirts. You can check out this exhaustive thread for more information.

Outside of Hong Kong, it can be tougher to find quality makers of tailored clothes. Some of the Hong Kong tailors have branches in the mainland, but places like Thailand and Vietnam have a much smaller tradition of quality tailoring. Some places, like South Korea and Singapore, do have a broad tradition, but you can run into the aforementioned aesthetic issues. It can also be tough just to find decent fabric, especially in the second and third world, and if you yourself aren’t comfortable judging textiles you can easily be sold a bill of goods.

That said, shirts are a much simpler proposition than coats, and you can find decent quality shirt makers in places like Bangkok (or in Vietnam, or India…). My one visit to Bangkok lasted all of 10 hours, so I’ll refer you to these forum threads on Bangkok tailors for information there. Again, you’ll have to be vigilant about fabric and fit, but once that’s settled, you may be able to order shirts based on your pattern for years to come.

(Photo by JMR Photography)

Q and Answer: How Can I Get the Most Out of My Closet?
Jacques asks: I have a really small closet. Would you offer any suggestions or tips on how to improve closet space or how to improve closet organization in general? Thanks!
I struggle with the same problem. My closet is probably not even suitable for someone with a regular sized wardrobe, let alone someone who has an interest in men’s clothing. I dream of one day having a walk-in closet, though I suppose every closet is a walk-in if you try hard enough. 
This subject is probably too much to cover in one post, and what’s possible or optimal will depend a lot on your living space. If I could give some general advice, however, they’d be the following:
Dump and store: First, get rid of things you don’t need. If you haven’t worn something in a long time, you probably never will, so consider donating it to charity or selling it on eBay. If you’re too lazy to list stuff, you can give them an eBay consigner, such as Luxe Swap, who will sell them for you. For the remainder, store away anything that’s out-of-season. This will make room for things you’ll actually wear and protect your other clothes for the next six months, when they’ll be out of use. You can read an article I wrote about seasonal storage here.
Maximize your closet space: How you should do this will depend on the particulars of you closet. One good solution, however, is installing a second rod; this should double the amount you can hang across your closet. If installing a full second rod isn’t practical for you, try a hanging one. After that, you can add an over-head shelf to store your out-of-season clothes, and put some cubbies or adjustable shelves on the floor to hold things that you’ll only occasionally use. On the side of your closet, if you have room, you can build shelves and put in shelf dividers or baskets. I recommend woven baskets over plastic ones, because clothes are best kept in breathable storage units. You can also hang vertical shelves to hold sweaters and shoes. Remember the point with all these things to maximize the vertical space in your closet as much as possible, but keep the prime real estate for things that you’ll use on a daily basis.  
Use the back of doors: On the back of your closet door, you can install hooks to hang things such as belts or the day’s dry cleaning, or throw an over-the-door shoe organizer (but only the kind that will allow you to still use shoe trees). The only thing I wouldn’t recommend putting in there are shoes that have been bulled, but otherwise, they should hold shoes just fine. 
Put things under your bed: Here is where you can put out-of-season clothes, or things such as socks, underwear, and undershirts. This will free up your dresser drawers for things such as sweaters and knits. (If you haven’t yet, read Jesse’s guide on how to store clothes. No matter what solutions you come up with, I recommend you not deviate from his guide). Canvas containers will allow your clothes to breathe but plastic can be good if you have a lot of dust bunnies. There are also under-the-bed storage solutions for shoes.
Consider other speciality products: There are a ton of other products you can consider. Cascading hangers, for example, will let you hang more dress shirts in a vertical space. I’m less of a fan of those since I think button-up shirts hold their shape better when they’re held on wooden hangers and not smashed against each other. There are also hangers to hold multiple pairs of pants (like this, this, or this). I’ve found those to be of limited use since hanging four or five pairs of pants on the same hanger still takes about the same horizontal space as they would if you hung them separately. The one by The Great American Hanger Company also has small plastic teeth on each bar. Useful for making sure your pants don’t slip down, but potentially damaging for wool trousers. I use one just for chinos and keep it on the end of my closet. Additionally, there’s the Hanger Hamper, which can be a nice way to free up space in your closet as more hangers become empty throughout the week. 
Buy a new closet: At some point, there’s only so much you can do, and you may have to buy a new closet. I think this one and this one look particularly promising because of the double decker rod system. 
That’s just the start. I recommend checking Closet Maid, The Container Store, and Bed, Bath & Beyond for other solutions. As I said, much of this will depend on your needs and room’s particular layout. 
(Photo by Darwin Bell)

Q and Answer: How Can I Get the Most Out of My Closet?

Jacques asks: I have a really small closet. Would you offer any suggestions or tips on how to improve closet space or how to improve closet organization in general? Thanks!

I struggle with the same problem. My closet is probably not even suitable for someone with a regular sized wardrobe, let alone someone who has an interest in men’s clothing. I dream of one day having a walk-in closet, though I suppose every closet is a walk-in if you try hard enough.

This subject is probably too much to cover in one post, and what’s possible or optimal will depend a lot on your living space. If I could give some general advice, however, they’d be the following:

Dump and store: First, get rid of things you don’t need. If you haven’t worn something in a long time, you probably never will, so consider donating it to charity or selling it on eBay. If you’re too lazy to list stuff, you can give them an eBay consigner, such as Luxe Swap, who will sell them for you. For the remainder, store away anything that’s out-of-season. This will make room for things you’ll actually wear and protect your other clothes for the next six months, when they’ll be out of use. You can read an article I wrote about seasonal storage here.

Maximize your closet space: How you should do this will depend on the particulars of you closet. One good solution, however, is installing a second rod; this should double the amount you can hang across your closet. If installing a full second rod isn’t practical for you, try a hanging one. After that, you can add an over-head shelf to store your out-of-season clothes, and put some cubbies or adjustable shelves on the floor to hold things that you’ll only occasionally use. On the side of your closet, if you have room, you can build shelves and put in shelf dividers or baskets. I recommend woven baskets over plastic ones, because clothes are best kept in breathable storage units. You can also hang vertical shelves to hold sweaters and shoes. Remember the point with all these things to maximize the vertical space in your closet as much as possible, but keep the prime real estate for things that you’ll use on a daily basis.  

Use the back of doors: On the back of your closet door, you can install hooks to hang things such as belts or the day’s dry cleaning, or throw an over-the-door shoe organizer (but only the kind that will allow you to still use shoe trees). The only thing I wouldn’t recommend putting in there are shoes that have been bulled, but otherwise, they should hold shoes just fine.

Put things under your bed: Here is where you can put out-of-season clothes, or things such as socks, underwear, and undershirts. This will free up your dresser drawers for things such as sweaters and knits. (If you haven’t yet, read Jesse’s guide on how to store clothes. No matter what solutions you come up with, I recommend you not deviate from his guide). Canvas containers will allow your clothes to breathe but plastic can be good if you have a lot of dust bunnies. There are also under-the-bed storage solutions for shoes.

Consider other speciality products: There are a ton of other products you can consider. Cascading hangers, for example, will let you hang more dress shirts in a vertical space. I’m less of a fan of those since I think button-up shirts hold their shape better when they’re held on wooden hangers and not smashed against each other. There are also hangers to hold multiple pairs of pants (like this, this, or this). I’ve found those to be of limited use since hanging four or five pairs of pants on the same hanger still takes about the same horizontal space as they would if you hung them separately. The one by The Great American Hanger Company also has small plastic teeth on each bar. Useful for making sure your pants don’t slip down, but potentially damaging for wool trousers. I use one just for chinos and keep it on the end of my closet. Additionally, there’s the Hanger Hamper, which can be a nice way to free up space in your closet as more hangers become empty throughout the week.

Buy a new closet: At some point, there’s only so much you can do, and you may have to buy a new closet. I think this one and this one look particularly promising because of the double decker rod system.

That’s just the start. I recommend checking Closet Maid, The Container Store, and Bed, Bath & Beyond for other solutions. As I said, much of this will depend on your needs and room’s particular layout. 

(Photo by Darwin Bell)

Q and Answer: When Can I Wear a Tie Without a Jacket?
David asks: Just recently found your blog, and it’s a go-to for me everyday.  I do have a question.  You are adamant about the “tie with jacket only rule.”  I am a history teacher at a suburban high school in upstate New York.  The school has neither proper heating nor cooling, and I am constantly on my feet, walking around, at the front of the room, helping kids etc.  So when is it OK for me to take my jacket off and roll up my sleeves?
When I wrote this piece on 25 things you should know, there was a bit of controversy surrounding my suggestion that you shouldn’t wear a tie without a jacket. A fair amount of controversy, actually. But I wrote it advisedly, so let me offer you some guidelines.
First of all, it’s perfectly appropriate, in the course of work, to take off your coat. I myself take off my coat when I arrive at the office, and hang it on a coat rack. Most people who work in situations that demand a tie also work in situations that require them to sit frequently, and sitting wears unnecessarily on your coat. If I go out, or meet a colleague, or get cold, I put my coat back on. Generally, though, it’s off. That’s fine.
There are a few reasons it’s better to wear a coat. The first is that you will look better. Unless you happen to be Ryan Lochte, your physique will generally be more flattered by a coat than a shirt. It also makes you look “finished,” as though you’re fully dressed, prepared. A bit of variety and layering also makes almost any outfit look better.
But if you have some reason to take your coat off, no one will begrudge you. Taking a long walk in the sun? Carry your coat. (Short walks are often cooler with a seasonally-appropriate coat shading you.) Digging a ditch? Take off your coat. That’s fine. It’s like wearing your hat in a train station - the activity trumps the normal etiquette.
The question comes in when you are dressing with a tie but without a coat.
Ask yourself: why am I doing this? What is the occasion that demands the formality of a tie but doesn’t require a coat? Besides transitory situations (sitting at your desk, digging a ditch, eating soup), why would you need to wear a tie but not a coat?
The answer is pretty much “I work at a cell phone store.”
Which is not a good look.
Now, there’s a certain semi-ironic aesthetic that peaked a couple years ago that alludes to the (work-engaged, desk-sitting) necktied nerd of the 1960s. The NASA engineer look. It usually involves an extremely slim shirt and trousers, a skinny tie, and a tie clip. The sleeves are typically short or rolled (an allusion to those engineers-at-work). In warm weather, this look has no coat.
While I’d say that the style’s a little stale, fashion-wise, it looked fine on some people. Mostly very skinny ones who could pull off the irony. I sincerely had no beef with these people. Have no beef with these people - I’m sure there are people who look fine in this outfit even now. The truth is, though, that 99% of the guys wearing ties without coats in America today look like yutzes.
The simple solution is simple. If you’re wearing a coat, and the situation demands it, wear a tie. If you’re not, and it doesn’t, don’t. There’s no need to put the cart before the horse.

Q and Answer: When Can I Wear a Tie Without a Jacket?

David asks: Just recently found your blog, and it’s a go-to for me everyday.  I do have a question.  You are adamant about the “tie with jacket only rule.”  I am a history teacher at a suburban high school in upstate New York.  The school has neither proper heating nor cooling, and I am constantly on my feet, walking around, at the front of the room, helping kids etc.  So when is it OK for me to take my jacket off and roll up my sleeves?

When I wrote this piece on 25 things you should know, there was a bit of controversy surrounding my suggestion that you shouldn’t wear a tie without a jacket. A fair amount of controversy, actually. But I wrote it advisedly, so let me offer you some guidelines.

First of all, it’s perfectly appropriate, in the course of work, to take off your coat. I myself take off my coat when I arrive at the office, and hang it on a coat rack. Most people who work in situations that demand a tie also work in situations that require them to sit frequently, and sitting wears unnecessarily on your coat. If I go out, or meet a colleague, or get cold, I put my coat back on. Generally, though, it’s off. That’s fine.

There are a few reasons it’s better to wear a coat. The first is that you will look better. Unless you happen to be Ryan Lochte, your physique will generally be more flattered by a coat than a shirt. It also makes you look “finished,” as though you’re fully dressed, prepared. A bit of variety and layering also makes almost any outfit look better.

But if you have some reason to take your coat off, no one will begrudge you. Taking a long walk in the sun? Carry your coat. (Short walks are often cooler with a seasonally-appropriate coat shading you.) Digging a ditch? Take off your coat. That’s fine. It’s like wearing your hat in a train station - the activity trumps the normal etiquette.

The question comes in when you are dressing with a tie but without a coat.

Ask yourself: why am I doing this? What is the occasion that demands the formality of a tie but doesn’t require a coat? Besides transitory situations (sitting at your desk, digging a ditch, eating soup), why would you need to wear a tie but not a coat?

The answer is pretty much “I work at a cell phone store.”

Which is not a good look.

Now, there’s a certain semi-ironic aesthetic that peaked a couple years ago that alludes to the (work-engaged, desk-sitting) necktied nerd of the 1960s. The NASA engineer look. It usually involves an extremely slim shirt and trousers, a skinny tie, and a tie clip. The sleeves are typically short or rolled (an allusion to those engineers-at-work). In warm weather, this look has no coat.

While I’d say that the style’s a little stale, fashion-wise, it looked fine on some people. Mostly very skinny ones who could pull off the irony. I sincerely had no beef with these people. Have no beef with these people - I’m sure there are people who look fine in this outfit even now. The truth is, though, that 99% of the guys wearing ties without coats in America today look like yutzes.

The simple solution is simple. If you’re wearing a coat, and the situation demands it, wear a tie. If you’re not, and it doesn’t, don’t. There’s no need to put the cart before the horse.