Q & Answer: Should My Double-Breasted Jacket Be Buttoned When I Sit?
Charles asks: I was curious about the etiquette of sitting down in a double-breasted suit jacket or sport coat.  Is one permitted to unbutton it, or is it customary to leave it buttoned?
There’s no hard-and-fast rule on this matter, but I can give you some guidelines.
Generally speaking, double-breasted coats look much better when closed. You just have to watch a couple of David Letterman monologues to confirm that. So while it’s not required that you stay buttoned, it probably looks best.
I wear a lot of double-breasted suits on stage, where I typically have to sit, and I find that mine settle best with the lower button open but the top and inside buttons buttoned. That’s what it looks like Cary Grant is doing above. Your mileage may vary of course - I know some folks who prefer to leave only their inside button closed, and some who leave them all done up.
When it comes down to brass tacks, balance a clean look with your own comfort, and make the call yourself.

Q & Answer: Should My Double-Breasted Jacket Be Buttoned When I Sit?

Charles asks: I was curious about the etiquette of sitting down in a double-breasted suit jacket or sport coat.  Is one permitted to unbutton it, or is it customary to leave it buttoned?

There’s no hard-and-fast rule on this matter, but I can give you some guidelines.

Generally speaking, double-breasted coats look much better when closed. You just have to watch a couple of David Letterman monologues to confirm that. So while it’s not required that you stay buttoned, it probably looks best.

I wear a lot of double-breasted suits on stage, where I typically have to sit, and I find that mine settle best with the lower button open but the top and inside buttons buttoned. That’s what it looks like Cary Grant is doing above. Your mileage may vary of course - I know some folks who prefer to leave only their inside button closed, and some who leave them all done up.

When it comes down to brass tacks, balance a clean look with your own comfort, and make the call yourself.

Q & Answer: Where Should I Buy A Tuxedo?

Jason asks: I wanted to ask your opinion on J. Crew Ludlow tuxedos.  I live in Tribeca and often walk by the Ludlow shop on Hudson and like the look of their tuxedos displayed in the store front window.  I was also considering going to Brooks Brothers for a tux. Can you help?

Here’s the thing about tuxedos: they’re expensive, and unless you go to a lot of charity galas, you won’t end up wearing them a lot. Heck - I’m going to a film premiere tonight, and I’m told I should show up in a suit. So if you want the expenditure to be a reasonable one, you’ll need to buy something that you’ll feel as happy wearing ten years from now as today.

One of the J. Crew Ludlow tuxedos is the lower picture above. It’s fun. If I were a young guy from a CW show going to the Emmys, it might be the perfect thing. But in five years, the stuff that seemed fun (like the low-waisted pants, double vents and super-narrow lapels) will seem dated. The six or eight hundred bucks it’ll cost is a lot for one or two wearings.

So I’d recommend going one of two ways. The first is to go classic. Here in the States, if you’re talking about going to a store and buying off the rack, that really means Polo or Brooks Brothers. Both have great options like the one on the mannequin above that will look as classic in 2035 as they do now - if there’s still black tie at all then. Both will also be a bit more expensive than J. Crew, though I think they’re also a little better in terms of quality-to-price ratio.

The budget option is to go vintage. This takes shopping time and patience, but you can save a lot of money. As long as you’re comfortable looking distinctive, an older tux can look just as great as a new one. We’re talking pre-70s here, mostly. Show up in slim late-50s lapels and you won’t look dated, you’ll look retro, and that makes all the difference. Almost all black tie events are at least in part about enjoying yourself, so there’s no need to worry about not looking uber-conservative - there are no black-tie funerals. My own tuxedo was purchased at a Goodwill for $40, and it dates to the mid-30s. Looks as sharp now as it ever did.

Q & Answer: Can I Wear A Suit Without A Tie?
John asks: I work for a large multinational company. I see a lot of management, including C-level execs, wearing jackets without ties. I know how PTO feels about ties without jackets, and I agree, but what about the opposite?  When is it OK to wear a jacket but not a tie with your shirt unbuttoned? What’s the point?
You’re right: we generally think the tie-without-coat look is goofy. Makes you look, at best, like a bank teller. But the reverse? A-OK.
Here are some ways to make it work and some things to remember:
A suit is the ultimate flattering garment for a man; subtracting the tie doesn’t change that (much).  As you can see on Tom Ford, above, it can be a clean look, especially for evening.
A button-down collar shirt goes great with a soft, American-style casual sportcoat or blazer. With or without tie. It’s a classic casual look. Throw a sweater underneath and you’ve gone Full Granduncle.
Is a suit with no tie appropriate for business? Well, that depends on the business. It’s certainly a better look than the aforementioned tie-no-coat thing. If the executives are wearing it, it’ll probably fly.
It’s easier for this look to become sloppy, so make sure you’re sharp, like Ford, and not a hot mess.
Not all shirts are created equal here. As we mentioned: with more casual coats, like tweed, hopsack and flannel, a button-down collar is great. With sharper, more formal clothes, like Ford’s solid navy suit, you want a shirt collar that’s on the stiffer and taller side, with longer points. You don’t want it slipping under your jacket.
Remember, as Ford did above, that no tie doesn’t have to mean no pocket square. In fact, a tie-less look benefits immensely from that extra bit of “I care.”

Q & Answer: Can I Wear A Suit Without A Tie?

John asks: I work for a large multinational company. I see a lot of management, including C-level execs, wearing jackets without ties. I know how PTO feels about ties without jackets, and I agree, but what about the opposite?  When is it OK to wear a jacket but not a tie with your shirt unbuttoned? What’s the point?

You’re right: we generally think the tie-without-coat look is goofy. Makes you look, at best, like a bank teller. But the reverse? A-OK.

Here are some ways to make it work and some things to remember:

  • A suit is the ultimate flattering garment for a man; subtracting the tie doesn’t change that (much).  As you can see on Tom Ford, above, it can be a clean look, especially for evening.
  • A button-down collar shirt goes great with a soft, American-style casual sportcoat or blazer. With or without tie. It’s a classic casual look. Throw a sweater underneath and you’ve gone Full Granduncle.
  • Is a suit with no tie appropriate for business? Well, that depends on the business. It’s certainly a better look than the aforementioned tie-no-coat thing. If the executives are wearing it, it’ll probably fly.
  • It’s easier for this look to become sloppy, so make sure you’re sharp, like Ford, and not a hot mess.
  • Not all shirts are created equal here. As we mentioned: with more casual coats, like tweed, hopsack and flannel, a button-down collar is great. With sharper, more formal clothes, like Ford’s solid navy suit, you want a shirt collar that’s on the stiffer and taller side, with longer points. You don’t want it slipping under your jacket.
  • Remember, as Ford did above, that no tie doesn’t have to mean no pocket square. In fact, a tie-less look benefits immensely from that extra bit of “I care.”
Q & Answer: Can I Stretch A Sweater?
Jason asks: Have you ever heard of purposefully stretching sweaters to make the arms/ torso longer? I usually wear a “tall” size but Brooks Brothers only sells regular sizes. When I talked to a sales person there, he said they have a special machine to stretch sweaters. Have you ever hear of this? Are all knit fabrics stretchable?
I guess it’s possible that Brooks Brothers has a special machine to stretch sweaters, but I’ve certainly never heard of such a thing. That said, it is entirely possible to stretch most knits. To a point.
Here’s how it works: wet the sweater fully in cold water, press a bit of excess water out of it gently, then roll it in a towel like it was the ham in a wrap sandwich. You want it to be wet, but not so much so that it won’t dry after a day or so of sitting out.
Then arrange it on a dry towel in the size and shape you’re looking for. Above is a just-knit sweater which is going through this same process, called “blocking.” As you can see, the knitter has used graph markings on a work surface to make sure the piece is the exact right size. You don’t have to be quite that exact.
Do this, and you can get a couple inches of stretch from most knits. The only catch: wet them again and you’ll have to block them again.

Q & Answer: Can I Stretch A Sweater?

Jason asks: Have you ever heard of purposefully stretching sweaters to make the arms/ torso longer? I usually wear a “tall” size but Brooks Brothers only sells regular sizes. When I talked to a sales person there, he said they have a special machine to stretch sweaters. Have you ever hear of this? Are all knit fabrics stretchable?

I guess it’s possible that Brooks Brothers has a special machine to stretch sweaters, but I’ve certainly never heard of such a thing. That said, it is entirely possible to stretch most knits. To a point.

Here’s how it works: wet the sweater fully in cold water, press a bit of excess water out of it gently, then roll it in a towel like it was the ham in a wrap sandwich. You want it to be wet, but not so much so that it won’t dry after a day or so of sitting out.

Then arrange it on a dry towel in the size and shape you’re looking for. Above is a just-knit sweater which is going through this same process, called “blocking.” As you can see, the knitter has used graph markings on a work surface to make sure the piece is the exact right size. You don’t have to be quite that exact.

Do this, and you can get a couple inches of stretch from most knits. The only catch: wet them again and you’ll have to block them again.

Q and Answer: Which Sport Coats Can Be Worn with Jeans?
Kenny writes to us to ask: I wear jeans almost every day, but would like to get a sport coat for days I need to look a bit more dressed up. Are there certain ones I should be looking for? Is it even OK to wear sport coats with jeans?
The number of sport coats that can be successfully worn with jeans is much smaller than most men think. The problem starts with the motivation: most men, I imagine, are putting these things together because they’re trying to dress down a tailored jacket, which admittedly can look a bit formal in today’s world. The problem is, the more you try to dress down a sport coat, the more jarring the look becomes. In extremes, you can look like one of those children’s flipbooks, where you turn the pages to dress some character in bizarre combinations of shirts and pants. All dressy up top; strangely casual down below. 
There are sport coats you can wear with jeans though, and the key is to find ones where you don’t have to bridge such a big divide between casual and formal. In other words, find jackets that are inherently casual. Very textured jackets, especially ones with a rustic sensibility, are good choices. So, think tweeds and corduroys. The casual, rustic nature of those jackets plays well with the casual, rustic nature of jeans.
There are also slightly “fashion forward” sport coats. These are typically shorter in length, have unique details, and are made from casual fabrics. My co-writer Pete, for example, looks great here in his Engineered Garments jacket, blue button-down shirt, and dark jeans. Readers who closely follow our eBay roundups might have noticed that I list similar garments in our outerwear section. That’s because even though these have the semblance of a sport coat (two or three button front, buttons on the sleeve, notched lapels, etc), I think they’re better thought of as casual outerwear, rather than the type of sport coats you’d wear in a conservative work environment (e.g. law offices). Such jackets can always be worn with jeans.
Of course, this position is not without controversy or stipulations. Navy sport coats aren’t rustic, and they can sometimes be worn with jeans. And some people, such as Hooman Majd, look good in almost any combination. Certainly, you should always dress according to your eye, but in general, I think the rule of thumb is better followed than ignored: when pairing sport coats with jeans, choose ones that are close together in the formal-informal spectrum. Instead of trying to really dress down a jacket, you’re better off choosing something that’s a bit more casual, such as a tweed or corduroy, or swapping out the jeans for something dressier, such as chinos. Pick similarly casual shirts, shoes, and ties to go with the look (or forgo the tie altogether). Otherwise, you’ll risk looking like this guy. 
(Photo via voxsart)

Q and Answer: Which Sport Coats Can Be Worn with Jeans?

Kenny writes to us to ask: I wear jeans almost every day, but would like to get a sport coat for days I need to look a bit more dressed up. Are there certain ones I should be looking for? Is it even OK to wear sport coats with jeans?

The number of sport coats that can be successfully worn with jeans is much smaller than most men think. The problem starts with the motivation: most men, I imagine, are putting these things together because they’re trying to dress down a tailored jacket, which admittedly can look a bit formal in today’s world. The problem is, the more you try to dress down a sport coat, the more jarring the look becomes. In extremes, you can look like one of those children’s flipbooks, where you turn the pages to dress some character in bizarre combinations of shirts and pants. All dressy up top; strangely casual down below.

There are sport coats you can wear with jeans though, and the key is to find ones where you don’t have to bridge such a big divide between casual and formal. In other words, find jackets that are inherently casual. Very textured jackets, especially ones with a rustic sensibility, are good choices. So, think tweeds and corduroys. The casual, rustic nature of those jackets plays well with the casual, rustic nature of jeans.

There are also slightly “fashion forward” sport coats. These are typically shorter in length, have unique details, and are made from casual fabrics. My co-writer Pete, for example, looks great here in his Engineered Garments jacket, blue button-down shirt, and dark jeans. Readers who closely follow our eBay roundups might have noticed that I list similar garments in our outerwear section. That’s because even though these have the semblance of a sport coat (two or three button front, buttons on the sleeve, notched lapels, etc), I think they’re better thought of as casual outerwear, rather than the type of sport coats you’d wear in a conservative work environment (e.g. law offices). Such jackets can always be worn with jeans.

Of course, this position is not without controversy or stipulations. Navy sport coats aren’t rustic, and they can sometimes be worn with jeans. And some people, such as Hooman Majd, look good in almost any combination. Certainly, you should always dress according to your eye, but in general, I think the rule of thumb is better followed than ignored: when pairing sport coats with jeans, choose ones that are close together in the formal-informal spectrum. Instead of trying to really dress down a jacket, you’re better off choosing something that’s a bit more casual, such as a tweed or corduroy, or swapping out the jeans for something dressier, such as chinos. Pick similarly casual shirts, shoes, and ties to go with the look (or forgo the tie altogether). Otherwise, you’ll risk looking like this guy

(Photo via voxsart)

Q & Answer: When Shouldn’t You Go Bespoke?
Philip asks: I’m considering how I should spend $400 to buy a suit. I can either purchase one from a shop in Washington, DC, have one custom made for me in Florence or Rome when I visit this fall, or have one made in Bangkok or Hong Kong when I visit SE Asia in April. What would you recommend for receiving the best suit with the limited funds I have?
We get this question a lot at Put This On. Folks say they’re headed to Bangkok or Mumbai for a week, and should they buy their first suit there? Alternately, they ask if they should buy their first suit from a low-cost online custom maker.
The answer, generally, is no. Unless off-the-rack clothes don’t fit you, just buy off the rack.
Why shouldn’t you go bespoke?
Unless you have a very unusual body, an off-the-rack suit will fit you well, particularly with alterations. You can and should try on a variety of models to get a sense of which brands and styles fit you best, but for men who aren’t 6’6” or 300 pounds, off-the-rack will fit.
Bespoke tailoring, and custom tailoring generally, is never right the first time. Getting a perfect fit requires a long-term relationship and typically at least two or three garments, even for a great tailor.
Inexpensive tailors in second and third-world countries are rarely great tailors. There simply isn’t demand for great tailoring at their price point, and so good enough tailoring suffices. There are certainly exceptions, but you should ask yourself if you have the time and cultural skills to figure out who those exceptions are.
Fashion in the first world is very different than it is in the third world. One generally can’t rely on a tailor for fashion tips, but this is particularly true in, say, Thailand. If you don’t want an awkwardly designed (as opposed to tailored) suit, you’ll have to have a very, very specific idea of what you want, and communicate it effectively.
Buying bespoke involves a lot of choices, and those choices are best left to a professional clothing designer, rather than a guy buying his first suit.
High-quality fabrics are tough to get in the third world. You’ll find a lot of Chinese polyester blends in the fabric market in Bangkok, and not a lot of English woolens.
Of course, there are situations in which you can and should buy custom garments. If your body is unusual and you can’t get a good fit off the rack, go for it. If you live in a tailor-rich country, and can effectively judge who’s good and who’s not, and have the money to experiment and import fabric, go for it.
Generally, though, you’ll be better off at Suit Supply or Brooks Brothers or even H&M than with a tailor you don’t know whom you will see only once.
(One side note: shirts are a different story. If you can find decent fabric, there are tailors who can make affordable custom shirts in tons of places.)
(Photo via)

Q & Answer: When Shouldn’t You Go Bespoke?

Philip asks: I’m considering how I should spend $400 to buy a suit. I can either purchase one from a shop in Washington, DC, have one custom made for me in Florence or Rome when I visit this fall, or have one made in Bangkok or Hong Kong when I visit SE Asia in April. What would you recommend for receiving the best suit with the limited funds I have?

We get this question a lot at Put This On. Folks say they’re headed to Bangkok or Mumbai for a week, and should they buy their first suit there? Alternately, they ask if they should buy their first suit from a low-cost online custom maker.

The answer, generally, is no. Unless off-the-rack clothes don’t fit you, just buy off the rack.

Why shouldn’t you go bespoke?

  • Unless you have a very unusual body, an off-the-rack suit will fit you well, particularly with alterations. You can and should try on a variety of models to get a sense of which brands and styles fit you best, but for men who aren’t 6’6” or 300 pounds, off-the-rack will fit.
  • Bespoke tailoring, and custom tailoring generally, is never right the first time. Getting a perfect fit requires a long-term relationship and typically at least two or three garments, even for a great tailor.
  • Inexpensive tailors in second and third-world countries are rarely great tailors. There simply isn’t demand for great tailoring at their price point, and so good enough tailoring suffices. There are certainly exceptions, but you should ask yourself if you have the time and cultural skills to figure out who those exceptions are.
  • Fashion in the first world is very different than it is in the third world. One generally can’t rely on a tailor for fashion tips, but this is particularly true in, say, Thailand. If you don’t want an awkwardly designed (as opposed to tailored) suit, you’ll have to have a very, very specific idea of what you want, and communicate it effectively.
  • Buying bespoke involves a lot of choices, and those choices are best left to a professional clothing designer, rather than a guy buying his first suit.
  • High-quality fabrics are tough to get in the third world. You’ll find a lot of Chinese polyester blends in the fabric market in Bangkok, and not a lot of English woolens.

Of course, there are situations in which you can and should buy custom garments. If your body is unusual and you can’t get a good fit off the rack, go for it. If you live in a tailor-rich country, and can effectively judge who’s good and who’s not, and have the money to experiment and import fabric, go for it.

Generally, though, you’ll be better off at Suit Supply or Brooks Brothers or even H&M than with a tailor you don’t know whom you will see only once.

(One side note: shirts are a different story. If you can find decent fabric, there are tailors who can make affordable custom shirts in tons of places.)

(Photo via)

Q & Answer: Can I Wear A Button-Down Collar Shirt With A Suit?
Timothy asks: In the pictures accompanying your post “That Enviable Roll,” several of the gentlemen appeared to be wearing suits. I thought OCBDs should not generally be worn with suits. Can you provide some insight?
Button-down collared shirts are the most casual long-sleeve dress shirts you can wear. So casual that I thought twice about describing them as dress shirts in that last sentence. They were developed for wear during sport - that’s why Brooks Brothers still calls them the “polo collar.”
Of course, the story of American style has been, over the last hundred years or so, a march towards the casual. Starting sometime around the middle of the 20th century, that included wearing button-down collared oxfords with suits. It looks great on Paul Newman (above), or on Fred Astaire (who was always about to break into dance), but what about you?
Generally, I’d discourage it. If you’re a J. Press man, wearing nothing but traditional soft-shouldered, undarted, single-vented “Ivy League” suits, I think you’re fine. I think the aesthetic coherence of that style trumps the conflict between the casual collar and more formal suit.
In practice, though, that’s rarely what I see on the street. Generally, I see men who have combined these elements thoughtlessly, perhaps because their wives bought them a dozen shirts one day at Costco and they went from there. That’s a look that does nobody any favors.
So, when to wear a button down? With an odd jacket, blazer or sportcoat, especially a casual one, like something linen or tweed. With a bowtie. When you’re committing to an American “trad” aesthetic. When you’re not wearing a coat and tie at all.
Hope that helps.

Q & Answer: Can I Wear A Button-Down Collar Shirt With A Suit?

Timothy asks: In the pictures accompanying your post “That Enviable Roll,” several of the gentlemen appeared to be wearing suits. I thought OCBDs should not generally be worn with suits. Can you provide some insight?

Button-down collared shirts are the most casual long-sleeve dress shirts you can wear. So casual that I thought twice about describing them as dress shirts in that last sentence. They were developed for wear during sport - that’s why Brooks Brothers still calls them the “polo collar.”

Of course, the story of American style has been, over the last hundred years or so, a march towards the casual. Starting sometime around the middle of the 20th century, that included wearing button-down collared oxfords with suits. It looks great on Paul Newman (above), or on Fred Astaire (who was always about to break into dance), but what about you?

Generally, I’d discourage it. If you’re a J. Press man, wearing nothing but traditional soft-shouldered, undarted, single-vented “Ivy League” suits, I think you’re fine. I think the aesthetic coherence of that style trumps the conflict between the casual collar and more formal suit.

In practice, though, that’s rarely what I see on the street. Generally, I see men who have combined these elements thoughtlessly, perhaps because their wives bought them a dozen shirts one day at Costco and they went from there. That’s a look that does nobody any favors.

So, when to wear a button down? With an odd jacket, blazer or sportcoat, especially a casual one, like something linen or tweed. With a bowtie. When you’re committing to an American “trad” aesthetic. When you’re not wearing a coat and tie at all.

Hope that helps.

Q & Answer: The Short-Sleeved Dress Shirt
Jon asks: Can a gentleman wear a short sleeve dress shirt to work and still be considered a gentleman? It’s getting hot, so I thought I’d ask. Thanks for any help, Jesse! 
The short-sleeved dress shirt is a bit of a fashion anomaly. It became popular in the 1960s among men who had to wear a dress shirt, but didn’t want to and folks who worked at drafting tables - think engineers, draftsmen and other guys in horn-rimmed glasses. Or Michael Douglas in Falling Down. As dress restrictions eased, and the fashion faded, they passed out of vogue for all but their most ardent adherents: Mormon missionaries.
In the past few years, they’ve had a bit of a resurgence as a semi-ironic element of “geek chic.” The new versions are typically worn very slim, without a coat, and often combined with the top-button-buttoned-but-no-tie look. 
Can you wear that kind of thing to work? Well, you know better than I. If you’re looking to dress classically well, the answer’s pretty much no. If a trendy casual look’s what you’re after, you’re probably fine, though the style is on the downward slope there. 
If you’re looking for an alternative, try a shirt in linen or a linen-cotton blend, an open weave, or simply roll up your sleeves.

Q & Answer: The Short-Sleeved Dress Shirt

Jon asks: Can a gentleman wear a short sleeve dress shirt to work and still be considered a gentleman? It’s getting hot, so I thought I’d ask. Thanks for any help, Jesse!

The short-sleeved dress shirt is a bit of a fashion anomaly. It became popular in the 1960s among men who had to wear a dress shirt, but didn’t want to and folks who worked at drafting tables - think engineers, draftsmen and other guys in horn-rimmed glasses. Or Michael Douglas in Falling Down. As dress restrictions eased, and the fashion faded, they passed out of vogue for all but their most ardent adherents: Mormon missionaries.

In the past few years, they’ve had a bit of a resurgence as a semi-ironic element of “geek chic.” The new versions are typically worn very slim, without a coat, and often combined with the top-button-buttoned-but-no-tie look.

Can you wear that kind of thing to work? Well, you know better than I. If you’re looking to dress classically well, the answer’s pretty much no. If a trendy casual look’s what you’re after, you’re probably fine, though the style is on the downward slope there.

If you’re looking for an alternative, try a shirt in linen or a linen-cotton blend, an open weave, or simply roll up your sleeves.

Q & Answer: How Do I Eliminate the Blousing on a Shirt?
Gary writes: I just got a new job and am having to wear dress shirts for the first time. I went out this weekend and tried a bunch on, but all of them seem to blouse and billow over the top of my pants. Is there any way to fix this, or do I just have to keep searching for the perfect shirt?
Ready-to-wear clothing rarely fits perfectly off the rack. Remember, garments are made with an imaginary person in mind, usually someone that’s an “average” of the demographic the company is trying to target. You’re unlikely to be that exact average, so some alterations will likely be necessary.
The less you alter a garment, however, the better. So the first step is to find a shirt that fits as well as possible. After you find one and purchase it, take it to the tailors to have the sides slimmed down. This will take out most of the billowing, but be sure to not go too slim. You want to be able to sit down and have a full meal, after all.
If you’d like, you can also have darts put in. These will help reduce the fullness in the lower back. They’re good for most men, but if you stand with a bit of a hunch, note that they’ll accentuate your less than ideal posture (as they’ll create a bit of an S curve from your side profile). You can get them put into one shirt and see how you like the effect. They can be taken out afterwards if you don’t like them, but on many cotton shirts, this will leave some faint lines where the darts used to be. The job of taking in the sides and putting in darts should probably run you something like $15.
If you find that you still have some blousing even after alterations, you can try the military tuck. That’s when you tuck your shirt in straight, but then pinch the sides and pull them back to reduce fullness. You can see a simple guide on how to do it here.
A good alterations tailor and military tuck will solve most of the billowing, but if you’re striving for perfection, you’ll likely need to go custom. I’ve written a seven-part series on custom shirts, which you can read here.
This is one area where I find bespoke makers to be a bit better than most made-to-measure services. With a good bespoke tailor, you’re getting a custom pattern drafted from scratch. With made-to-measure, the company is usually altering an existing pattern through some computer program. The first, from my experience, allows you to more easily account things that might not be easily captured by simple measurements. For example, my tailor (Ascot Chang) lowered the waist point on my first pattern, so that narrowest part of the shirt aligned with the narrowest point of my torso. This allowed the shirt to better transition as it moved down to my hips, thus distributing the fullness perfectly when my shirt is tucked (like this). That kind of adjustment is often not possible through made-to-measure, and isn’t something an alterations tailor can do for you. 
Bespoke shirts are expensive, however. If you don’t mind the cost, I think they’re worth it. For most men though, a $15 alterations job and military tuck will deliver most of what they need. 
(Photo via GQ)

Q & Answer: How Do I Eliminate the Blousing on a Shirt?

Gary writes: I just got a new job and am having to wear dress shirts for the first time. I went out this weekend and tried a bunch on, but all of them seem to blouse and billow over the top of my pants. Is there any way to fix this, or do I just have to keep searching for the perfect shirt?

Ready-to-wear clothing rarely fits perfectly off the rack. Remember, garments are made with an imaginary person in mind, usually someone that’s an “average” of the demographic the company is trying to target. You’re unlikely to be that exact average, so some alterations will likely be necessary.

The less you alter a garment, however, the better. So the first step is to find a shirt that fits as well as possible. After you find one and purchase it, take it to the tailors to have the sides slimmed down. This will take out most of the billowing, but be sure to not go too slim. You want to be able to sit down and have a full meal, after all.

If you’d like, you can also have darts put in. These will help reduce the fullness in the lower back. They’re good for most men, but if you stand with a bit of a hunch, note that they’ll accentuate your less than ideal posture (as they’ll create a bit of an S curve from your side profile). You can get them put into one shirt and see how you like the effect. They can be taken out afterwards if you don’t like them, but on many cotton shirts, this will leave some faint lines where the darts used to be. The job of taking in the sides and putting in darts should probably run you something like $15.

If you find that you still have some blousing even after alterations, you can try the military tuck. That’s when you tuck your shirt in straight, but then pinch the sides and pull them back to reduce fullness. You can see a simple guide on how to do it here.

A good alterations tailor and military tuck will solve most of the billowing, but if you’re striving for perfection, you’ll likely need to go custom. I’ve written a seven-part series on custom shirts, which you can read here.

This is one area where I find bespoke makers to be a bit better than most made-to-measure services. With a good bespoke tailor, you’re getting a custom pattern drafted from scratch. With made-to-measure, the company is usually altering an existing pattern through some computer program. The first, from my experience, allows you to more easily account things that might not be easily captured by simple measurements. For example, my tailor (Ascot Chang) lowered the waist point on my first pattern, so that narrowest part of the shirt aligned with the narrowest point of my torso. This allowed the shirt to better transition as it moved down to my hips, thus distributing the fullness perfectly when my shirt is tucked (like this). That kind of adjustment is often not possible through made-to-measure, and isn’t something an alterations tailor can do for you. 

Bespoke shirts are expensive, however. If you don’t mind the cost, I think they’re worth it. For most men though, a $15 alterations job and military tuck will deliver most of what they need. 

(Photo via GQ)

Q & Answer: What Shoes Should I Bring On Vacation?

Ben writes: This May, my wife and I are honeymooning in Europe for two weeks. I know that I will be doing a heavy amount of walking. Do you have any suggestions for footwear that will allow me to keep pace with my wife without looking like the ugly American?

Packing shoes for a trip - especially one that requires more than one level of formality - is always tough. When I travel, I fight not to bring more than two pairs of shoes, with one of those pairs on my feet. I don’t always win the fight.

I’ve got plenty of dress shoes that are perfectly comfortable, but none that I’d want to walk miles in. So if I’m bringing a pair of dress shoes to make a big presentation or what-have-you, I’m usually looking to compliment them with a “walking shoe.”

Depending on the season and context, that usually boils down to one of two things: a simple sneaker, or a comfortable boot.

I actually own the Grenson chukka boots pictured above, in a slightly darker brown. I find they work great with jeans or khakis, though I obviously wouldn’t wear them with shorts were I headed somewhere hot. In fact, they’re sort of a three-season shoe - fine anytime but summer. Sometimes I’ll substitute the chunkier, hardier Alden Indy Boot for these. Most importantly, I can put in a few miles on these, and be happy to see them the next day.

I also frequently bring sneakers on trips that will involve walking. As usual, I’d say the simpler the better. Above are a classic, the Adidas Samba. I usually wear Common Projects, which are great but expensive. I’m hoping Kent Wang gets in a full size run of his plain white sneaks soon. And of course if it’s summer, there’s stuff like Jack Purcells and Supergas, among others.

Traveling’s really an exercise in building a capsule wardrobe. You want to carry as few pieces as possible, and have as much interchangability as possible. So: keep it simple, and you’ll be fine.