Why Pay for Canvas?

As many readers know, suit jackets and sport coats mainly come in three types of construction: fused, half-canvassed, and fully-canvassed. A fused jacket will have a lightweight fusible interlining sandwiched in-between the two outer shell fabrics, and a canvassed one will have a canvas made from animal hair (usually horse or camel) mixed with either cotton or wool. Generally speaking, canvassed jackets will cost considerably more than fused ones. So why pay for them?

Well, one of the reasons is that a canvassed jacket will have a lot more three-dimensional shape. Animal hair can be molded using steam, heat, and pressure, much like how a woman’s hair can be shaped using a hot curling iron. With that shape, you get a much more beautiful garment. 

Take a look above. The top most photo is of Alan See with his lovely wife at the menswear trade show Pitti Uomo. He’s seen here wearing a three-piece suit by Liverano & Liverano, a bespoke tailoring house in Florence, Italy. Notice how his lapel line “blooms” as it moves from the buttoning point to his shoulders? It has a “roll” to it, rather than being pressed flat against his chest. Similarly, just below him are JefferyD and MostExerent, both of which also have nice, shapely lapels that “roll” near their buttoning points.

To understand how this is achieved, look at the bottommost photo above (also taken from JefferyD). Moving from left to right, the first material is haircloth, which is made from wiry horsetail strands. This is used to add shape to the chest and shoulders (ever put on a Tom Ford suit and feel like you’re wearing a prosthetic chest? This is because he puts in a ton of haircloth into his suits). The second material is wrapped haircloth, which is a softer, more affordable alternative. Next, we have a wool canvas (the brown material) and a fusible (the black material). These are added on top of the haircloth and extend from the shoulders to the hem (the haircloth is only in the chest). Notice that the brown wool canvas has a natural roll to it while the black fusible is limp. This natural roll is what gives those lapels their “bloom.” 

Of course, this isn’t to say that fused garments aren’t worth buying. They’re considerably more affordable, which is nice if you’re on a budget or if your tastes are still developing. It can take a long, long time for your tastes to settle and for you to develop an eye for what truly fits and flatters you the most. It would be a shame if you had to make your mistakes on much more expensive garments. 

If you have the money, however, and you feel confident in your choices, canvassed garments can be much more handsome. And once you own some, know how to best preserve their shape (after all, that’s what you paid for). Make sure your jackets aren’t smashed against each other in your closet and use hangers with wide, flared out shoulders. Our advertiser The Hanger Project sells some really nice ones, but if you want something more affordable, check out Wooden Hangers USA. Also, stay away from bad dry cleaners, as they can really press the life out of your jackets’ lapels, shoulders, and chests. I ship my stuff to RAVE FabriCare, but you can look for someone more local. Finally, be careful with garment steamers, and don’t hang your jackets in the bathroom while taking a shower. Steam will take out the wrinkles, it’s true, but it’ll also take out the shape. If that ever happens, you can send your jacket to a place that gives a good handpressing. That should be done every once in a while anyway, just so your jackets can maintain their form. 

(Photos via NY Mag, JefferyD, and MostExerent)

Finding a Good Dry Cleaner
With the amount of information online about clothing construction and quality, there’s surprisingly little about how to find a good dry cleaner. The quality of your cleaner, however, can really affect the life of your garments. Take your clothes to a bad operation and they can set in stains, ruin the nap on fabrics, and even take the shape out of a well-made jacket. It’s worthwhile then to figure out how to tell a good dry cleaning job from a bad one.
There are essentially two types of dry cleaning businesses. The first is known as a dry store, where the store essentially acts as a drop-off point for some remotely located central plant. For every central plant, there might be five to twenty of these “satellite” shops located throughout various neighborhoods. The second is what’s known as a package plant, where a business has their own equipment on-site, which means they actually do the dry cleaning themselves.
So how can you tell the quality of these cleaners’ work? Well, roughly speaking, a dry store is more likely to have lower quality service. Their aim typically is to control costs, increase efficiency, and turn things around as quickly as possible. If you see a really small shop with no machines besides a conveyer behind the counter, and they’re charging you $8 to clean a suit with next day service, the chances are, you’re clothes aren’t getting much consideration.
Package plants, on the other hand, tend to have better service, but you can’t assume this just because they own their own equipment. It’s useful to know a bit about the dry cleaning process so you know what things to look for and what questions to ask. For example:
Dry cleaning is good for taking out oil-based stains (such as those from lotions, salad dressings, and pizza drippings) but it can potentially set in water-based stains (such as those from juice, coffee, or even perspiration). A good dry cleaner will thus identify the types of stains you have and pre-treat them accordingly, so that damage isn’t set in through the cleaning process itself. Make sure your cleaner has a technician that does this.
Some dry cleaners also re-use their cleaning fluids, which means dirt from previous loads can be redeposited. Ask your cleaner if they use freshly purified or freshly distilled fluids with every run.
If you’re having garments pressed, you may also want to enquire if the job is done by hand or machine (though, from my experience, many places that do a machine press will still say they do it by hand). The problem with a machine press is that they’re often just blowing hot steam through a garment, which can take the shape out of a high-quality suit and ruin the seams on a low-quality jacket.
Finally, when you get your garments back, feel the fabrics. Do they feel soft, as you remember them, or a bit stiff? Many cleaners will use what’s known in the trade as sizing, which stiffens a fabric a bit so that it’s easier to press. Great for efficiency, but bad if you want to maintain the soft hand and beautiful nap on a something such as high-quality flannel wool.
Now, I’m wary of advising people to go into operations and interrogate professionals as though they know more about the business than the people running the shop. What I am advising, however, is that people learn a bit about how dry cleaning is done, just as they should learn a little about how shoes and suits are made. That way, they know what are the right questions to ask and be able to interpret answers.
For what it’s worth, the best dry cleaner I know of is RAVE FabriCARE, who is located in Arizona, but can take clothes by mail. Their prices aren’t cheap, but if you have something you really care about, or something heavily soiled, they’re certainly worth considering. Stu, who runs that operation, sat down with me last year to really explain the cleaning process, and he runs a blog where you can find much of this same information. Take the time to read through a few of his posts. They’re quite informative and can go a long way in helping you find the right cleaner for your needs. 
(Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Finding a Good Dry Cleaner

With the amount of information online about clothing construction and quality, there’s surprisingly little about how to find a good dry cleaner. The quality of your cleaner, however, can really affect the life of your garments. Take your clothes to a bad operation and they can set in stains, ruin the nap on fabrics, and even take the shape out of a well-made jacket. It’s worthwhile then to figure out how to tell a good dry cleaning job from a bad one.

There are essentially two types of dry cleaning businesses. The first is known as a dry store, where the store essentially acts as a drop-off point for some remotely located central plant. For every central plant, there might be five to twenty of these “satellite” shops located throughout various neighborhoods. The second is what’s known as a package plant, where a business has their own equipment on-site, which means they actually do the dry cleaning themselves.

So how can you tell the quality of these cleaners’ work? Well, roughly speaking, a dry store is more likely to have lower quality service. Their aim typically is to control costs, increase efficiency, and turn things around as quickly as possible. If you see a really small shop with no machines besides a conveyer behind the counter, and they’re charging you $8 to clean a suit with next day service, the chances are, you’re clothes aren’t getting much consideration.

Package plants, on the other hand, tend to have better service, but you can’t assume this just because they own their own equipment. It’s useful to know a bit about the dry cleaning process so you know what things to look for and what questions to ask. For example:

  • Dry cleaning is good for taking out oil-based stains (such as those from lotions, salad dressings, and pizza drippings) but it can potentially set in water-based stains (such as those from juice, coffee, or even perspiration). A good dry cleaner will thus identify the types of stains you have and pre-treat them accordingly, so that damage isn’t set in through the cleaning process itself. Make sure your cleaner has a technician that does this.
  • Some dry cleaners also re-use their cleaning fluids, which means dirt from previous loads can be redeposited. Ask your cleaner if they use freshly purified or freshly distilled fluids with every run.
  • If you’re having garments pressed, you may also want to enquire if the job is done by hand or machine (though, from my experience, many places that do a machine press will still say they do it by hand). The problem with a machine press is that they’re often just blowing hot steam through a garment, which can take the shape out of a high-quality suit and ruin the seams on a low-quality jacket.
  • Finally, when you get your garments back, feel the fabrics. Do they feel soft, as you remember them, or a bit stiff? Many cleaners will use what’s known in the trade as sizing, which stiffens a fabric a bit so that it’s easier to press. Great for efficiency, but bad if you want to maintain the soft hand and beautiful nap on a something such as high-quality flannel wool.

Now, I’m wary of advising people to go into operations and interrogate professionals as though they know more about the business than the people running the shop. What I am advising, however, is that people learn a bit about how dry cleaning is done, just as they should learn a little about how shoes and suits are made. That way, they know what are the right questions to ask and be able to interpret answers.

For what it’s worth, the best dry cleaner I know of is RAVE FabriCARE, who is located in Arizona, but can take clothes by mail. Their prices aren’t cheap, but if you have something you really care about, or something heavily soiled, they’re certainly worth considering. Stu, who runs that operation, sat down with me last year to really explain the cleaning process, and he runs a blog where you can find much of this same information. Take the time to read through a few of his posts. They’re quite informative and can go a long way in helping you find the right cleaner for your needs. 

(Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Proper Garment Care
Buying high quality garments, with the assumption that they’re built to last, only means something if you know how to take proper care of your clothes. Stuffing them into overcrowded closets or sending them off to bad dry cleaners will shorten their life considerably. Fortunately, taking care of your clothes doesn’t require much work. You can accomplish it with just a few minutes a day.
For suits and sport coats, dry cleaning twice a year should be sufficient for anything that’s only worn once or twice a week. Sending it in more often than that will shorten the life and ruin the look of a jacket. That’s because most dry cleaners use harsh chemicals and give hard pressings. You can, of course, use a high-quality cleaner that doesn’t employ such methods, but those will cost you more money.
For every day care, brush the dirt out with a soft bristled garment brush. This will prevent them from getting deep into the fabric, where friction can damage the fibers. It’ll also knock out any food bits that may attract moths. You can buy garment brushes from Kent, though sometimes slightly imperfect ones can be had for a bit cheaper on eBay. For something truly nice, Linkson Jack has some brushes backed with oxhorn.
To begin brushing, wipe down any large, unfinished wooden table, and lay your garment down on the surface. A polished table may be too slippery, so if you only have one of those, put your garment on a blanket or strip of felt so it won’t slide about. If this doesn’t work, you can also brush your garment while it’s on a hanger (though I find it’s harder to really bring some pressure to bear on the brush this way). While brushing, use short flicks of the wrist and always brush in the same direction. Never, ever scrub. You can first brush against the nap to remove any dirt, and then down the nap for a smooth finish. Some people even recommend dampening the brush with some water first for a bit of a freshening up, though I’ve never found the need to do this.
For wrinkles, you can let your jackets hang for a day or two. Heavy wools and linens should naturally relax over time. If you still need to sharpen them up, try using a garment steamer, but be careful to stay away from the seams and don’t go too wild with the device. Otherwise, you can ruin the stitching and take out the shape. Afterwards, hang your jacket on a hanger with flared shoulders. The Hanger Project makes the nicest ones I know of. The width and curvature of their shoulders most closely imitate a man’s natural shoulders, which is what you want. If you can’t afford them, however, Wooden Hanger USA sells some very nice options starting at $7.
If your jackets are finely constructed, you may also want to send them in for a hand press once a year or so. This will help restore their shape, which is often what gives a suit its flattering silhouette. Note, a hand press is different from a machine press. Most places will offer the second, even if they advertise it as the first. Machine presses take shape out; hand presses put shape in. If you can’t find someone in your area who can give you this service, you can send your jackets to Rave Fabricare.
For trousers, I recommend a similar treatment. Wools and linens go to the dry cleaner, though perhaps a bit more frequently than jackets since they tend to get dirty quicker. Still, we’re only talking about three or four times a year. You can brush out most of the dirt each day with a garment brush. Casual cotton chinos can be machine washed, though I also send my nicer, dressier cotton trousers to the dry cleaner. That includes dress chinos, moleskins, and corduroys. 
For sweaters, some cotton sweatshirts can be machine washed, but most sweaters will be better served by an at-home hand wash. This is a rather simple process, and Jesse covered the how-to two years ago in this post.
For shirts, pre-treat any stained collars and cuffs with Octagon Bar Soap. Soak your shirt in some water, rub the soap in, and scrub with a fingernail brush. Repeat until you see the dirt rings start fading. Then roll up your wet, soapy shirt and leave it overnight in a plastic bag so that it remains moist. The next day, just launder as usual. Alex Kabbaz, one of America’s best custom shirt makers, recommends Tide’s Unscented Original. I use Ecover, and mix in some Oxiclean if my shirts are extra dirty (as per Jesse’s recommendation). To protect the mother of pearl buttons, I sometimes button my shirts and turn them inside out.
For machine washes, you should always try to use the cold water, gentle cycle, but if you really need to treat stains, hot water for whites and warm water for light colors is often acceptable. Dark colors, however, should always be washed with cold water. After the wash, I strongly recommend hang drying. Machine dryers can take the humidity out of your fabrics, leaving them dull and brittle, which will eventually give them a premature worn-out appearance.
As always, make sure you always consult your garment’s care label for more instructions. They’ll usually at least tell you the bare minimum you have to adhere to.
(Photo from The Trad) 

Proper Garment Care

Buying high quality garments, with the assumption that they’re built to last, only means something if you know how to take proper care of your clothes. Stuffing them into overcrowded closets or sending them off to bad dry cleaners will shorten their life considerably. Fortunately, taking care of your clothes doesn’t require much work. You can accomplish it with just a few minutes a day.

For suits and sport coats, dry cleaning twice a year should be sufficient for anything that’s only worn once or twice a week. Sending it in more often than that will shorten the life and ruin the look of a jacket. That’s because most dry cleaners use harsh chemicals and give hard pressings. You can, of course, use a high-quality cleaner that doesn’t employ such methods, but those will cost you more money.

For every day care, brush the dirt out with a soft bristled garment brush. This will prevent them from getting deep into the fabric, where friction can damage the fibers. It’ll also knock out any food bits that may attract moths. You can buy garment brushes from Kent, though sometimes slightly imperfect ones can be had for a bit cheaper on eBay. For something truly nice, Linkson Jack has some brushes backed with oxhorn.

To begin brushing, wipe down any large, unfinished wooden table, and lay your garment down on the surface. A polished table may be too slippery, so if you only have one of those, put your garment on a blanket or strip of felt so it won’t slide about. If this doesn’t work, you can also brush your garment while it’s on a hanger (though I find it’s harder to really bring some pressure to bear on the brush this way). While brushing, use short flicks of the wrist and always brush in the same direction. Never, ever scrub. You can first brush against the nap to remove any dirt, and then down the nap for a smooth finish. Some people even recommend dampening the brush with some water first for a bit of a freshening up, though I’ve never found the need to do this.

For wrinkles, you can let your jackets hang for a day or two. Heavy wools and linens should naturally relax over time. If you still need to sharpen them up, try using a garment steamer, but be careful to stay away from the seams and don’t go too wild with the device. Otherwise, you can ruin the stitching and take out the shape. Afterwards, hang your jacket on a hanger with flared shoulders. The Hanger Project makes the nicest ones I know of. The width and curvature of their shoulders most closely imitate a man’s natural shoulders, which is what you want. If you can’t afford them, however, Wooden Hanger USA sells some very nice options starting at $7.

If your jackets are finely constructed, you may also want to send them in for a hand press once a year or so. This will help restore their shape, which is often what gives a suit its flattering silhouette. Note, a hand press is different from a machine press. Most places will offer the second, even if they advertise it as the first. Machine presses take shape out; hand presses put shape in. If you can’t find someone in your area who can give you this service, you can send your jackets to Rave Fabricare.

For trousers, I recommend a similar treatment. Wools and linens go to the dry cleaner, though perhaps a bit more frequently than jackets since they tend to get dirty quicker. Still, we’re only talking about three or four times a year. You can brush out most of the dirt each day with a garment brush. Casual cotton chinos can be machine washed, though I also send my nicer, dressier cotton trousers to the dry cleaner. That includes dress chinos, moleskins, and corduroys. 

For sweaters, some cotton sweatshirts can be machine washed, but most sweaters will be better served by an at-home hand wash. This is a rather simple process, and Jesse covered the how-to two years ago in this post.

For shirts, pre-treat any stained collars and cuffs with Octagon Bar Soap. Soak your shirt in some water, rub the soap in, and scrub with a fingernail brush. Repeat until you see the dirt rings start fading. Then roll up your wet, soapy shirt and leave it overnight in a plastic bag so that it remains moist. The next day, just launder as usual. Alex Kabbaz, one of America’s best custom shirt makers, recommends Tide’s Unscented Original. I use Ecover, and mix in some Oxiclean if my shirts are extra dirty (as per Jesse’s recommendation). To protect the mother of pearl buttons, I sometimes button my shirts and turn them inside out.

For machine washes, you should always try to use the cold water, gentle cycle, but if you really need to treat stains, hot water for whites and warm water for light colors is often acceptable. Dark colors, however, should always be washed with cold water. After the wash, I strongly recommend hang drying. Machine dryers can take the humidity out of your fabrics, leaving them dull and brittle, which will eventually give them a premature worn-out appearance.

As always, make sure you always consult your garment’s care label for more instructions. They’ll usually at least tell you the bare minimum you have to adhere to.

(Photo from The Trad

Beware of Steamers
A garment steamer, like the one you see above, can be useful to take out wrinkles. If you use one, however, you should be aware: what seems to be a rather simple and innocuous device is actually something that can ruin your clothes.
This has been something of a crusade for tailors such as Jeffery Diduch (though he’s certainly not alone in the opinion). The logic here is straightforward: for high-quality garments, a fully canvassed jacket will have been carefully molded and shaped through a lot of hand pressing. As I’ve written before, a well-tailored jacket has a certain three-dimensional shape. You may notice a convex curve at the chest, concave curve at the waist, and maybe even a well-shaped, cylindrical sleeve. These aren’t formed by just cutting pieces of cloth to a certain pattern, but also by shaping the wool with a heavy iron.
A garment steamer can destroy a lot of this work. To understand how, imagine what would happen if you blew hot steam through a woman’s hair after it’s been carefully done up through curlers and ironing. It would go limp – her hair would relax and the shape would fall out. Wool is the same way. Which is why, given how much handwork goes into a well-tailored jacket, and how much value that work imparts, one should reconsider garment steamers.
Another, arguably larger, danger looms for fused jackets. There, hot steam can delaminate the fusible interlining inside, which then can result in bubbling. If you don’t believe this can happen, know that in order to delaminate jackets, factories do exactly this: blow hot steam through a jacket. The only way to prevent delamination is to apply both hot steam and pressure. Without the second ingredient, you risk a separation of the layers.
So then what to do about wrinkles? Jeffery has often recommended that men learn how to press their own jackets, but this isn’t the same as ironing your shirts. In fact, the key here is to not iron, but press, and to learn how to do that properly, you should read Jeffery’s tutorial.
Jeffery’s write is well done and detailed, but I admit I’ll never try doing such a thing. I just don’t have any confidence I’d do it right. So, if you’re in the same boat, I’d recommend sending it to someone who can do it professionally. Note, most dry cleaners will say they offer this service, but what they’re actually doing is putting your jacket over a form and blowing hot steam through it. Not what you want. Make sure you’re getting a true hand press. If you can’t find someone local for this, I recommend RAVE FabriCARE.
But what if you just need something quickly done? Sending your garments in for a professional press after every wear seems excessive. If you have small areas with wrinkles – say at the back of your trousers’ knees or behind the elbows – I think it’s reasonable to carefully and judiciously apply a very light amount of steam for a short period of time. Note, many tailors I know will still wince at this suggestion, but I think it’s the most reasonable “middle road.” Certainly don’t go crazy with your steamer, and don’t steam areas that have been heavily shaped (such as the chest). Try to avoid areas with canvassing, and even sections with seams (as you can blow them out). Just light, gentle, and careful steaming. This, in my opinion, is certainly better than the often passed-around advice of putting your tailored jackets in the bathroom with you while you take a shower. There, the steam won’t be targeted at all, and you can end up wearing the man’s clothing version of a woman’s limp hairdo.
(Photo from Overstock)

Beware of Steamers

A garment steamer, like the one you see above, can be useful to take out wrinkles. If you use one, however, you should be aware: what seems to be a rather simple and innocuous device is actually something that can ruin your clothes.

This has been something of a crusade for tailors such as Jeffery Diduch (though he’s certainly not alone in the opinion). The logic here is straightforward: for high-quality garments, a fully canvassed jacket will have been carefully molded and shaped through a lot of hand pressing. As I’ve written before, a well-tailored jacket has a certain three-dimensional shape. You may notice a convex curve at the chest, concave curve at the waist, and maybe even a well-shaped, cylindrical sleeve. These aren’t formed by just cutting pieces of cloth to a certain pattern, but also by shaping the wool with a heavy iron.

A garment steamer can destroy a lot of this work. To understand how, imagine what would happen if you blew hot steam through a woman’s hair after it’s been carefully done up through curlers and ironing. It would go limp – her hair would relax and the shape would fall out. Wool is the same way. Which is why, given how much handwork goes into a well-tailored jacket, and how much value that work imparts, one should reconsider garment steamers.

Another, arguably larger, danger looms for fused jackets. There, hot steam can delaminate the fusible interlining inside, which then can result in bubbling. If you don’t believe this can happen, know that in order to delaminate jackets, factories do exactly this: blow hot steam through a jacket. The only way to prevent delamination is to apply both hot steam and pressure. Without the second ingredient, you risk a separation of the layers.

So then what to do about wrinkles? Jeffery has often recommended that men learn how to press their own jackets, but this isn’t the same as ironing your shirts. In fact, the key here is to not iron, but press, and to learn how to do that properly, you should read Jeffery’s tutorial.

Jeffery’s write is well done and detailed, but I admit I’ll never try doing such a thing. I just don’t have any confidence I’d do it right. So, if you’re in the same boat, I’d recommend sending it to someone who can do it professionally. Note, most dry cleaners will say they offer this service, but what they’re actually doing is putting your jacket over a form and blowing hot steam through it. Not what you want. Make sure you’re getting a true hand press. If you can’t find someone local for this, I recommend RAVE FabriCARE.

But what if you just need something quickly done? Sending your garments in for a professional press after every wear seems excessive. If you have small areas with wrinkles – say at the back of your trousers’ knees or behind the elbows – I think it’s reasonable to carefully and judiciously apply a very light amount of steam for a short period of time. Note, many tailors I know will still wince at this suggestion, but I think it’s the most reasonable “middle road.” Certainly don’t go crazy with your steamer, and don’t steam areas that have been heavily shaped (such as the chest). Try to avoid areas with canvassing, and even sections with seams (as you can blow them out). Just light, gentle, and careful steaming. This, in my opinion, is certainly better than the often passed-around advice of putting your tailored jackets in the bathroom with you while you take a shower. There, the steam won’t be targeted at all, and you can end up wearing the man’s clothing version of a woman’s limp hairdo.

(Photo from Overstock)

Wear Heavier Fabrics

One of the things I really like about winter is the ability to wear heavier cloths. Heavy fabrics tend to hold their shape better and hang on the body a bit more nicely. This is especially important when you think about how a well-tailored jacket is actually quite three-dimensional, not just a flat, limp, two-dimensional piece that you put on over your own form. Trousers made from heavier cloths also tend to hang a bit better from the seat down, which is nice if you want to maintain an elegant, straight leg-line.

Unfortunately, it can be hard to find good clothing made from heavy cloth nowadays. Fabrics have become lighter over the years in order to accommodate the changes in climate, central heating, and air conditioning. Consumers have also just bought into the idea that lightweight fabrics are more luxurious. Thus, almost everything you’ll ever encounter in a store will be light- to mid-weight.

There are some makers, however, who still make nice, heavy things. Ralph Lauren, for example, will sometimes carry really thick, heavy woolen trousers as part of their “made in Italy” Polo lines. They tend to be very expensive though (we’re talking about $400 for a pair of pants). Obviously, the key here is to get them at the end of the season, when they’ll be discounted 40-50%, but not everyone can afford those prices.

The other possibility is to shop for vintage clothing. In the mid-century, men used to wear heavier cloths by default, purely because the technology to make the super lightweight stuff wasn’t around yet. If you happen to come across something well constructed, and made from a nice heavy fabric, find a reputable place who can hand press it for you (I’d recommend RAVE FabriCARE). Presumably that three-dimensional shape has been lost over decades, but it can be restored if you know where to send it. Note, a hand press is quite different from a machine press (the second of which is what most dry cleaners offer). The first will put in shape for you, while the second will take it out.

If you ever have a chance, check out the heaviest garments a clothier has to offer. Give them a try in the dressing room and see how they feel. I think you’ll be impressed.

Oh, and pictured above? Italian tailor Antonio Panico also recommending classic, heavy cloths. Those stills are from the film O’Mast, which is a kind of must see if you’re interested in classic men’s tailoring.  

Dealing with Stains
Since Thanksgiving is tomorrow and you, or someone you know, will likely spill something on their best clothes, I thought I’d cover how to deal with stains.
First, note that I’m not a textile or cleaning expert. The best cleaner I know of in the United States is RAVE FabriCARE. They cleaned Jesse’s suit after he poured Lifeway Kefir all over it, and did an excellent job. Last year, just around this time, they published a post on how to deal with Thanksgiving stains. Their advice? Don’t listen to people around you. They’re likely just rehashing things that are a mixture of folklore, old wives tales, and hazy memories about something they heard a few years back. Instead, just gently blot the spill or splatter with a cotton towel or napkin. Don’t rub; don’t scrub; just blot. Then leave it alone and bring it to a quality cleaner. They don’t say who, but I’ll say it for them: RAVE FabriCARE likely to be considerably better than any professional cleaner near you (many of which are just drop off points for the same low-quality, mass cleaning companies). So, if you have something nice, send it to them.
There are good reasons to not treat things at home. Certain stains require certain cleaning methods, and if you apply the wrong one, you can set in the damage. If you insist on laundering at home, however, I thought I’d reprint the following advice from the ninth edition of J.J. Pizzuto’s Fabric Science, a textbook popularly used for textile classes in fashion and design schools. Obviously, before you take any of this advice below, consult with the care label on your garments and directions on your cleaning products.
Candle wax, paraffin: Freeze and scrape; place between paper towels or tissues and press with warm iron; place face down on paper towels and sponge with cleaning fluid or rubbing alcohol; wash.
Chocolate, cocoa: Soak in club soda or cool water with enzyme presoak; sponge with cleaning fluid and later with detergent; launder in hot water
Coffee, tea: Soak with enzyme presoak or oxygen bleach; rub with detergent; wash in hot water.
Egg: If dried, scrape with a dull knife; soak in cool water with enzyme presoak; rub with detergent; launder in hot water.
Fruits, juices: Soak with enzyme presoak; wash. If stain remains, cover with paste of oxygen bleach and a few drops of ammonia for 15 to 20 minutes. Can also try white vinegar; wash as hot as possible.
Gravy: Scrape with a dull knife; soak in enzyme presoak; treat with detergent paste and later cleaning fluid; hot wash with bleach if safe.
Grease, oil, or margarine: Scrape off all excess or apply absorbent powder (talcum or cornstarch) and brush off; pretreat with strong detergent; rinse; sponge with cleaning fluid; hot wash with extra detergent; bleach if safe.
Ice cream: Soak in enzyme presoak; rinse; rub with detergent; rinse and let dry; sponge with cleaning fluid if needed; rinse; hot wash with bleach if safe.
Milk: Soak in enzyme presoak; rinse; rub with detergent; launder.
Mustard: Spray with prewash or rub with bar soap or liquid detergent; rinse; soak in hot water and detergent; launder with bleach if safe.
Peanut butter: Saturate with mineral oil to dislodge oil particles from fibers; blot; apply cleaning fluid and blot between absorbent mats; rinse and launder.
Soft drinks: Dampen with cool water and rubbing alcohol or enzyme presoak; launder with bleach if safe; stain may appear later as a yellow area.
Tomato products: Sponge with cold water; rub with detergent; launder in hot water with bleach if safe.
Wine: Same as for fruits; sprinkle a red wine spill immediately with salt (my own note: I’ve had good luck soaking red wine spills in white wine, but I can’t say there’s any science to it)
For more stain solutions, you can check out University of Illinois Extensions’ Guide, which I posted about last year. 
(Photo by 13th Street Studio)

Dealing with Stains

Since Thanksgiving is tomorrow and you, or someone you know, will likely spill something on their best clothes, I thought I’d cover how to deal with stains.

First, note that I’m not a textile or cleaning expert. The best cleaner I know of in the United States is RAVE FabriCARE. They cleaned Jesse’s suit after he poured Lifeway Kefir all over it, and did an excellent job. Last year, just around this time, they published a post on how to deal with Thanksgiving stains. Their advice? Don’t listen to people around you. They’re likely just rehashing things that are a mixture of folklore, old wives tales, and hazy memories about something they heard a few years back. Instead, just gently blot the spill or splatter with a cotton towel or napkin. Don’t rub; don’t scrub; just blot. Then leave it alone and bring it to a quality cleaner. They don’t say who, but I’ll say it for them: RAVE FabriCARE likely to be considerably better than any professional cleaner near you (many of which are just drop off points for the same low-quality, mass cleaning companies). So, if you have something nice, send it to them.

There are good reasons to not treat things at home. Certain stains require certain cleaning methods, and if you apply the wrong one, you can set in the damage. If you insist on laundering at home, however, I thought I’d reprint the following advice from the ninth edition of J.J. Pizzuto’s Fabric Science, a textbook popularly used for textile classes in fashion and design schools. Obviously, before you take any of this advice below, consult with the care label on your garments and directions on your cleaning products.

  • Candle wax, paraffin: Freeze and scrape; place between paper towels or tissues and press with warm iron; place face down on paper towels and sponge with cleaning fluid or rubbing alcohol; wash.
  • Chocolate, cocoa: Soak in club soda or cool water with enzyme presoak; sponge with cleaning fluid and later with detergent; launder in hot water
  • Coffee, tea: Soak with enzyme presoak or oxygen bleach; rub with detergent; wash in hot water.
  • Egg: If dried, scrape with a dull knife; soak in cool water with enzyme presoak; rub with detergent; launder in hot water.
  • Fruits, juices: Soak with enzyme presoak; wash. If stain remains, cover with paste of oxygen bleach and a few drops of ammonia for 15 to 20 minutes. Can also try white vinegar; wash as hot as possible.
  • Gravy: Scrape with a dull knife; soak in enzyme presoak; treat with detergent paste and later cleaning fluid; hot wash with bleach if safe.
  • Grease, oil, or margarine: Scrape off all excess or apply absorbent powder (talcum or cornstarch) and brush off; pretreat with strong detergent; rinse; sponge with cleaning fluid; hot wash with extra detergent; bleach if safe.
  • Ice cream: Soak in enzyme presoak; rinse; rub with detergent; rinse and let dry; sponge with cleaning fluid if needed; rinse; hot wash with bleach if safe.
  • Milk: Soak in enzyme presoak; rinse; rub with detergent; launder.
  • Mustard: Spray with prewash or rub with bar soap or liquid detergent; rinse; soak in hot water and detergent; launder with bleach if safe.
  • Peanut butter: Saturate with mineral oil to dislodge oil particles from fibers; blot; apply cleaning fluid and blot between absorbent mats; rinse and launder.
  • Soft drinks: Dampen with cool water and rubbing alcohol or enzyme presoak; launder with bleach if safe; stain may appear later as a yellow area.
  • Tomato products: Sponge with cold water; rub with detergent; launder in hot water with bleach if safe.
  • Wine: Same as for fruits; sprinkle a red wine spill immediately with salt (my own note: I’ve had good luck soaking red wine spills in white wine, but I can’t say there’s any science to it)

For more stain solutions, you can check out University of Illinois Extensions’ Guide, which I posted about last year

(Photo by 13th Street Studio)

The Great Kefir Clean-Up

When we planned our ad spot for Lifeway Kefir, we expected to find some clothes for me to wear at a thrift shop, or maybe at Uniqlo. We figured we could afford to drop a hundred bucks, maybe two hundred, to make the commercial memorable, then discard the ruined clothes afterward. It was a decent plan.

It turned out that we were so busy shooting, we didn’t have time to buy me a set of clothes, and I couldn’t bear to pour kefir over one of the three coats I’d brought with me on the trip. Luckily, I’m the same size as our director, Ben, and he swore up and down that this blue Dolce & Gabbana suit was one he basically never wore. He even brought his girlfriend in as a witness to confirm that he never wore it. So I suited up, and doused myself in kefir. We only got one shot, but we made it count, and then we got a bunch of towels and cleaned up Ben’s apartment’s floor.

When we were done, the suit was soaked in kefir. Like a wet rag.

That’s when I had an idea. Stu Bloom runs Rave Fabricare, which I guess you might call an artisanal dry cleaner. My friend Will from A Suitable Wardrobe had recommended them, and Stu’s always inserting himself into conversations about cleaning on the big menswear boards. A few months ago, my mom bought some Hermes scarves with some nasty soil, and I sent her to Stu - who got them clean post-haste. My mom considered it a miracle, and she made good money on the scarves. I emailed Stu: was he up to the challenge of a kefir-soaked suit?

His answer was: “Absolutely.”

We put the suit in a garbage bag, and stuffed it in a Priority Mail box, and sent it off to Arizona. Well, to be honest, we let it sit on Ben’s kitchen floor for a week, because we forgot to give Ben’s girlfriend Rave’s address. Then she sent it off to Arizona.

By the time it got there, as you can see, it was absolutely foul. Since it had been balled up in a garbage bag in a cool dark place for a week, it was rife with fungus. Absolutely rank and nasty. Even Stu wasn’t sure if there was anything he could do, but he got to work.

Then, about a week ago, a package showed up at Ben’s door. He emailed me immediately: “HOLY COW! JESSE! IT LOOKS BETTER THAN IT DID BEFORE WE RUINED IT!”

Stu’s service is expensive - he took this one as a personal challenge, but the average price for a dry-cleaned item using their highest level of service is about $20, so I’m guessing he might have charged us $40 or $50 for what he did for Ben’s suit. A hand-finished laundered shirt is $6.75. That said, the dry cleaning business is such a disaster that I dry clean my suits and coats about once a season at most. It’s nearly impossible to find someone who will do it with any care at all. Stu’s passionate about cleaning, and in many circumstances (like when $300 worth of suit is on the line) that’s worth the cost.

You can check out even more pictures of the grizzly situation and the remarkable result at Rave’s blog.