Where To Look First for a Suit (Part Two)

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

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

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

For a budget above ~$2,500

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

Ending Note

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

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

Finding Affordable Shoes
Shoes may or may not be the most important part of a man’s ensemble, but they can certainly be the veto point. A man can look sharp as a tack in a well-tailored suit, but if he’s wearing dull, square toe shoes, everything was for naught. Unfortunately, nice shoes are expensive. Even the ones commonly recommended as “entry level” brands will retail for $350 or more. So, in an effort to direct readers to where they can find well-made shoes for less, I’ve compiled a list of every place that I know of.
eBay: The most obvious is eBay. We have a customized search link you can use, but you can also employ other methods. Last week, for example, I talked about how Ralph Lauren shoes are some of the hidden gems on eBay, so long as you know how to look for them. The same goes for shoes made by Brooks Brothers. Theirs don’t get as bad as some in Ralph Lauren’s range, but you would still be wise to look for indicators of quality. You can also check out sausages234, an eBay seller who specializes in footwear.
Thrift stores: These will take a little more work than doing a search on eBay, but you could potentially walk away with some better deals. The key is in knowing where to thrift and how to spot quality. Use Jesse’s series on thrifting as a guide.
Good online retailers: There are two online retailers who consistently have some of the most competitive prices around - Pediwear and P.Lal. It would be smart to check with them before you purchase anything, as they’ll often offer price-matching guarantees. You can also check out A Fine Pair of Shoes. They sell really nice English models, and will discount much of their stock at the end of each season. Finally, Franco’s will often have shoes on sale. Right now there are a bunch of Rider Boots, which are very well made.
Online discount houses: Likewise, there are a bunch of online discount sites. Classic Shoes for Men, Shop the Finest, and Virtual Clotheshorse come to mind (though the last two focus more on the Italian variety). Sierra Trading Post also regularly stocks Trickers. You can knock 30% off or more if you sign up for their DealFlyer newsletter. Different coupons are released every day.
Affordable brands: There are probably more brands than ever before selling well-made, affordable shoes. Here’s a list:
Loake: Loake makes a few different lines, but the one that’s generally worth buying is their 1880 range, particularly the ones that are Goodyear welted and made with hard-bottom leather soles.
Charles Tyrwhitt: Many of Charles Tyrwhitt’s shoes are made by Loake or equivalent factories. Ignore the lure of sale prices, however. Charles Tyrwhitt’s stuff is always on sale.
Herring: I have no first hand experience with the line, but my understanding is that many of their shoes are also made by Loake (or, again, equivalent factories).
Meermin: One of my favorites of the lot. Their shoes are handwelted, which is believed to be a better construction method than Goodyear welting, and they have a semi-affordable made-to-order program. You can read a review I did of them here.
Shipton & Heneage: Shipton & Heneage sells shoes made by various well-respected manufacturers in England and Italy. Sometimes you’ll find shoes here selling for less than what the original manufacturers would have you pay. Sign up for their Discount Club to receive coupons.
Made in Maine: There are a bunch of quality shoe manufacturers in Maine. The first that comes to mind is Rancourt, who sells handsewn shoes at a very reasonable price. There’s also Town View Leather and Arrow Moccasins, both of whom also sell handsewn shoes, but mostly of the moccasin variety. Those give less foot support, but they can be good for short walks. Additionally, there’s Eastland’s Made in Maine collection. I bought one of their boots last year, and on the inside, there was a strip of reconstituted leather covering the back (where the heel cup would normally go). The leather fell apart after my third wear, and customer service wasn’t terribly helpful, but to be fair, the shoes still wear fine. Finally, a reader of ours suggested Dexter 1957, but I have no first hand experience with them. Reviews online are scant and mixed.
Kent Wang and Howard Yount: Both these companies can usually be relied upon for selling decently made things at lower-than-average prices.
Markowski: I have no first hand experience with this line, but their customers have given positive reports on StyleForum. The shop is based in Paris, but the shopkeepers speak decent English. They also hold sales, which knocks their prices down somewhat even further.
Andrew Lock: Jesse gave a good review of them here (he even had a shoe expert take them apart).
Allen Edmonds factory seconds: The term factory seconds just means shoes that haven’t passed the quality control process, but often the “defects” are incredibly minor (like a very small nick). You can contact Allen Edmonds’ “shoe bank” store in Brookfield, Wisconsin to make a purchase. Their number is (262) 785-6666. 
Suede: Let’s say all the above are still out of range to you. If you can’t afford higher-quality shoes, at least aim for suede. They’ll generally look better with age than a pair made from corrected grain. Perhaps the most affordable suede shoes I know of are Clarks’ desert boots, which sometimes go for as little as $60 on sale. Once you get them, know how to take care of them well, so that you get as much out of your purchase as possible. 

Finding Affordable Shoes

Shoes may or may not be the most important part of a man’s ensemble, but they can certainly be the veto point. A man can look sharp as a tack in a well-tailored suit, but if he’s wearing dull, square toe shoes, everything was for naught. Unfortunately, nice shoes are expensive. Even the ones commonly recommended as “entry level” brands will retail for $350 or more. So, in an effort to direct readers to where they can find well-made shoes for less, I’ve compiled a list of every place that I know of.

eBay: The most obvious is eBay. We have a customized search link you can use, but you can also employ other methods. Last week, for example, I talked about how Ralph Lauren shoes are some of the hidden gems on eBay, so long as you know how to look for them. The same goes for shoes made by Brooks Brothers. Theirs don’t get as bad as some in Ralph Lauren’s range, but you would still be wise to look for indicators of quality. You can also check out sausages234, an eBay seller who specializes in footwear.

Thrift stores: These will take a little more work than doing a search on eBay, but you could potentially walk away with some better deals. The key is in knowing where to thrift and how to spot quality. Use Jesse’s series on thrifting as a guide.

Good online retailers: There are two online retailers who consistently have some of the most competitive prices around - Pediwear and P.Lal. It would be smart to check with them before you purchase anything, as they’ll often offer price-matching guarantees. You can also check out A Fine Pair of Shoes. They sell really nice English models, and will discount much of their stock at the end of each season. Finally, Franco’s will often have shoes on sale. Right now there are a bunch of Rider Boots, which are very well made.

Online discount houses: Likewise, there are a bunch of online discount sites. Classic Shoes for Men, Shop the Finest, and Virtual Clotheshorse come to mind (though the last two focus more on the Italian variety). Sierra Trading Post also regularly stocks Trickers. You can knock 30% off or more if you sign up for their DealFlyer newsletter. Different coupons are released every day.

Affordable brands: There are probably more brands than ever before selling well-made, affordable shoes. Here’s a list:

  • Loake: Loake makes a few different lines, but the one that’s generally worth buying is their 1880 range, particularly the ones that are Goodyear welted and made with hard-bottom leather soles.
  • Charles Tyrwhitt: Many of Charles Tyrwhitt’s shoes are made by Loake or equivalent factories. Ignore the lure of sale prices, however. Charles Tyrwhitt’s stuff is always on sale.
  • Herring: I have no first hand experience with the line, but my understanding is that many of their shoes are also made by Loake (or, again, equivalent factories).
  • Meermin: One of my favorites of the lot. Their shoes are handwelted, which is believed to be a better construction method than Goodyear welting, and they have a semi-affordable made-to-order program. You can read a review I did of them here.
  • Shipton & Heneage: Shipton & Heneage sells shoes made by various well-respected manufacturers in England and Italy. Sometimes you’ll find shoes here selling for less than what the original manufacturers would have you pay. Sign up for their Discount Club to receive coupons.
  • Made in Maine: There are a bunch of quality shoe manufacturers in Maine. The first that comes to mind is Rancourt, who sells handsewn shoes at a very reasonable price. There’s also Town View Leather and Arrow Moccasins, both of whom also sell handsewn shoes, but mostly of the moccasin variety. Those give less foot support, but they can be good for short walks. Additionally, there’s Eastland’s Made in Maine collection. I bought one of their boots last year, and on the inside, there was a strip of reconstituted leather covering the back (where the heel cup would normally go). The leather fell apart after my third wear, and customer service wasn’t terribly helpful, but to be fair, the shoes still wear fine. Finally, a reader of ours suggested Dexter 1957, but I have no first hand experience with them. Reviews online are scant and mixed.
  • Kent Wang and Howard Yount: Both these companies can usually be relied upon for selling decently made things at lower-than-average prices.
  • Markowski: I have no first hand experience with this line, but their customers have given positive reports on StyleForum. The shop is based in Paris, but the shopkeepers speak decent English. They also hold sales, which knocks their prices down somewhat even further.
  • Andrew Lock: Jesse gave a good review of them here (he even had a shoe expert take them apart).

Allen Edmonds factory seconds: The term factory seconds just means shoes that haven’t passed the quality control process, but often the “defects” are incredibly minor (like a very small nick). You can contact Allen Edmonds’ “shoe bank” store in Brookfield, Wisconsin to make a purchase. Their number is (262) 785-6666. 

Suede: Let’s say all the above are still out of range to you. If you can’t afford higher-quality shoes, at least aim for suede. They’ll generally look better with age than a pair made from corrected grain. Perhaps the most affordable suede shoes I know of are Clarks’ desert boots, which sometimes go for as little as $60 on sale. Once you get them, know how to take care of them well, so that you get as much out of your purchase as possible. 

Online Discount Shopping
Since writing at Put This On, I’ve made an effort to talk about how men can build wardrobes on tight budgets. My posts on strategic spending and affordable basics, for example, were written in that spirit. With so many blogs and magazines focusing on outrageously expensive items, I think it’s important to talk about more realistic acquisitions. Men can still look well dressed without spending thousands of dollars a year on clothes. 
If you want the most affordable deals, companies such as Land’s End and J. Crew are probably good places to start. J. Crew is a bit expensive at full retail, but much of their company branded inventory (i.e. non-third party stock) is discounted by 50% or so at the end of the season. 
For something a bit better, you’ll have to turn to online discount houses. This is where higher-end brands tend to be sold for 10-40% of their retail value. Granted, given that these items are extremely expensive in the first place, the sale prices can still be somewhat hefty. However, if you’re looking for high quality items at a better price, these are the places to search.
Flash sites: This model is perhaps the most well known - discounted items are offered at some site for a limited time only. The biggest flash site is Gilt Groupe, but there are many others. Check MyHabit, Jack Threads, Belle & Clive, Ru La La, Ideeli, and HauteLook. The stock at these places really range. There’s a lot of junk, but also everything from Jack Spade to Finamore. If you sign up for an account, some sites give you the option of receiving emails from them, which means you can more easily stay on top of their sales each week. 
Clearance houses: Things that couldn’t sell at retail are often sent here for clearance. Yoox and Three Different are two of the bigger online clearance houses. Again, there’s a lot of junk, and they apparently style their models blindly, but if you know your brands, you can pick up some very good deals. If you don’t, do a little research on StyleForum. 
Online discount boutiques: In addition to the big clearance houses, there are smaller boutiques that acquire their stock through a variety of different means. Malford of London, Virtual Clothes Horse, Shop the Finest, and eHaberdasher are very good ones. There’s also Exquisite Trimmings, which focuses on neckties, pocket squares, and scarves. The inventory at these places tend to be better selected than the big discount houses.
Discounted footwear: A Fine Pair of Shoes and eBay seller sausages234 are two very good sources for discounted shoes. Grapevinehill is mostly unremarkable, but they carry Ralph Lauren footwear, some of which is decent. Finally, there’s Classic Shoes for Men. The photos there aren’t as nice as the ones at the aforementioned sites, but the stock is just as good (if not better). The proprietor, Mr. Sevan Minasian, noted that he’ll throw in a free gift with your order if you mention our site. 
Us: Kind of goes without saying, but there’s also our eBay roundups and Inside Track newsletter. The first includes customized search links to help you find deals on eBay and the second has sales announcements every week. But you already knew that. 
Now, I’m sure few people will remember all those sites next time they’re shopping for something specific, so I suggest you bookmark them somewhere and save them for later. You could save yourself some considerable money if you do. 
(Photo above: An inside look at Gilt Groupe’s warehouse, taken by Notcot)

Online Discount Shopping

Since writing at Put This On, I’ve made an effort to talk about how men can build wardrobes on tight budgets. My posts on strategic spending and affordable basics, for example, were written in that spirit. With so many blogs and magazines focusing on outrageously expensive items, I think it’s important to talk about more realistic acquisitions. Men can still look well dressed without spending thousands of dollars a year on clothes. 

If you want the most affordable deals, companies such as Land’s End and J. Crew are probably good places to start. J. Crew is a bit expensive at full retail, but much of their company branded inventory (i.e. non-third party stock) is discounted by 50% or so at the end of the season. 

For something a bit better, you’ll have to turn to online discount houses. This is where higher-end brands tend to be sold for 10-40% of their retail value. Granted, given that these items are extremely expensive in the first place, the sale prices can still be somewhat hefty. However, if you’re looking for high quality items at a better price, these are the places to search.

  • Flash sites: This model is perhaps the most well known - discounted items are offered at some site for a limited time only. The biggest flash site is Gilt Groupe, but there are many others. Check MyHabitJack ThreadsBelle & CliveRu La LaIdeeli, and HauteLook. The stock at these places really range. There’s a lot of junk, but also everything from Jack Spade to Finamore. If you sign up for an account, some sites give you the option of receiving emails from them, which means you can more easily stay on top of their sales each week. 
  • Clearance houses: Things that couldn’t sell at retail are often sent here for clearance. Yoox and Three Different are two of the bigger online clearance houses. Again, there’s a lot of junk, and they apparently style their models blindly, but if you know your brands, you can pick up some very good deals. If you don’t, do a little research on StyleForum
  • Online discount boutiques: In addition to the big clearance houses, there are smaller boutiques that acquire their stock through a variety of different means. Malford of LondonVirtual Clothes HorseShop the Finest, and eHaberdasher are very good ones. There’s also Exquisite Trimmings, which focuses on neckties, pocket squares, and scarves. The inventory at these places tend to be better selected than the big discount houses.
  • Discounted footwear: A Fine Pair of Shoes and eBay seller sausages234 are two very good sources for discounted shoes. Grapevinehill is mostly unremarkable, but they carry Ralph Lauren footwear, some of which is decent. Finally, there’s Classic Shoes for Men. The photos there aren’t as nice as the ones at the aforementioned sites, but the stock is just as good (if not better). The proprietor, Mr. Sevan Minasian, noted that he’ll throw in a free gift with your order if you mention our site. 
  • Us: Kind of goes without saying, but there’s also our eBay roundups and Inside Track newsletter. The first includes customized search links to help you find deals on eBay and the second has sales announcements every week. But you already knew that. 

Now, I’m sure few people will remember all those sites next time they’re shopping for something specific, so I suggest you bookmark them somewhere and save them for later. You could save yourself some considerable money if you do. 

(Photo above: An inside look at Gilt Groupe’s warehouse, taken by Notcot)