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

Why You’re Unlikely to Tell Between a Fused and Half-Canvassed Jacket

Tailor Jeffery Diduch, who maintains the rather illuminating blog Tutto Fatto a Mano, was nice enough to contact us a few weeks ago to correct us on the pinch test. Apparently, you can’t use the pinch test to see if a suit jacket or sport coat is half-canvassed, only if it’s fully-canvassed. The pinch test, as many readers know, is when you pinch the two outer layers of a jacket, typically along the lower front near the edge, and pull them apart to see if there’s a distinct, floating piece of material in between. If there is, this is said to be a mark of quality. To understand this, we should first review how suits and sport coats are made.

A Quick Primer on Suit and Sport Coat Construction

Oversimplified, a jacket is made up of distinct layers of fabric. The two outermost layers, which is the cloth we see and feel, make up the “shell.” Sandwiched in-between are layers of haircloth, canvas, felt, and fusible interlining, depending on whether the jacket is fully-canvassed, half-canvassed, or fused.

On a fully-canvassed jacket, you’ll have a canvas – typically made from a blend of wool, often cotton, and animal hair – running down the full length of the garment. Tacked onto this will be the chest piece. As the name implies, this piece is just set at the chest and shoulders, so that it gives this area some shape and support. This chest piece is usually made of haircloth, which is a cloth that has had strands of horse tail hair woven in. Horse tail hair is very stiff and wiry, which is why it’s perfect for lending structure. Add on to this some felt to cover the wiry animal hair, possibly a very lightweight fusible if the outer shell’s material needs some stabilization, and we have the basic ingredients of a full-canvassed jacket.

The upside to this kind of construction is that the canvas will give a nice bloom to the lapels, making the jacket look more three-dimensional, and give some support to the front. The downside is that this type of construction is very expensive, both in terms of the materials and labor required, and if poorly executed, it could cause the fronts to pucker.

So, about forty years ago, a German company came up with a new type of construction: fusibles. A fused jacket is much like a full-canvassed garment in that it still has the two outer shell layers, a chest piece, and some felt. Replacing the floating canvas, however, is a fusible interlining. When heated and pressed, this interlining’s special resin will melt and bond to any cloth, thus adding a similar kind of support that canvas does. The upside to this is that we cut costs. It’s quick, easy, and requires little to no skill on the part of the operator. The downside, as you can imagine, is that it slightly stiffens the cloth and doesn’t provide as nice of a support as animal hair. Lapels don’t “bloom” in the same way, but rather look flat and lifeless. It also used to be the case that fused garments carried a risk of delamination and bubbling over time, but the technology has come far enough where such cases are rare.

Finally, we have half-canvassed garments, which are the compromise. Here, the front of the jacket is fused (since you still need to stabilize the fronts), but the fusible doesn’t extend to the lapel area, where you want that kind of bloom and structure that animal hair gives. Instead, the lapels will have canvas in it like a full-canvas garment. Here, you try to get the benefits of both methods, while minimizing the cons.

The Limits of the Pinch Test

Now, the pinch test is said to be a way for you to tell if a jacket is canvassed or not. Usually, you’ll want to take the fabric a few inches below the lowest button, pinch the two outer layers and pull them apart. If you can feel a distinct, floating layer in-between, that’s the canvas. You know so because below the lowest button, there’s really nothing but the two shell layers and whatever has been used to stabilize the fronts. If it’s floating and distinct, then you’ll know it’s been fully-canvassed. If you can’t feel anything between, that means some fusible has been glued onto one of the shell layers.

The reason why you can’t do this on a half-canvassed garment is because below the second button is always fused, so you don’t know if the garment is half-canvassed or fully-fused. If you go above the second button or so, towards the chest area, you won’t know if you’re just feeling the chest piece. All garments – fully-canvassed, half-canvassed, or fused – will have a floating chest piece, so feeling a distinct layer there means nothing. The only way to know if a garment is either half-canvassed or fused is to ask a knowledgeable salesperson, but from my experience, these are very, very hard to find. Especially, frankly, at places that would sell a fused garment. So, unfortunately, there’s little way to tell if a garment is fused or half-canvassed.

* Thanks to Jeffery for his help with this article. For a more detailed write-up on how suits and sport coats are made, read Jeffery’s post here

Clean, fluid lines all around, no pucker or pulling. An impeccable fit that you should keep in mind next time you buy a suit or sport coat.
voxsart:

99% Humidity August 1st.
Mystery Bespoke Tailor (MBT™) suit in J. & J. Minnis 8/9oz Fresco; Dege & Skinner (Robert Whittaker) bespoke shirt in Acorn Grassmere; Sam Hober (David Hober) bespoke grenadine tie; Tammis Keefe printed linen square c.1950s; Edward Green oxfords.

Clean, fluid lines all around, no pucker or pulling. An impeccable fit that you should keep in mind next time you buy a suit or sport coat.

voxsart:

99% Humidity August 1st.

Mystery Bespoke Tailor (MBT™) suit in J. & J. Minnis 8/9oz Fresco; Dege & Skinner (Robert Whittaker) bespoke shirt in Acorn Grassmere; Sam Hober (David Hober) bespoke grenadine tie; Tammis Keefe printed linen square c.1950s; Edward Green oxfords.

(via voxsart-deactivated20120827)

Second Time a Brown

Whether worn casually with beat-up chinos and a pair of brown loafers, or more formally with grey flannel pants and freshly polished derbys, a navy sport coat is one of the most versatile items a man can own. Its strength is in its color. A navy jacket can be successfully paired with almost any button-up shirt or pair of trousers, and its rich tone is formal enough for many events, but not so formal that it’s limited. If a man could only own one sport coat, it should be a navy single-breasted.

But you likely already knew that and perhaps already own a navy sport coat. If so, what should you do for your second acquisition?

The obvious choice is something in either grey or brown, and between the two, I recommend the latter. The problem with grey sport coats is that with few exceptions, they’re more likely to be mistaken for suit jackets. That means when you wear them with odd trousers (trousers that aren’t part of a suit), you’ll look like you accidentally spilt something on your pants and had to change out of them.

The other problem is that grey jackets shift the burden of color to your trousers. To be sure, you can wear grey jackets with grey pants, but the two must have very contrasting shades. Even then, when done successfully, you’ll look very … grey. Plus, accessories then have to be a bit muted, lest they look too conspicuous against an otherwise all grey ensemble, which makes this combination even more limiting.

So if you’re not going to wear grey sport coats with grey trousers, you’ll have to build a wardrobe of workable trousers for your one jacket. That’s much more difficult than the norm, which is to rely on a basic collection of grey trousers and wear them with various sport coats. Navy or brown jackets with grey pants is a classic look, and either can be accessorized in an infinite number of ways.

Furthermore, I think brown is just a more interesting color (taking aside the fact that grey is technically not even a color). It can be deep, rich, and warm, whereas grey can’t. Colors such as blue, ecru, and burgundy can also be mixed in through checks and speckles for added visual interest. Just browse a rack full of tweeds to see what I mean.

Of course, as I said, there are exceptions. A grey herringbone or speckled Donegal tweed jacket can be incredibly beautiful and versatile, but before getting one of those, I think you should acquire something in brown. You can more easily wear it with the pants you probably already own – grey dress trousers, dark blue jeans, and khaki chinos. This allows you to not have to go out and buy a collection of pants just to wear with your one jacket, which when you’re on a budget, can be very valuable. The difference between brown and grey for your second sport coat is likely to be the difference between building a wardrobe and building outfits. Do the first. 

(Photo credits: Ethan Desu, The Sartorialist, Michael Alden, Napoli Su Misura, M. Fan, and others)

How a Suit Jacket or Sport Coat Should Fit

A couple of weeks ago, I said that there are different schools of thought on how a jacket should fit, but trousers should only fit one way. Upon reflection, I now realize that was a bit misleading. There’s a difference between style and fit. Generally speaking, style is about silhouette, whereas fit is about whether something sit on you correctly. Simon Crompton has a good article about this difference. 

There are different silhouettes for jackets, but the rules we have for how they should fit are similar to those we have for trousers. There shouldn’t be any pulls or puckers along the front or back, the sleeves should be free of any ripples when the arms are naturally hanging down, and the jacket should have clean lines all around. These principles should be true regardless of the jacket’s style (e.g. clean, draped, padded, natural, skinny, full). 

Unlike trousers, however, suit jackets and sport coats are much harder to fit well. Their construction is more complicated, so there are more things that can go wrong. Above is a set of photographs I’ve stolen from Macaroni Tomato and slightly modified. Each photo illustrates a common defect. Click on each of the photographs, and you’ll see that they’re lettered.

  • Fig. A. Sleevehead and Collar: The most difficult areas to fit well are perhaps the shoulders and collar. A properly fitting jacket shouldn’t have any indentations in the sleeveheads and it should stay glued to your neck at all times. 
  • Fig. B. Strained Buttoning Point: Here tightness at the buttoning point can result in a jacket pulling around the waist, effectively forming an “X.” To be sure, this is sometimes purposefully done in the name of fashion, but more often than not, it’s a sign that a jacket is too tight. (Note that the jacket pictured here doesn’t have problems in this area). 
  • Fig C. Messy Back: Likewise, the back can have unsightly folds or pulling along the waist, around the shoulder blades, and underneath the collar. A well fitting jacket should have none of these issues, but rather fit cleanly.
  • Fig. D. Sleeve Pitch: If the sleeve isn’t attached to the jacket at a degree that harmonizes with the wearer’s natural stance, you may see furrows along the sleeve. You can see an example of this here
  • Fig. E. Flared Vents: A properly fitting jacket should always have closed vents, like the ones in this picture. Make sure yours don’t flare out or gape. 
  • Fig. F. Balance: The term “balance” can refer to a few things on a jacket, but in this case, we’re talking about the relationship between the front and back of the jacket, as well as left and right sides. There are two schools of thought on how the front and back should balance. Most tailors believe that the front should be slightly longer than the back, but a few think they should evenly align. Here, the jacket’s front is even with the back. Another aspect of balance concerns the left and right sides. Here there is less controversy; these two parts should always be dead even with each other along the hem. If you wish to read more about this issue, check out this article by Michael Anton.

Like we saw for trousers, there can be a number of causes for these defects. Depending on the cause and how your jacket is constructed, an alterationist tailor may or may not be able to fix the problems for you (at least within a reasonable cost). The easiest to fix are Figures B and C. Indeed, those are rather common to clean up, so unless you see severe problems in those areas, you needn’t worry about them. The rest you should probably make sure fits right off the peg. 

To read more about fit, you can check out my posts on trousers and silhouettes, as well as Jesse’s posts on jackets, collar gaps, an unfortunate Pitti Uomo attendee, and Conan O’Brien. This simple guide by Esquire and Ethan Desu’s comments are also worth reviewing. 

Keep Good Ratios
Beware of getting side tracked by too many small purchases. They can be like Sirens. Ties are perhaps the best example. It’s fairly easy to come across a good deal on a tie, and many can feel hard to pass up. Twenty-five dollars here, forty dollars there, and before you know it, you have a massive collection of ties, most of which you probably never even wear. 
It’s easy to end up with too many ties, but how many should you own? Sydney D. Barney, author of Clothes and the Man, recommended that a company president have at least forty-eight, an established professional at least twenty-four, and a young bachelor at least thirty-six. This was written in 1951. The estimation for a young bachelor might be a bit high for today’s time, but I think the rule of thumb still roughly applies for all the others. 
Another way to think about this is to make sure that every combination of suit, sport coat and shirt that you own has a properly matching tie. Solid blue or grey suits, along with solid blue or white shirts, can carry almost any tie. It’s only the with the less staid suits and shirts that you should worry about - the bright solids, multi-coloreds, bold stripes, and checkered. As François Chaille wrote in The Little Book of Ties, “if you have ten shirts and two less conventional suits or jackets, the minimum number for a proper match would be twelve.” I would actually say that the minimum number be about twenty, as that would be the combination of shirts to suits or jackets.
So, in short, I recommend that you start by building a strong foundation of basics. If you have white or blue shirts, and blue or grey suits or jackets, then begin by having at least a dozen basic ties if you don’t plan to wear them often, and two dozen if you do. This foundation should include solid colored grenadines, silk knits, repp stripes, pin or polka dots, ancient madders, and a few wool and linen ties for good seasonal measure. After that, figure how many “non-traditional” shirts, suits, and sport coats you have, and make sure you have at least two or three matching ties for each combination (including what you can do with your basics). What you want to avoid is being the man who has a hundred ties, but only two suits. If you’re in that position, you don’t need to buy another tie. You should buy a new suit. 

Keep Good Ratios

Beware of getting side tracked by too many small purchases. They can be like Sirens. Ties are perhaps the best example. It’s fairly easy to come across a good deal on a tie, and many can feel hard to pass up. Twenty-five dollars here, forty dollars there, and before you know it, you have a massive collection of ties, most of which you probably never even wear. 

It’s easy to end up with too many ties, but how many should you own? Sydney D. Barney, author of Clothes and the Man, recommended that a company president have at least forty-eight, an established professional at least twenty-four, and a young bachelor at least thirty-six. This was written in 1951. The estimation for a young bachelor might be a bit high for today’s time, but I think the rule of thumb still roughly applies for all the others. 

Another way to think about this is to make sure that every combination of suit, sport coat and shirt that you own has a properly matching tie. Solid blue or grey suits, along with solid blue or white shirts, can carry almost any tie. It’s only the with the less staid suits and shirts that you should worry about - the bright solids, multi-coloreds, bold stripes, and checkered. As François Chaille wrote in The Little Book of Ties, “if you have ten shirts and two less conventional suits or jackets, the minimum number for a proper match would be twelve.” I would actually say that the minimum number be about twenty, as that would be the combination of shirts to suits or jackets.

So, in short, I recommend that you start by building a strong foundation of basics. If you have white or blue shirts, and blue or grey suits or jackets, then begin by having at least a dozen basic ties if you don’t plan to wear them often, and two dozen if you do. This foundation should include solid colored grenadines, silk knits, repp stripes, pin or polka dots, ancient madders, and a few wool and linen ties for good seasonal measure. After that, figure how many “non-traditional” shirts, suits, and sport coats you have, and make sure you have at least two or three matching ties for each combination (including what you can do with your basics). What you want to avoid is being the man who has a hundred ties, but only two suits. If you’re in that position, you don’t need to buy another tie. You should buy a new suit. 

Q and Answer: A Striped Jacket with Odd Trousers?
Adam asks: In one of my best thrifting trips yet, I snagged a Brooks Brothers Golden  Fleece suit jacket for just a couple of dollars. It’s wool, navy with  thin charcoal stripes, single breast with 3-roll-2 buttons, and fits me  like a glove. The only problem is that I wasn’t able to find the pants  to go with it. I was hoping that you guys could advise me on how best to  wear odd jackets like this. Should I try to find some pants to match,  or just avoid that altogether and wear it like a sport coat?
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, Adam, but this was not one of your best thrifting trips yet.
Outside of bold blazer stripes, which are almost never seen in the United States, a striped jacket is part of a suit. A business suit, specifically.
If you’re particularly cool, the fabric isn’t too formal, you’re in Italy, and everything else is going your way, you might be able to pair a suit jacket like this with dark jeans. Be advised, though, that this is a sartorial power move. Ralph Lauren can do this, but I’m not so sure you can.
As far as looking for the matching trousers… the time to do that was when you bought the jacket. Thrift stores often separate suits, so the pants to a suit coat can be located, I’d say, three out of ten times. (Often a suit coat is donated when the pants wear out.) Post-facto, though, your chances of finding a match are slim to none.
If you’re not sure, in future, what kind of jacket you’ve got in your hand, try reading our article on the difference between a blazer, suit jacket and sport coat.

Q and Answer: A Striped Jacket with Odd Trousers?

Adam asks: In one of my best thrifting trips yet, I snagged a Brooks Brothers Golden Fleece suit jacket for just a couple of dollars. It’s wool, navy with thin charcoal stripes, single breast with 3-roll-2 buttons, and fits me like a glove. The only problem is that I wasn’t able to find the pants to go with it. I was hoping that you guys could advise me on how best to wear odd jackets like this. Should I try to find some pants to match, or just avoid that altogether and wear it like a sport coat?

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, Adam, but this was not one of your best thrifting trips yet.

Outside of bold blazer stripes, which are almost never seen in the United States, a striped jacket is part of a suit. A business suit, specifically.

If you’re particularly cool, the fabric isn’t too formal, you’re in Italy, and everything else is going your way, you might be able to pair a suit jacket like this with dark jeans. Be advised, though, that this is a sartorial power move. Ralph Lauren can do this, but I’m not so sure you can.

As far as looking for the matching trousers… the time to do that was when you bought the jacket. Thrift stores often separate suits, so the pants to a suit coat can be located, I’d say, three out of ten times. (Often a suit coat is donated when the pants wear out.) Post-facto, though, your chances of finding a match are slim to none.

If you’re not sure, in future, what kind of jacket you’ve got in your hand, try reading our article on the difference between a blazer, suit jacket and sport coat.

Chest Canvas and the Pinch Test 
I’d been debating whether to hold on to this little tip for a future video episode, but it looks like we’re not doing a thrifting episode in season one, so I’ll let you in on it now. It’s probably the most useful bit of information you can have when you’re shopping for suits and sport coats.
One of the key differences between high and low quality coats is the construction. The chest of any jacket is composed of three layers of material - the fabric on the outside of the coat, the lining that makes up its inside, and a layer of canvassing in between that gives the coat its shape.
What’s the Difference?
In a high-quality jacket, these layers are stitched together, mostly by hand. This allows the coat to drape over the body naturally, and the horsehair canvas used in this process gives the coat an optimal form. This is called a “fully canvassed” coat.
In a lower-quality jacket, the structure of the jacket is provided by fusible interfacing. It’s a sort of combination of fabric and glue. The manufacturer uses heat and chemicals to bond this fusing to the outside fabric layer of the jacket.  This is called a “fused” coat.
Sometimes, a combination of these two processes is used - typically the chest is stitched, which the lower part of the front is fused. This is generally called “half-canvassed.”
In the 60s and 70s, when fusing was new, the technology was awful. It often led to bubbling and stiffness in the chest. These days, the technology has come a long way, and these problems are less common, but it’s generally accepted that full canvas is the way to go.
How Can I Tell?
If you’re in a store, it’s easy to check whether the coat you’re looking at is fused or canvassed. Pinch the chest fabric and lining between your fingers. If it’s canvassed, you should be able to feel three distinct layers - the outside fabric, the canvas, and the lining. If it’s fused, you feel two layers, or (especially if it’s older) you may feel the outside layer tear away from the chest piece. To distinguish between full and half-canvassing, pinch down by the buttons.
Give it a few tries and you’ll get the hang of it. Feel a Brioni coat, and you’ll see that the layers are fully independent. Feel something at H&M, and you’ll feel a stiff outer layer and a lining. Brooks Brothers’ standard suits are half-canvassed; Golden Fleece is fully canvassed.
The Bottom Line
The vast majority of coats these days are fused, and the quality of those can vary widely from awful to pretty decent, but if it’s canvassed, it’s almost certainly a high-quality piece.

Chest Canvas and the Pinch Test

I’d been debating whether to hold on to this little tip for a future video episode, but it looks like we’re not doing a thrifting episode in season one, so I’ll let you in on it now. It’s probably the most useful bit of information you can have when you’re shopping for suits and sport coats.

One of the key differences between high and low quality coats is the construction. The chest of any jacket is composed of three layers of material - the fabric on the outside of the coat, the lining that makes up its inside, and a layer of canvassing in between that gives the coat its shape.

What’s the Difference?

In a high-quality jacket, these layers are stitched together, mostly by hand. This allows the coat to drape over the body naturally, and the horsehair canvas used in this process gives the coat an optimal form. This is called a “fully canvassed” coat.

In a lower-quality jacket, the structure of the jacket is provided by fusible interfacing. It’s a sort of combination of fabric and glue. The manufacturer uses heat and chemicals to bond this fusing to the outside fabric layer of the jacket. This is called a “fused” coat.

Sometimes, a combination of these two processes is used - typically the chest is stitched, which the lower part of the front is fused. This is generally called “half-canvassed.”

In the 60s and 70s, when fusing was new, the technology was awful. It often led to bubbling and stiffness in the chest. These days, the technology has come a long way, and these problems are less common, but it’s generally accepted that full canvas is the way to go.

How Can I Tell?

If you’re in a store, it’s easy to check whether the coat you’re looking at is fused or canvassed. Pinch the chest fabric and lining between your fingers. If it’s canvassed, you should be able to feel three distinct layers - the outside fabric, the canvas, and the lining. If it’s fused, you feel two layers, or (especially if it’s older) you may feel the outside layer tear away from the chest piece. To distinguish between full and half-canvassing, pinch down by the buttons.

Give it a few tries and you’ll get the hang of it. Feel a Brioni coat, and you’ll see that the layers are fully independent. Feel something at H&M, and you’ll feel a stiff outer layer and a lining. Brooks Brothers’ standard suits are half-canvassed; Golden Fleece is fully canvassed.

The Bottom Line

The vast majority of coats these days are fused, and the quality of those can vary widely from awful to pretty decent, but if it’s canvassed, it’s almost certainly a high-quality piece.

It’s On Sale
J.L. Powell Lakenheath Quilted Coat
Your chance to jump on the quilted blazer bandwagon at an affordable price point.
$179, originally $448 at JLPowell.com

It’s On Sale

J.L. Powell Lakenheath Quilted Coat

Your chance to jump on the quilted blazer bandwagon at an affordable price point.

$179, originally $448 at JLPowell.com

A Loosey-Goosey Brand Guide for Thrifting Suits and Sportcoats
I’ve had many requests for a list of brands to look for when thrifting.  Of course, this is a monumentally huge request, given the sheer volume of brands of all types of clothes that’s out there.  I don’t really think it’s something I’m even capable of doing.
Luckily, though, folks on various clothing fora have put together hierarchical lists of ready-to-wear suit and sportcoat brands.  These tend to be based on things like amount of hand work, canvassing, fabrics and so on.  These aren’t the end-all, be-all of quality - if you’re Rod Blagojevic, then you want Oxxford to look like a competent guy who won’t get all graft-y, and if you’re an Italian playboy, you might want Kiton or Isaia to look like the kind of guy whose yacht travels with its own cigar boat.  Different brands have different meanings, fits, and values. 
That said, these brands, grouped into two loose agglomerations (super-mega excellent and very excellent) produce high-quality goods that are worth looking out for.  I’ve left out mid-tier brands (like, say, Brooks Brothers main line) because things get a lot murkier around that level of quality.  There are plenty of clothes worth wearing at that level, and you should not be ashamed to buy and wear them, but the brands listed below are consistently superb.
Again: this list is mostly alphabetical, and somewhat to very arbitrary.  It’s mostly a tool for folks who want a reference to help them identify the best of the best when bargain hunting.  I’m sure I missed stuff, and the ranking system is loosey-goosey at best.  Nonetheless, I think it will be of use.
Super-Mega Excellent
AttoliniBarbera (Luciano) Collezioni SartorialeBattistoniBelvestBijanLuigi BorrelliBrioniD’AvenzaThom BrowneCastangiaCheshire Clothing (Chester Barrie)CifonelliDior hommeIsaiaKitonOxxfordRalph Lauren Purple Label (both the Saint Andrews and the Chester Barrie)Sartoria AttoliniSt. AndrewsSartoria CastangiaSartoria PartenopeaStuart’s Choice (Isiah until 06, St Andrews post 06)Zegna Napoli
Extremely Excellent
Alfred Dunhill LondonArmani CollezioniArmani Classico and Black Label (made by Vestimenta)Boss Baldessarini (made by Caruso)BoglioliBrooks Brothers Black FleeceBrooks Brothers Golden FleeceCanali and Canali ExclusiveCanali PropostaCantarelliCarusoCorneliani Linea SartoriaCornelianiCorneliani Trend and CCErmenegildo Zegna Couture (& mainline to a lesser extent - Z Zegna is low-end line)Faconnable Tailleur (made by Canali and Cantarelli)Hickey FreemanLanvin (not necessarily true for vintage)Martin GreenmanPaul Smith (Mainline, not Paul Smith London)Polo Blue Label (made in Italy)Ralph Lauren Polo Blue Label (currently made by Canali, older by Corneliani)NervesaPaul StuartRavazzoloSamuelsohn - CanadaVestimentaZileri sartoriale lineZileri Gruppo Forall

A Loosey-Goosey Brand Guide for Thrifting Suits and Sportcoats

I’ve had many requests for a list of brands to look for when thrifting.  Of course, this is a monumentally huge request, given the sheer volume of brands of all types of clothes that’s out there.  I don’t really think it’s something I’m even capable of doing.

Luckily, though, folks on various clothing fora have put together hierarchical lists of ready-to-wear suit and sportcoat brands.  These tend to be based on things like amount of hand work, canvassing, fabrics and so on.  These aren’t the end-all, be-all of quality - if you’re Rod Blagojevic, then you want Oxxford to look like a competent guy who won’t get all graft-y, and if you’re an Italian playboy, you might want Kiton or Isaia to look like the kind of guy whose yacht travels with its own cigar boat.  Different brands have different meanings, fits, and values. 

That said, these brands, grouped into two loose agglomerations (super-mega excellent and very excellent) produce high-quality goods that are worth looking out for.  I’ve left out mid-tier brands (like, say, Brooks Brothers main line) because things get a lot murkier around that level of quality.  There are plenty of clothes worth wearing at that level, and you should not be ashamed to buy and wear them, but the brands listed below are consistently superb.

Again: this list is mostly alphabetical, and somewhat to very arbitrary.  It’s mostly a tool for folks who want a reference to help them identify the best of the best when bargain hunting.  I’m sure I missed stuff, and the ranking system is loosey-goosey at best.  Nonetheless, I think it will be of use.

Super-Mega Excellent

Attolini
Barbera (Luciano) Collezioni Sartoriale
Battistoni
Belvest
Bijan
Luigi Borrelli
Brioni
D’Avenza
Thom Browne
Castangia
Cheshire Clothing (Chester Barrie)
Cifonelli
Dior homme
Isaia
Kiton
Oxxford
Ralph Lauren Purple Label (both the Saint Andrews and the Chester Barrie)
Sartoria Attolini
St. Andrews
Sartoria Castangia
Sartoria Partenopea
Stuart’s Choice (Isiah until 06, St Andrews post 06)
Zegna Napoli

Extremely Excellent

Alfred Dunhill London
Armani Collezioni
Armani Classico and Black Label (made by Vestimenta)
Boss Baldessarini (made by Caruso)
Boglioli
Brooks Brothers Black Fleece
Brooks Brothers Golden Fleece
Canali and Canali Exclusive
Canali Proposta
Cantarelli
Caruso
Corneliani Linea Sartoria
Corneliani
Corneliani Trend and CC
Ermenegildo Zegna Couture (& mainline to a lesser extent - Z Zegna is low-end line)
Faconnable Tailleur (made by Canali and Cantarelli)
Hickey Freeman
Lanvin (not necessarily true for vintage)
Martin Greenman
Paul Smith (Mainline, not Paul Smith London)
Polo Blue Label (made in Italy)
Ralph Lauren Polo Blue Label (currently made by Canali, older by Corneliani)
Nervesa
Paul Stuart
Ravazzolo
Samuelsohn - Canada
Vestimenta
Zileri sartoriale line
Zileri Gruppo Forall