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

It’s On eBay
Sportcoat by Sartoria Partenopea
Starts at $390, or Buy It Now for $490, ends Sunday

It’s On eBay

Sportcoat by Sartoria Partenopea

Starts at $390, or Buy It Now for $490, ends Sunday

It’s On eBay
J. Press Patchwork Tweed Blazer
I will send ten dollars to anyone who buys this and wears it successfully.  I’m thinking cream button-down shirt, maroon rep tie, brown cords?  Oh, yeah, and huge, pendulous, swinging balls.
Starts at $35, ends Monday

It’s On eBay

J. Press Patchwork Tweed Blazer

I will send ten dollars to anyone who buys this and wears it successfully.  I’m thinking cream button-down shirt, maroon rep tie, brown cords?  Oh, yeah, and huge, pendulous, swinging balls.

Starts at $35, ends Monday