If you happen to live near a high-quality men’s clothing store, I encourage you to drop by it sometime, even if you can’t afford what’s being sold. Because for as much as you can read about clothing online, nothing replaces having handled things yourself. It’s by handling a truly high-quality sweater that you can tell what a substantial, dense knit feels like, or by conducting the “pinch test” on a half- or full-canvassed suit that you can tell when something is fused. Similarly, while you’re at it, take the time to try things on. Not that everything high-end fits better, but they often do. You may find how amazing you can look in a truly well-made suit, or gain a new appreciation for certain aspects of the fit, such as a cleaner shoulder line. It’s only by handling and trying on such things that you can put meaning to the words you’ve read online.
This is useful even if you can’t afford such things, because by handling the best of what’s out there, you’ll get a better sense of how other items compare. When you’re out doing your real shopping, you’ll have a better eye for how to spot quality and know what things you value. For example, after trying on a really nice suit, you may find that you want to pay extra money for nicer fabric, but you could care less about handstitched details. So you move from one store to the next until you find what you need.
Of course, if you’ve never been in a high-end men’s boutique, they can feel a bit intimidating. At least I thought so when I first entered one ten or eleven years ago. I remember walking in with a pair of jeans, a cheap button-up shirt, and a boxy, brown, herringbone tweed I thrifted a few years prior. I figured everyone would see me as a rube. On the contrary, the sales associates were cordial and happy to help (though, they may have still seen me as a rube). You’ll quickly learn that the people who shop at such places are as likely to come dressed in an old pair of jeans and ill fitting polo as they are in a nice suit, and most of the people working at such establishments are normal, kind, professional folks. Naturally, you’ll won’t want to waste anyone’s time, so if they ask, just tell them you’re not looking to purchase anything at the moment. If they’re still eager to help, it can be useful to chat with them about their products, but even just handling things alone can be educational.
So, when you get a chance, stop by a high-quality menswear store. One that sells the best of what’s made (not just the most expensive). You can learn a lot from the experience.
(Photo: One of my favorite stores in San Francisco, De Corato, now unfortunately closed.)