What’s Wrong With Saboteur?

August 19, 2010

What’s Wrong with Saboteur?

When there’s a style post on BoingBoing or Lifehacker, you can rely on our mailbox filling up with notifications thereof.  Today, Kristin Philipkowski posted on the Boing about Saboteur, a new line of men’s clothes targeted at tech professionals.  The line was created by Kristen Slowe, whose husband Christopher created the excellent community news site Reddit.  There are plenty of IT folks of various stripes in our audience, and the growing movement against geeks dressing like 12-year-olds is close to our heart, but boy, do Saboteur have it wrong.


Let’s start with the basics.  The line features five jackets.  Four of the five appear to be orphaned suit coats.  One, in oatmeal, is debatable.  We’ve covered the difference here before.  Saboteur are offering dark, solid-colored, hard-finish jackets with like-colored buttons.  Essentially, they’re offering suits that are missing their pants.  You’ll note that the models are shown almost exclusively from the waist up.  That’s because outside of blue jeans, no pants will match these coats.  Given that these are hard-finish, worsted fabrics, even blue jeans are an inelegant stretch.  They write on their brand page that “we make jackets as versatile as you are."  I guess they mean that no matter what you wear them with, you will look like a guy who bought a suit for his college graduation, and is wearing the jacket because he wore out the pants.

Saboteur suggests that the difference, in their coats, is in the details.  What are the details they promise?

For one, contrast linings.  This is a bit showy, but we don’t really have a problem with it.  It’s a bit showy, but if you can back it up, that’s fine with us.  Of course, when you’re wearing one of these lousy coats, you aren’t backing it up.  Luckily, no one will see the lining of your coat unless you’re opening it up to show someone, in which case you will only highlight how much of a goofus you are.

Another detail is contrast color buttonholes.  This is something which we’re not categorically against, but it’s also something which requires remarkable grace to pull off without looking like a clown.  You will not look graceful when you’re wearing jeans, an untucked double-cuff shirt, and a suit jacket.  You will look like Ryan Seacrest, circa 2004.

The worst is working cuffs.  Working cuffs are prized because they’re associated with the best suits and coats.  Every coat, though, has buttonholes.  So why are working cuffs only found on the best?  Because the best are made for the wearer.  Working buttonholes prevent you from adjusting the length of your sleeves, so even ready-to-wear jackets that are intended to have them are bought with a baggie full of buttons so your tailor can find the right length and put the buttonholes in himself.  Working buttonholes without a properly measured sleeve are the worst kind of aspirational baloney.  Wearing one button undone, as we see in Saboteur’s photos, is even worse.

While Saboteur was worrying about the details, maybe they should have been worrying about the big stuff, instead.  Like the fact that a tailored jacket should never, ever, nerver be sized small-medium-large-XL.  Fit is the paramount concern for men’s tailored clothing, and you cannot achieve a good fit with only four sizes.  Even leaving aside the big-and-tall or custom outliers, men’s jackets come in sizes 36-48, short, regular and long.  That’s 21 sizes, before alterations (like, say, to the length of the sleeve).  Think you can recreate that with just four?  The shirts, by the way, are the same.

There are other problems, of course.  Take fabric: these are "wool blend,” meaning they’re partly polyester, like a $100 suit from Wal-Mart.  (They write “we’ve selected the fabrics and cuts that we believe make a man look best."  Realy?  Polyester makes a man look best?  Is this 1971?)  They’re "imported,” which we’re going to presume means made in China, that hotbed of sartorial excellence.  There’s nothing here about construction, so I will assume that they are fused.

In essence, what Saboteur is offering is an H&M-level product, without the fashion, for double the price.

We’re strong believers in idea workers dressing better, but in this case, we must judge this effort, however well-intentioned, an EPIC FAIL.

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