Friday, September 20, 2013

My First Suit (Part One)

Alrighty, so I'm going to a wedding this fall in Boulder, CO (very excited to go) and am using the event as an excuse to purchase my first suit (a menswear blogger who doesn't own a suit...shocking, right?). I've had some money sitting around for a while that I set aside for the very purpose, but just hadn't had a need to buy one yet, so instead I browsed. And browsed. And browsed. Now I'm giving myself this deadline to finally make a decision.

The Suit:

First, I just wanted a decent idea of what kind of suit I wanted. As fun as it would be to have some plaids or patterns or rich fabrics or tweeds, I'm a sensible guy, and I'm sticking to the staples for my first two suits: grey and blue all-season wool. For some reason the blue is just calling to me, so I'm heading that direction.

From there, I really just started browsing the web, focusing on some of my favorite menswear bloggers. Here are some styles of blue suits that stood out to me:

Mr. Van Der Beek, if I'm not mistaken. Love the fit and lapels, but the blue is a bit bright.

Wes, of The Style Blogger. Closer in color to my choice.

Found via Google Image search. Almost exactly what I want, but a bit boxy.

Dan, of The Style Blogger. This, is a gorgeous suit. More pics here, but this is my main inspiration.

Through browsing and critiquing I now have a good (and kind of picky) idea of what I want, but I've already decided to go with a Made-To-Measure suit, so I"ll be able to make all these choices in my order. Briefly, MTM is halfway between bespoke and ready-to-wear. Rather than be measured by a tailor, you measure yourself and submit your measurements. Like bespoke, you get to pick your fabric and features, although your options aren't quite as expansive. You can read a very comprehensive guide to MTM suiting here. Bottom line, I get the make this thing my way. So here's my rundown: Navy suit, two buttons, peak lapels, pick stitching, flap pockets, double vents, no cuffs or pleats, functioning sleeve buttons, and probably half-lining. To pick out a few highlights:

Peak Lapels: For a while, I was a notch-lapel-only kinda guy, but a few months ago peak lapels really started to grow on me. They have to be tasteful, and can easily cross in gaudy, in my opinion, but if done right they put a little bit of panache that makes a staple suit a little less ordinary.

Done wrong, IMHO. Too much lapel for me.
Pick Stitching: Pick stitching is a visible line of stitching that follows the edges of the suit. It's usually the sign of a higher quality, usually bespoke suit, although now (obviously) it can be found on less pricey options. Honestly, I could go either way with this, but most recently I've been noticing that a lot of blazers that I see and like include pick stitching, so I'm adding it to the mix.

Pick stitching, illustrated by Indochino
Functioning Sleeve Buttons: Also called surgeon's cuffs, many people avoid this feature on a first suit order because it really limits the room a tailor has to alter the sleeve length. The general advice is to wait until you know your measurements are right (2nd or 3rd order). I'm going to flaunt this advice though. I have a jacket with perfect sleeve length that I can measure for them, and I really want to be able to roll up my sleeves a bit when appropriate because...

Half-Lining: ...I am most likely going to get a half-lined jacket. I have an unlined summer jacket and I love the way it drapes and wears without the added structure of the lining. I do want this to be an all-season jacket, so getting a half-lining will allow me to wear it at least sometimes through the hotter months. On top of that, I love to layer in the fall and winter, so losing the little bit of insulation shouldn't be a problem. I've consulted to the twittersphere, gotten mixed results, so I'm going with my gut and going half-lined. Decision, made.

The inside of a half-lined jacket.

Everything else is pretty minor and just personal preference, no real reason why I chose the way I did besides that's what I like best. If I get real ballsy I may add a ticket pocket, or maybe slanted pockets both features I've liked before, but am not totally sold on. I'll look around the web and see what I like. God bless Pinterest and Google Image Search.

The Company

Next came picking out which MTM service I was going choose. Initially, I had really only heard of Indochino and Black Lapel, so I started off comparing those two. Here's what I was looking at:

Shoulders: I have a pretty specific picture in my head of how I want this jacket to drape. Without going full bespoke, my best option to get that is to find the MTM company that constructs their standard shoulder closest to what I have in mind. Personally, I wanted a very natural shoulder with little padding.

Turnaround Time: I'm starting to cut it close for this wedding, and I don't want to rush this and screw it up, so I've resigned myself the possibility of maybe no getting my suit in time to wear it in Boulder. Life goes on. But, if possible, I'd like it to be ready

Fit/Quality of Construction: I'm turning mostly to the reviews here, and of course I want something that lives up to expectations as far as construction and fit go. Even more importantly, I'd like to choose a service with a reputation for getting it right the first time, so I don't have that suit in hand at this wedding and still can't wear it.

Price: Well, duh. Low = Good. High = Bad. My budget falls around $500. Just low enough that I can't afford to buy what I want from SuitSupply and get it tailored.

So I started searching, reading, reviewing, and honestly I've been doing this for months anyway and kind of already had an idea of what I'd decide. I'm not telling anyone who to buy until I've tried them myself, but from what I read: Indochino is the most popular choice, but this doesn't mean they are the best. From the more sartorially inclined customers, complaints include the 'hybrid' canvassing used as well as problems with poor fits. On the other hand, it sounds like the customer service is pretty good at fixing anything that goes wrong, and their $75 tailoring credit doesn't hurt either.

On the other hand, Black Lapel seems a bit more expensive, but not unjustly so. The general opinion is get just a little better quality with Black Lapel, from the fabrics to the construction. However, the fit is not as appealing to me. From the pictures I've seen, I find the Black Lapel suits to lean a bit more towards to side of being boxy, or at the very least, not the soft shoulders I'm looking for. Maybe I can ask them to do something different for mine?

From Black Lapel - notice the boxier shoulder.


Then, out of nowhere I saw a recent post by Sabir Peele on Men's Style Pro featuring an 'every day' grey suit by Dragon Inside. The suit looked great and is pretty much exactly what I want, only in blue. I'd never heard of Dragon Inside, but I've been following Sabir on MSP for a while and definitely trust his taste (I got in touch with him later, and he confirmed his recommendation, said they did great work). Price-wise, they were definitely competitive with Indochino. It actually really unfortunately looks like they just bumped up their prices (not a ton, and really I could be completely off base). Still, they are definitely no more than Indochino, and therefore also less than Black Lapel. Honestly, the pictures on the Dragon Inside website kind of threw me off a bit (sorry, guys at Dragon Inside), and I didn't think the suits looked great on them. Instead, I looked up some more 'real life' examples of guys who have purchased these suits, and I think they all look really good:

Sabir M. Peele, of Men's Style Pro

Sabir, again.
Ken Yau, from his blog.

Justin Jeffers, of The Fine Young Gentleman
They seem to drape much more naturally than either Indochino or Black Lapel, and that's something I really want in my suit. Icing on the cake is the reputation their customer service has. I'm only at the stage of ordering swatches and they've already been fantastic. From what I've read, they take a lot of effort to work with the customer to get exactly the suit they want. That makes me confident that the peak lapels will look good, the functioning buttonholes won't be a problem, the pick stitching won't look tacky, and that this suit will turn out a beauty. So, voila, Dragon Inside it is. I hope to give Indochino and Black Lapel (among others) their own turn later down the road, but for now my decision is made.

At this point, I have the fabric swatches en route to my apartment so I can narrow down which blue I want. At that point, the measuring begins, and then it's just a matter of time. I'll keep you posted. Meanwhile, I'd love any feedback on my choices!

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