The Law (of) Suits: Insurance for Men

by Jabulani Leffall on 5 November 2009 18 comments

In this blog, on this site, I usually explore ways to think about spending rather than ways to actually spend. That’s not my blogcallojob (blog calling or job) to tell you how to spend.

But I’d like to pop a sales tag of conversation for fellow men, or women with fellow men in mind, reading this right now and speak plainly. I’m about to tell you how to spend money on something for which the worth cannot be measured.

It brings smiles, impromptu favors, more respect, more enigma, better service, attention — usually the right kind — and did I mention smiles and respect.

Not the automobile — the suit.

Recently I was riding home with a soon-to-be jobless, soon-to-be former colleague. One word: awkward.

But before he dropped me off, I asked where he was headed, and he said to the mall. And, curiously, making my own judgment on what one could be buying when one knows one won’t have a job, I ask, for what?

He says a suit.

A light goes on and I nod because it makes sense. I nod proudly, in fact, at him. I say to myself, smart man. I nod in whimsical favor because he’s thinking about investing in his future rather than moping over his present. I nod because he wants to plunk money down for something that in most cases brings the immediate return of self satisfaction as well as the intangible prospect of being in the right place and the right time, looking darn good.

He mentioned he didn’t want to “over do it” expense wise. Of course I understood that and then proceeded to rattle on about what could be done. I proceeded to monopolize the convo on what the pros and cons were of different aspects of suit procurement.

Suits, I don't remember saying but will say here, are like insurance for the professional and non-professional but skilled American man. They are insurance for the man who wants to make inroads into achievement and stand out with a statement on who he is when wearing that suit.

It’s like a financial plan: better to be impeccably prepared (overdressed) than woefully underdressed (unprepared).

Now let’s say you’ve paid your rent and gotten your groceries and have all your necessities and you’re a grown, able and responsible man with $300 to $500 and are in the market for a suit.

Okay, you’re like my friend. After asking him what he planned to spend, without revealing too much of the young man’s business, I went into a diatribe where I leaned back in the passenger seat and expounded wisdom using the famous pyramid hand gestures that most pseudo experts use on talk shows. This is the essence of what I said.

Suit up premium

Heck yeah: Classic is called classic for a reason. For instance, classic American clothier Brooks Brothers recently harkened us back to the era of smartly-clothed ad executives from the popular television series Mad Men. The classic look remains just that and outlasts any fashion week. Plus the clothes usually last longer and are of better quality.

Uhhh but wait: The issue here is that suits that are tailored to your specifications and/or made of fine fabrics from top labels, usually begin at $400 per suit. Maybe not the extravagant purchase you want to make right now but there are always sales and alternatives. Maybe you’re a forward thinker who sees their world beyond the recession or even sees opportunity in it. Maybe you want to go make an unmistakable statement. But maybe you don’t which brings us to our next alternative.

Suit up quickly and bountifully

Heck yeah: If you happen to live in a place with a population greater than half a million, there should be at least one or two places that have this type of sale: Three suits for “x” amount of dollars in a package. In other words, what you would pay for one Brooks Brothers or discount Italian or English designer suit, you can get three off-brand no-frill wool or down-market fabric suits, which you can freak just right if you have the right style sense.

This is probably the greatest stitch-for-stich value because it gets you through the week and month and maybe even the year and allows you to mix and match if you have a pre-existing and respectable shirt game and at least one good pair of shoes.

Uhhh but wait: You may be sacrificing quality, which is kind of like buying liability without getting uninsured motorist. After four or five trips to dry cleaners, it’s literally a wrap for these types of suits. I’m not talking about the plastic coating to protect them from the elements. I’m talking about fabric thinning and the appearance of nappy lent beads on your suit. There's not an afro-pick or lent brush in the world that can remedy this type of wear and tear. But that brings us to the last alternative.

Suit up without a suit

Heck yeah: If you’re easing into the game or just a novice or a stylish but not a “suit” man, you know how to accessorize on the cheap. Get a really nice blue or black sport coat or blazer, even a gray or solid brown one: or all four if you go to a thrift shop.

I’m talking blazer now chums. This is not to be confused with a suit jacket but an actual coat, which that 9 times out of ten won’t match your pants directly. You can use your style to go for the professorial, business casual look and perhaps hunt Ebay or your local thrift store for “pre-owned” quality coats that will compliment brand new pants. Get brand new pants — don’t be a tightwad on that.

Also if you’re not going to get a full suit, don’t be a tightwad on shirts either. They should be dry cleaned or brand new and if you’re considering your budget, why not buy a shirt that no one else has from a site such as ShirtsMyway.com. This site claims to have 7 trillion different designs. With that many variations, you will have your own style and through bulk save money by not having to go to the mall and be bilked by someone trying to get a commission. You design it and you order it. No plug here as I don’t own a single shirt from that site but I like the idea and am considering it.

Back to the stand-alone blazers. Save on the coats, up the quotient on the pants and shirt and it’s the cheaper, less high-maintenance alternative. You can wear them with ties or with an open-collared dress shirt and maybe just maybe on rare occasions throw it on with jeans and sneakers if you believe you can pull it off. Or if you believe you can wear a straight face if you don’t pull it off.

Uhhh but wait: You should be able to pull this off if you want to earmark this as a professional style. Remember, it’s not a suit and shouldn’t be carried off as one. If the pants are the same color as the jacket, please let them be close to the same fabric and if not, know your ledge. Shiny silk blazer and corduroy pants might get you unemployed as fast as the trickle-down effect of your company’s falling earnings. Corduroy and silk pants might get you beat up or laughed at so hard you feel like you’re getting beat up. Double polyester — let’s not discuss that.

Why are you still reading this? Go get a suit, no okay wait…look. This is mostly tongue and cheek and there are bigger issues in the world I know, but at the same time, if you’re a professional or professional aspirant between 25 and 50 years of age, you should own a suit.

If you are not independently wealthy through some sort of athletic ability, pop song, technological innovation or government defense contract — in which case you might wear a lot of Hawaiian shirts and khaki — you need to have at least one dark blue or black suit.

If not, you ought to be thinking of a good mix of what was described up here. Are you a grown man or what?

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Guest's picture

It's not just what you wear, It's HOW you look in it. Rested, alert, aware, fresh looking, attentive, groomed.

My opinion.

John DeFlumeri jr.

Guest's picture
Scott

I recently won a custom suit from this site www.indochino.com and they are a great alternative to the local shopping mall. Their suits are custom made to fit you and they have lots of classic and trendy styles. Best of all they are very reasonable. You simply pick your suit, enter in your sizes (they ask for like 20 measurements) and in less than two weeks your new tailored suit arrives.

I don't work for them or have any obligation to them other than I entered a contest a website was having and won a suit and really liked it. I would definitely check it out!

Scott

Guest's picture

You haven't mentioned that great menswear can be bought for very little at thrift shops! My husband has found one that he frequents regularly and between that thrift shop for jackets and pants (it's in an upscale area), and even a Land's End blazer and a couple of dress suits, and all the upscale golf shirts he can wear to work with a jacket - plus jackets bought on sale at Kohl's, he is better dressed than he has ever been! I have bought beautiful designer ties for him, too - & he even found some great shoes, too! If you have an eye, or know a woman who does, this is also a way to go. But luckily my husband is a casual guy, who can dress fairly casually at work, too.

Guest's picture
berizel

Interesting article, thanks for your thoughts on the suit. Very provoking and informative. I did check out the site you suggested and I agree, cool idea about the unique shirt - but $75 a shirt?

Hmmm.

Personally I've found great bargains on quality shirts at most of the chain department stores like Macys, Kohls, JCPenny etc. For ties you can definitely score great deals at places like TJ Max and Ross.

You're right about the thrift stores as well. Suits are generally items that get donated because us working men swell up around our bellies over time, not because the suits are shot.

Personally, I've been able to build up a decent collection by waiting for buy one get one or buy one get three sales at places like Men's Warehouse of Jos A Bank. The deal carries over for their low, mid, and high priced suits so you make your own choice about the deal.

One thing I will say about making a good impression, don't skimp on the shoes! Get a quality pair and take the time to make 'em shine!

Brian
http://www.SocialMediaDefined.com

Guest's picture
Guest

To comment NO. 3, I think he mentions thrift shop at least twice in the last section. intriguiging article, it makes me wonder how the author dresses and what percentage of his own advice he actually follows. I see a fedora and a sweater on the picture. Very snazzy but not a suittttttttttttttttt.

Guest's picture
Guest

Yep the proof is in the pudding, let's see this guy in a suit.

Jabulani Leffall's picture

I agree with Brian but shoes are another post. The truth of the matter is that a good suit dies without a good shirt and decent shoes, I don't care if it's a suit made of money.

 

Jabulani Leffall

Monetary Gadfly, Common Currency

00000 Broke Blvd. Kitchenette #68 & 1/2

Lowcash, CA 90000-0000

Jabulani Leffall's picture

By the way, that's not me with my head cut off in the suit, it's tailored atrociously, the fabric doesn't look on point and the lapel is a bit high for my taste for that cut. Take it in, big guy, take that in LOL:)

 

Jabulani Leffall

Monetary Gadfly, Common Currency

00000 Broke Blvd. Kitchenette #68 & 1/2

Lowcash, CA 90000-0000

Guest's picture
sd

You CAN get good menswear at a thrift store. But be careful about the suits. It's not so much that they're shot (well, some are) or out of style (not a good idea to be an '80s flashback while you're looking for work), though those are considerations. The big problem is that good suits are tailored to the shape of the wearer and it's pretty difficult (read: not cheap) or impossible to have them altered again for YOUR shape. Cuff a pair of pants shorter? No issue. Let out the shoulders? Uh-oh.

If you go the thrift-store suit route, be prepared to spend a lot of time looking for the right suit and a bit of money altering it. In fairness, most of us can find something more valuable to do with our time.

Guest's picture
Olivia

When I first met my sweetie he had a mess of polyester ties. You know, the "machine washable" kind old men wear that camouflage mustard and catsup dribbles. Now he has Italian silk. A drawer full. All for a $1 or less apiece. With a crisp white shirt and standard blue blazer (with brass buttons) that one accessory really spiffs up an outfit.

Guest's picture
Guest

If ever there was proof that "reality is just an illusion", this bs mindset is it. Glad to see we still judge books by their covers!

I've always wondered... The clothes make the man *what*, exactly?

Guest's picture
Guest

That's not fair. This isn't BS for 70% of the population in business. Reality is perception that's it. I'd like to see your reaction to do different men when you don't know anyone's watching and see how you react to a well-dressed man and a disheveled man and what your honest perception would be. I don't think he's trying to say a suit gives you character or that he's trying to advocate fashion to make a man. I think he's saying if you're looking to play the game, play the game well. At least I think that's what he's trying to say. But if you read this guy's other stuff, I don't think he's shallow like that.

Guest's picture
Paul

The best place to get high quality suits at great prices is A and G Clothing in Chicago located in the Merchandise Mart. For a great suit, go to their website at: http://www.aandgclothing.com/

The number to reach them is 312-245-0377.

They are selling three great suits for $350 right now. I just picked up six of them, and they are as high quality as suits I bought at Brooks Brothers.

I also told me friend about this who runs a hotel and they outfitted all their employees efficiently and for less money than their past purchases. I think they even outfit some Four Seasons Hotels.

Guest's picture
Genevieve

Please, I'd like to know more about men's attire for interviewing (especially shoes and ties)! I recently wrote a post on interview attire for men and women on my blog. Since I'm a woman I know a great deal more about women's interview attire than men's. As far as buying a suit--don't forget about holiday sales. Shop now and check out prices. Wait for the deals because they are sure to come this year!

Guest's picture
Guest

Blank Label recently launched their website which is similar to shirtsmyway. They offer custom dress shirts starting at $45. Pretty cool app they've got. it's simple and easy. I find shirtsmyway's app to be confusing and redundant... but nevertheless they both have cool businesses! =)

Guest's picture
AW

TO rebut one of the previous posters, the clothes don't make the man, but they sure change your initial impression. There is a reason that people wear uniforms, including dress clothes. Psychologically, we are all programmed to listen to authority and a well dressed person commands more authority than a slob. There have been countless studies that show this, so the article is very relevant to the times that we live in, that is until we all become as forward thinking as you and live in Dionysian bliss.

Guest's picture
Guest

I worked as a systems programmer and retired from the federal civil service after 32 years of service at 55 six years ago. I own my home and have no debt, but I NEVER owned nor wore a suit.

Guest's picture

This is a very good basic advice for most men when they are considering buying a new suit. When you have the money to invest on your clothing, then I would definitely recommend having bespoke suits for the best fit and best look.