Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Why Buy Custom?

Just this past Sunday I featured a post regarding the differences in suiting and sport coat fabrics, in which I told you that I highly recommend custom tailoring. As many of you know, I worked in custom tailoring for six years, and one of the most common conversations I had with customers was why custom is better. Custom can be intimidating for a few reasons.

First of all, the minute people hear that word, they think expensive. But it really is surprisingly comparable--and sometimes even more moderately priced than your high quality off-the-rack clothing.

Second, the wait. We live in a world of immediacy. We like to have what we want with the click of a mouse. But patience is an important virtue in life and this is a great place to exercise some. Its worth the wait.

Third, the process. If you haven't done custom before this can sound more daunting than it is. The process involved in your first suit will take the most time, as your tailor will need to get measurements. But really, this takes about 15 minutes of your time--give or take. Yes, someone will need to get up close and personal to do this, but as professionals, we do it all day long and don't think a thing of it, so neither should you. The selection and design process also takes time. You may already have an idea of what color or type of fabric you want, but maybe not! Don't worry, a great tailor or sales associate will ask you a lot of questions that will give them the information needed to guide you toward the right fabric for the job. As far as the design details, some customers like to be involved in every little detail of their suit, and some find it overwhelming! Maybe all you know is that you want flat front pants and a two button jacket. That's fine. Just tell your tailor that you want them to choose options that will make your suit timeless. (Lapel width is a good example here, as they will get wider and narrower with trends.)

So now that I've quelled your apprehensions, let's talk about why custom really is worth the time and money. I caught up with Derek Bleazard from Beckett & Robb, a custom tailoring house out of Utah that also has a comprehensive online custom shop, and asked him a few questions. Here's what he has to say:

What are the differences one is most likely to notice when switching to custom tailored suits from off the rack?

The first thing our clients notice is the superb fit of a custom suit versus what they are used to off-the-rack.  It looks and feels better, and the client can tell from the moment they put it on.  The other main difference is the customization that went into the suit.  Not only was it made for them according to their measurements and fit preferences, but they also chose all the details: the cloth itself, pockets, buttons, linings, lapels, etc.  What may not be quite as noticeable (but becomes more obvious over time) is the quality of the materials and construction of the suit.  The craftsmanship and construction techniques, together with the quality of the cloth, result in a suit that will perform better, look better, and will last longer than most off-the-rack suits. 

I have to stress two points that Derek makes here. Fit. Fit. Fit. Its everything. And there is no way to get a better result than by going custom. There may be aspects of fit that you have never thought of because you don't see them! Why? They're on your back! When being fitted for any suit, whether custom or off the rack you need one of three things. A good three way mirror, a tailor you trust to tell you the truth about what they're looking at (not just to get a sale), or a friend who knows the difference to point it out for you. DO NOT try to twist in a regular mirror to see this. It pulls at the fabric and you will not see what others do. Some details that show up often on ready-mades that you will not have with a well tailored custom suit are pulling between the shoulder blades, rolling right under the bottom of the collar, or extra fabric where the arm eye meets the back of the jacket.

His other point is craftsmanship. Custom suits that are well made should really stand the test of time. Did you know that most of the off the rack suits you buy aren't even sewn together? They're GLUED! Even some major name brands!  OK, next question: 

If a customer is going to invest in one custom suit, what do you point them toward?

Part of the allure of a custom suit is the ability to select a unique cloth from which to make the suit.  However, a lot of men are looking for a great go-to suit that will work in a number of situations and can be dressed up or down for maximum versatility.  In this case, we'd recommend a medium to dark gray, probably in a solid, or a solid navy.  It's the type of suit that looks fantastic, but isn't as recognizable as something made from a bolder cloth.  They can also opt for fewer embellishments, like no ticket pocket or hacking pockets.  Both gray and blue suits allow for a lot of different colors and patterns for shirts and ties. For shoes, a rich brown is the best choice for navy suits, a gray works well with different shades of brown or black for shoes.  Whether they choose a solid that will give them a lot of versatility, or a more whimsical and unique cloth for their suit, a custom suit will fit right and help him look his very best. 

I have to go with Derek on the dark gray. A charcoal suit is the most versatile suit you can own. Even more so than navy. Its not a color! Its on the black and white spectrum so you can't clash with it and its not as severe as black. It will already go with any shirt you have in your closet.

A lot of better Men's stores will not take and provide measurements for outside purchases.  When purchasing a custom suit online, what is the best way to make sure you have good measurements?

A tailor or alterations shop will usually take measurements for a small fee.  However, part of the battle is understanding how these measurements are interpreted by the suit maker.  Additionally, the measurer may have a different technique or idea for how a suit should fit than both the suit maker and the client, which further complicates the process.  Beckett & Robb provides our own set of measurement instructions for out of state clients, and we ask follow up questions to make sure we have the same understanding about the client's fit expectations.  I would discourage someone from buying a suit from a website that doesn't provide their own instructions on measurement taking.
This was an important question for me personally to ask Derek. I worked in a store where I was hands on with my customers every day. I was a little skeptical about online custom, but this answer makes sense to me. There are many "right" ways to take measurements and I was concerned about providing the tailor with the set of measurements that work for their construction process. But if you follow Derek's guidelines above, you should be good to go.

Here are some great shots from Beckett & Robb. Check out their online store and blog!

Whether you are investing in your one staple suit or getting a fun plaid because its your 10th, custom will open you up to a whole new suit experience. Do you buy custom? Why or why not?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sport Coat vs. Suiting Fabrics- An interview with Scott Anderson

About six weeks ago a reader of mine asked how you can tell the difference between a suit fabric and a sport coat fabric. I thought it was a great question. Having worked in custom clothing for six years, I had my own answers at the ready. But I wanted to see what other articles and information were out there for the lay person. I couldn't believe it! I spent days pining through blogs and other resources and the most consistent and best explanation I could find was that suits have matching pants! Which doesn't even address the question. So rather than respond quickly with some shopping tid bits, I decided to really dive in.

I'll start by addressing this reader's (and probably many other people's) suspicion that the difference in suit and sport coat fabrics lie in the pattern. He told me that he had always heard that fabrics featuring large or bold patterns are reserved for sport coats.  While pattern definitely does play a role, there are people out there who are gregarious and confident enough to rock a pretty darn bold suit. Check it out:
Ed Westwick/

Robert Pattinson/Entertainment Weekly

So what then, is the difference? I'm very fortunate to have some amazing colleagues who have worked in custom clothing for decades. And when it came to this question, what better resource to turn to then one of the world's most respected fabric distribution companies, Gladson Ltd? Scott Anderson has been an influential part of their sales team for years. Outside of being a terrific guy, he's also a wealth of knowledge. Here's a brief interview I held with him regarding today's topic:

1. In general terms, what would you say the biggest difference is between a sport coat fabric and a suit fabric?
For sure, different patterns lend themselves better as a suiting fabric or a sport coat fabric. However, these oftentimes, can be interchangeable. For example, my favorite navy blazer fabric happens to be an English Super 120's wool with a touch of cashmere that is 9 1/2-10oz. This is offered in my Encore Suiting collection and the brighter blue solid color is the perfect fabric/color for a blazer. Especially for a blazer, because of it's versatility, you want a hearty fabric that will resist wrinkles well and can be worn with many different combinations of trousers for different occasions and for different seasons. Also, there are some sport coat fabrics that make amazing suits, especially in some of the unique plaids that my E. Thomas collection offers. They tend to be bold for a suit, so you better make sure that you bring the added confidence necessary to pull that off. Because of it's uniqueness, this look is popular with many ball players as well as the Hollywood fashionistas.
2. Many suiting fabrics can be used to make sport coats. Are there any you would not use as a sport coat fabric and why? This comes down strictly to pattern. The fabric quality can be interchangeable but some patterns are strictly suit patterns. Most suiting stripes are not suitable for sport coats (not saying that there aren't some stripes that make amazing sport coats but they tend to be very bold, thick stripes, which you wouldn't find in a suiting collection). And most plaids and windowpanes that you find for suitings are much too subtle to use as a sport coat. It will look like you're wearing the jacket from your suit with the wrong pair of trousers.

3. I've generally operated under the concept that most sport coat fabrics should not be used as suiting fabrics because the weave and thread gauge can't handle the stress a pant takes. Am I right? Explain. There certainly are a number of sport coat fabrications that do not lend themselves to suitings and it is normally due to a looser weave or texture to the cloth that, when used in the trousers, would either pill or shred, usually where the thighs rub together or in the seat of the pants. Also, they can pull the seams apart in the back of trousers when one sits. However, a finely constructed worsted cloth can absolutely be used for suitings.

4. Are there any other pointers you would like to give on this topic? The one thing to keep in mind is that fashion should be an expression of who you are. The clothes that you are wearing tell a story about you before a word is even spoken. And different situations call for different fashion choices. You may want to rock that bold plaid sport coating fabric that you had made into a suit when you're going to that hip new restaurant that you were able to get a reservation at, yet put on that elegant charcoal windowpane suit out of your closet when meeting your clients. 

 All in all, this comes down to Scott's last point. Wear what you feel great in and what is appropriate for your occasion. If you are buying ready made, the fabrication has already been chosen for you and you are likely good to go. If you are venturing into the custom world--which I HIGHLY recommend, make sure that you are working with a well educated tailor who can guide you toward something that fits your needs.  When it comes to custom, a good sales associate will ask you A LOT of questions about your tastes, where you plan to wear your garment, how hard you are on your clothes, etc., and can steer you toward a fabric that will both express who you are and stand the test of time. On Wednesday I'll write a post on the benefits of custom as opposed to ready made, and why its truly worth the money! In the meantime, here are some resources around the country where you can find a great selection of Gladson fabrics for your next custom suit or sport coat! 

Beckett & Robb- Sandy, UT  or order online for anyone, anywhere!
Dogan- Atlanta, GA
Eric's Custom Tailors- Denver, CO
F. David Barney- Grand Rapids, MI (with a really catchy tune on the website!)
Joseph Robert Clothier- West Reading, PA, (610)376-8800
Michael Allen's Clothier- Portland, OR
Watson Tailoring- St. James City, FL
Gladson Ltd. has international distribution. Email for a location near you!

Thank you Scott! 
What suit or jacket do you feel your best in? Let us know in the comments below!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Fall Closet Clean Out Special! $60

Its time! September is almost here, and even though its 90 degrees right now, we should all start thinking in the next couple weeks about our fall/winter wardrobe. Here's how this works. I come over to your house with a nice bottle of wine. We open your closet, and pull out anything you really shouldn't wear or keep. Then we make you a list of must have items. I will prioritize the list for you so you know the few pieces to invest in right now, and the items you can keep an eye out for when the winter sales hit. All this for only $60!

And if you really hate shopping, I can either go with you or do the shopping for you to acquire your must have items! (extra charge)

So let's get started! The first person to email me for an appointment gets this service for FREE!
(If you do not live in Portland and have Skype, we can do this online.)

See you soon!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Trend Watch- All Buttoned Up!

Kanye West/ Rolling Stone Magazine
Do you know what I love about today's post? I'm about to tell you how to be right on top of an up and coming trend without spending ANY money!

Most of you probably remember buttoning your shirt with no tie in the 80's. Well, this trend is making a comeback--we're seeing it everywhere on the runway, and I know how you want to be cutting edge cool! So next time you wear your business casual suit (no tie), sport coat and trousers, or jacket and jeans, try taking those buttons all the way to the top! In my opinion, there is only one rule to making this work. Make sure your collar isn't too long or wide. A super wide spread collar will look like its missing its Double Windsor, and your longer dress collars will need their Four-in-Hand.

Overall, I do think this look works well with jackets that have a slightly higher drop. Check out Kanye's jacket. See how the first button is near the bottom of his rib cage, not down at his belly button?

Here are a few more pictures for you from the Patrick Ervell Fall/Winter 2011 collection. Since Kanye has already demonstrated this trend with a suit, I chose examples that show how to wear this trend with a sport coat or more casually. And before you even get there, just replace the leather pants with jeans!

Just like rolling your pants, here you have a trend that takes no extra time and doesn't break the bank! So there's no reason not to give it a go. Will you wear this look? Casually, with a jacket, or both?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Jacket and Jeans for ANY Guy!

I've been heralding the sport coat and jeans combo for a few years now. And yes, its everywhere. But I find that a lot of guys still aren't utilizing this look.  In my opinion, its the most versatile trend out there right now. You can pull it off in your 20's or 70's. If you are a collegiate professor or a grunge rocker. Its all about picking pieces and accessories that fit your own style. Plus, its so comfortable! You get to wear your jeans, and it offers a day to night transitional look. As I mentioned in my post Airport Style, its THE look to don when traveling. You get all this with a few staple pieces, most if not all of which you probably already have in your closet! So in search of my proof of versatility, I hit the "Snap" section of the Japanese website "Men's Club."  Take a look. Surely you fall into one of these categories:

This is probably one of the more common ways I see this look worn. Nice, clean, dressy jeans, dress shoes, buttoned blazer, pocket square, tie--the whole bit. This gentleman kept the pieces simple and neutral, but this could also work well with a fun plaid blazer and a little pattern mixing with the tie.

Another common look.  Its all in the shoes.  Look at the guy off to the left. Same recipe--jeans, nice belt, open collar. But he chose dress shoes instead of sneakers and it changes the whole look. Either way works great. This look can also be achieved with a high quality tee shirt.

 Artist often have a little bit of a disheveled look.  Yeah, he combed his hair, but he didn't work too hard. He doesn't have a bag for his stuff. His jeans are a little distressed. The jacket looks decidedly vintage--great for the starving artist budget. His footwear is right on trend with the work boot (and the rolled jeans to show them off). But the accessories really drive it home. A bright scarf juxtaposed against all those neutrals that he tied around his neck like a western bandanna, and paired with red sunglasses? Were the scarf green, it wouldn't have worked. But he kept both accessories in the same warm color family so they merge nicely. If I had to guess, he's headed off to a coffee shop to work on some prose.


This is all in the layering. Don't let this guy fool you. He put a lot of effort into this look. A plaid shirt gets layered with a sweater vest and soft, unstructured jacket. His jeans aren't just distressed--there's a full on hole. A nice chunky belt and work boots contrasted with a pocket square give the grunge some polish. Long hair and a scarf pull in a Euro twist.

No sweater vest for this guy! His vest is a wool pinstripe that matches his jacket. It may even be the top half of a 3 piece suit. The bow tie is a nice compliment to the more casual vibe with jeans and an old school topper finishes the look.

There are two reasons this look says collegiate. Thick rimmed glasses, and the fabric of the jacket. There is something about that medium brown tweedy subtle plaid that just screams professor! The jeans are a perfect match for this look. The crease marks and fading steer this ensemble away from the "Polished and Dapper" category mentioned earlier and keep the outfit young and hip for running around campus amongst the 20 year olds. He can teach us all a thing or two!

So there you have it. There is no one this combo can't work for. Just wear it your own way! Which guy are you? Don't see your look here? Tell us about it!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Colored Chino

Color is in. Gone are the days (for now) of donning head to toe black in order to achieve an uber fashionable look.  Some men are reaching for bold accessories, such as a red overnight bag or bright neon watch. But if you really want to embrace color this season there are some great trends out there to help, and the colored chino is one of them. I did a post back in July called Color Me Blocked that featured two pictures of men at Pitti wearing colored chinos. But I'm seeing them everywhere ranging from light pastels to bold primary greens and yellows. Here are a few recent sightings:

A great blog I follow called Unabashedly Prep recently featured these photos:

What a great mint green! He kept the rest simple with a classic blue button down and neutral accessories. Classic clothing line J.McLaughlin recently showed this great salmon chino in their lookbook :
While both of these examples show the colored chino worn casually, the above mentioned pictures from Color Me Blocked demonstrated how to dress them up with a basic blue unstructured jacket. Take a look:
Tommy Ton/

Tommy Ton/

Tailor Vintage is making a fun version that features a plaid pattern when you roll your pants (which if you read my recent Airport Style post, you know you should be doing.) These are also available in Kelly green and a pale blue. I found them at a great Men's shop in my local town of Portland, OR called Michael Allen's, but this line is also carried at Nieman Marcus stores across the country.

So lets see, if you wear colored chinos, pair them with a blue blazer, and roll the cuffs, that means you are wearing three trends at once! Look at you! Do you have colored chinos? What do you pair them with?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Little Splash of....Neon?

The 80's are back, and as with every decade, that can be a good thing or a bad thing. One of the hot trends on return is neon. Now please, do not pull out that neon yellow mesh cropped tank top that you wore when rehearsing with your air band. (Hopefully you didn't keep it to begin with.) But in smartly accessorized splashes, this trend can add a lot of pop to your week! Pump up your plain black suit with an ultra bright pocket square or watch. (Yes, when done tastefully you can wear this trend to work!) Add some punch to your plain old jeans and tee with a neon belt.  Here are some fun ideas and resources to help you help you turn it up--just a notch.
Tommy Ton/
This not-so-classic cap toe shoe was seen on the streets at Pitti.  A fun but costly investment for what will be a passing trend. White/INF
Ellen DeGeneres shows how anyone can work this trend onto their shoes! Trade your laces out for a bright color to add punch to a neutral outfit. But as always, please don't use your running shoes. Those are for the gym. Find a fun pair of walking or fashion sneakers such as the ones shown below from Tretorn. This timeless sneaker is only $55.00 and looks great with everything from shorts to your summer cotton suit! Click here to find these shoes online.
Nixon carries some fun and inexpensive accessories which makes it a great resource for this trend. Below are two versions of their The Time Teller P watch, which is available in 26 colors! If you can't quite swallow the full green (or orange, or yellow) neon version, opt for the black band with the bright face. I repeat--wear this with your suit! Click here to find these watches online.


They also make some fun rubber belts like the Meddler Belt in neon Orange or Red Pepper at Zappos.

If you are really feeling subtle--especially for work, Paul Smith makes a neon striped sock that should be a fun addition to your work week style. Click here to find them online.
That should get you started with some easy ideas for incorporating neon into looks you already have in your closet. Vintage shops can be a great source for these items as well. Tip: If you can't find a neon pocket square use a bandanna instead! This trend is all about having fun, so be whimsical and enjoy having the little details be the eye catching focus of your look.  Which of these pieces would you try?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Mixing it Up!

Mixing patterns is a daunting and scary task for most.  And for good reason! Because if its wrong, its reeeeaaaaally wrong! (Picture orange floral Bermuda shorts with an argyle sweater vest!) But when its done right its a highly effective look that is polished, fashion forward, eye catching, and frankly, it makes you look like you know what you're doing! The trick to mixing patterns is to find a color correlation between the pieces. Choose patterns in different sizes for the best effect. Let's take a look at a few pattern combos in action!

I'll start with Ed Westwick. For those of you who don't know, he's an actor on Gossip Girls, and his stylist is continuously dressing him in bold and daring combinations.  His on screen looks are great to watch for fresh ideas. The picture below is actually a fairly muted ensemble for him. Note the wide striped shirt with the multi-colored check jacket.
Ed Westwick/
This is a fairly easy look to pull off. He left the color contrast to his accessories--pink tie, dark blue pocket square. Although the shirt and jacket are both bold patterns, they are comprised of the same exact color palette. The light blue ties the two pieces together.

The next picture shows a somewhat tricky combo--check on check. I found this picture on It features Wallace Chan from the gentleman's shoe store Tassels in Hong Kong.
This pairing is brilliant. He started with the jacket. There is an accent color of a light sage green in the jacket's check. He found a shirt with a check in the same green to pull the two together. Note that the overall check in the jacket is pretty small, while the shirt features a larger pattern.

That gives you two great examples to work from. But if that is too bold for your style, don't throw the baby out with the bath water! Here is an easy way to wear this trend using wardrobe staples. Every business man should own a Bengal striped shirt. Its a classic in charcoal or deep navy. Just to be a little different, I've chosen a plum version by Canali, available at Nordstrom's.
Pair this with a classic hounds tooth sport coat and you've mixed patterns! The great thing about hounds tooth is that it acts as a solid. In fact, from far away it even looks like solid gray. Throw this combo on with some dark clean jeans or gray trousers and you've got a winning look! The jacket shown below is a vintage Ralph Lauren found on, but this timeless staple can be found in many men's shops.  You could achieve the same effect with a black and white mini check or a birdseye pattern.
Do you mix patterns? If so, please share what you mix together. Would you try this look?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Airport Style

I've been on vacation all week in Estes Park, Colorado, which is a fantastic getaway for those of you who enjoy the outdoors.  I flew back today through the Denver International Airport and decided I would feature great travel style.  Much to my dismay, I found that I could have filled my entire blog post with "what not to wear." Pajama pants, sweats, ill fitting sports tee shirts, etc.  To be honest, the best dressed guys in the place were generally the cowboys in their trim jeans, nice boots and a hat.  I had planned on featuring the jeans and sport coat look, which is perfect for the jet setter.  A great pair of jeans and a nice quality tee are comfortable. You can carry on your jacket, which ensures that no matter who you run into at the airport--because you never know (top clients for example), or if the airline loses your luggage, you have a decent outfit. I did not see even one example of this in the entire airport.  I had almost given up hope of anything remotely fashionable, until I saw this guy reading a book right across from my gate:
While its not the jeans and sport coat look I had been watching for, he is wearing two very prominent trends simultaneously and successfully! The first is denim on denim.  Why does his version work? He chose two highly contrasting hues. Head to toe monochromatic denim is pretty hard to pull off. Second, he rolled his pants.  I can't stress this trend enough! It costs NO money to participate and when the trend has come and gone you still keep the same pants! You will nary see a man in Italy right now who does not have his pants rolled. Top it off with the fact that his shirt fits well at the shoulder, and you end up with an ensemble that is comfortable for travel, appropriate for the casual appeal of CO, and yet fashionable enough to get my attention.  Well done Terminal A Guy! Thanks for letting me feature you!

What do you wear when you travel? How do you change your choice if traveling internationally?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Long and the Short of It- Part Two

I seem to be on a fit kick right now. I did a post several weeks ago regarding the trends in jacket length. (Which, by the way, you should not follow if you are walking into a boardroom or giving a presentation. In those cases, make sure your tushy is fully covered.) This past Sunday's post talked about the size of your shirt collar.  Today I'm going to give you a little tutorial on jacket sleeve length. Because, on the GQ Eye blog, I saw this:

No no noooooooo!
 Mr. Mark Sanchez needs a good couple inches chopped off his jacket sleeve.  See how it bunches and covers part of his hand? It looks sloppy, and just like when your shirt collar is too big, it appears thrifty--like daddy gave you his old jacket to help get your wardrobe started.

Depending on the size of your hands and client preference, your sleeve should stop somewhere between 3 3/4" and 4" up from the tip of your thumb. Of course, you can't measure this on yourself, but a good tailor or quality retail sales associate should know this. When you are fitted, and stand straight in the mirror with arms at your sides, make sure you can see about 1/4" of your shirt sleeve beyond the jacket sleeve. Like this great shot off of Men's Club:

Yes yes yeeeeeeessss!