Monday, December 28, 2009

Building Your Suit Wardrobe

Every man should own a suit. If you are a regular to this blog, and others like it, you already own at least one suit - probably several. For the gentlemen building or overhauling their suit closet, here's our list of essentials, in order of preference (which should be purchased first, second, etc.)

1) Dark charcoal. Solid. Dark, but not black.
2) Navy. Solid.
3) Medium charcoal pinstripe.
4) Light grey (pinstripe, glen plaid, or solid)
5) Solid black.
6+) Anything you like, including sport coats, casual suits, or other whimsical indulgences. (Only now should you buy a brown suit.)

Monday, December 14, 2009

New Topcoat

In preparation for cold weather, I commissioned a new topcoat from our tailor. I've been enjoying it for a month and a half or so now. I've written on topcoats/overcoats previously. My design was for a military topcoat in navy. It is double breasted with epaulets on the shoulders and slanted pockets. The collar can be popped and the lapels folded over and buttoned for particularly cold days. I requested it to be quite fitted: the shoulders are just wide enough for a suit coat to be worn under it comfortably, and the sleeves and waist give a nice silhouette. It goes down to a few inches above the knee. It looks great with a suit and I also love wearing it with more casual attire.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Following Beckett & Robb

For those of you that follow us regularly, we wanted to let you know that we regularly post info to these social networking sites:




Thank you for following us!


Beckett & Robb

Monday, December 7, 2009

Another Reason to Get Your Shirts Right

With so many businesses allowing a more casual look around the office, the dress shirt is playing a bigger role than ever. With a jacket on, getting the fit of the shirt right isn't as big a deal. The jacket covers most of it, so a shirt with even a poor fit is fairly inconspicuous. Take the jacket off, however, and the truth comes spilling out.

Without the help of the suit jacket, the shirt has to step up its game. If you're like a lot of guys, your wardrobe could do with some refreshing in the shirt department. Make sure you look your best by adding shirts that enhance your appearance and style by fitting the way they should.



Monday, November 23, 2009

Consider This...

Once when I was a teenager I was in men's clothing boutique looking at suits. The owner imparted a bit of wisdom on that occasion that has stuck with me and served me well ever since. While the prices at the shop weren't exorbitant, being a high school student they were a bit out of my range at the time and I commented about being able to get 2 suits somewhere else for the price of the one he was showing me. I don't remember the exact phrasing he used, but the message was clear: one great suit is better than 2 average suits any day. 1 great suit gets you noticed, 2 cheap suits get you nothing.

An average suit makes you look... average. Your attire leaves no lasting impression and fails to set you apart. You think that because the suits are cheap, you can get a few and have variety. The downside is that now you have not one but several suits that don't do you any favors. You see yourself in the mirror and it doesn't inspire confidence. You go about your day looking and feeling average.

A great suit gets you noticed every time you wear it. You feel confident and successful. You look and feel sharp; different from all the other guys who look and feel lackluster. Even if you're only able to add one great suit to your wardrobe at a time, you've made the right decision.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Proper Suit Fit

For those of you that haven't heard, baggy suits are out and fitted suits are in. Contrast this ill-fitting suit ...

... with these nicely fitted suits ...

Gently reflecting today's more modest sensibilities, it's at once boldly austere and beautifully refined. But with narrower lapels, a trimmer waist, and a closer-cut silhouette, it's a style that has a power all its own - a cool simplicity that is self-assured yet refreshingly unpretentious.

Now is a great time to consider throwing out your old suits and buying new suits that fit your body and today's style.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Fit is the most important component of how your clothing looks on you. The other elements--color and style--should be afterthoughts to how it fits. A great looking suit on my dad, for example, would be a bad choice for me because our sizes are different and the fit would be poor. A fairly obvious observation, but the point is that the nicest of suits will look bad if the fit is wrong. This is true with suits, and it's also true of shirts. A shirt, like a suit, should fit properly. Too large and it looks billowy, sloppy, unkempt, unattractive. Too small and it pulls at the buttons, is short on the arms, and is generally unflattering. All this regardless of whether it is a good color or pattern.

From November's GQ

The majority of off-the-rack shirts are made to very general specifications, and are designed to fit as many people as possible. The result is that even if you are a 15 neck and neither skinny nor large, the waist and chest will always be several inches too big, and the arms will usually be too wide. You can tuck it in as best you can, but the folds and ballooning effect of all the extra material only gets worse as you go about your business. There is a better way, however. You can find fitted and semi-fitted options with many retailers. Stores like Banana Republic and Express gear most of their shirts toward a more fitted look.

The point is to find a fit that works for your body type. If you're a bit larger, a regular cut could be a good choice because you won't end up with lots of extra material in the arms and torso. For guys that have normal or skinny frames, get a shirt that doesn't look like it was meant for someone 40 pounds heavier. The neck should not be loose yet unrestrictive. Cuffs should go down to the ends of your wrists where your thumb meets the wrist.

Like suits, the best option with shirts is to get it tailor-made for you. Not only do you get the right fit in the torso and arms, as well as your preferred length in the sleeves and tails, you also get a bunch of other options. You choose your fabric, collar and cuff, and even the smaller details like pocket, yoke, placket, pleats, and button options. And you can have it monogrammed if you like. Sound expensive? You can get a custom shirt for the same price as an off-the-rack shirt at Nordstrom or Banana Republic.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Why Every Man Should Own A Suit

"All the world is not, of course, a stage, but the crucial ways in which it isn't are not easy to specify." - Erving Goffman

You need one. I don't care if you work in your basement. I don't care if you're an artist. A grown-up man needs at least one suit for special events. And once you have one, a good one which fits you and doesn't make you feel constricted, you will wonder why all your clothes aren't suits. You will want to buy three more.

The standard men's uniform of well-fitting jacket and trousers is a remarkable confidence-giving garment: people will treat you differently when you are in a suit; they will look at you differently, they will ask your opinion, they will expect you to take care of trouble.

To take this one step further, every man should own a custom suit. The first time I purchased a custom suit I knew I would never buy an off-the-peg, ready-to-wear suit from my local department store again. And I haven't. This is one of those things you just won't understand or fully appreciate until you do it. So you'll have to take my word for it until you, too, take the plunge. The way a suit cut for my own measurements - 20 or more - makes me feel is a remarkable thing. The process results in a garment that breeds confidence. I own some very nice off-the-rack suits. A few of them major name brands. But they don't compare. How can they when they only consider 3 measurements? You've got to try it to know what I'm talking about.

Monday, October 12, 2009

How to Pick a Coat

With cold weather already upon us, it's time to invest in an overcoat or topcoat. A ski coat over a suit is sloppy and quickly takes away the sophistication of the suit. A nice coat, by contrast, enhances an already smart looking suit and will make the right impression on anyone who sees you in it.

The overcoat and topcoat are similar. The overcoat extends below the knees, while the topcoat stops short of the knee. When deciding between the two, choose whichever suits your needs and style best. For me, I enjoy the modern look of the topcoat, as well as its versatility for wear with more casual clothing. The overcoat potentially provides more warmth as it covers more of your body, so is possibly more appropriate for very cold climates.

Overcoat vs. Topcoat

Your coat will share some of the same characteristics of your suit jacket. Some of the considerations include the lapels, pockets, buttons (on the coat front as well as the cuffs), and single or double breasted. It should fit well--too big and it looks loose and shapeless, too small and it will be constricting and possibly won't fit around your suit. If you wear a size 42 suit jacket, you should be a 42 in a coat as well. To be sure on the fit, wear a suit jacket while you're picking a coat, or better yet, have it custom made for you. Make sure the coat has good shape. Just because it's long doesn't mean it should be boxy, roomy, or otherwise ill-fitting.

There are lots of styles to choose from. Aside from specifics such as lapels and pockets, which vary from , a few of the general coat styles to be aware of include the trench (belted waist), polo (also belted), military, peacoat, single and double breasted. The materials also vary and include camelhair, tweed, wool, moleskin, mohair, cashmere, and others. Dark colors are usually most versatile and are best for the winter months.

Single-breasted camel hair

Double breasted, Peaked Lapel, Ticket Pocket

Single breasted. Clean and classic

Military Style--Note the cuffs, collar, and shoulders

Single breasted tweed, ticket pocket, working cuff buttons

Style vs. Fashion >> What's the difference?

Let's make one thing clear: Fashion and Style are two different things. They are connected, for sure, but they are not interchangeable terms. Fashion is a preference initiated by a minority then arbitrarily adopted en masse regardless of its suitability to the wearer. Style, on the other hand, is the selective incorporation of sartorial traits to complement a person’s unique characteristics. Consequently, the first approach to dressing benefits a person by chance, the second by design. Fashion is what is out there for you to choose from; Style is what you choose.

The idea of clothing as palette, rather than as uniform. Fashion is a set of ever-changing rules. Fashion seeks to do away with tradition, and with it all the special knowledge required to enter the most powerful circles. Fashion influences tradition more rapidly with women. Yet it is having a greater and greater impact on men's attire. Those runway shows you sometimes see feature trends that evenutally will filter down - however diluted - into the Fit-Rite department stores, though it may take 5 years.

The set of rules you follow to strike the uneasy balance between timeless and trendy. Style is about being able to pull off a look that is at once classic and daring. It's not about being traditional or conventional. Sure, elements of style don't change (or shouldn't) while others are being challenged every season. Having style is a personal thing - unique to you alone. It's about being able to find the classic elements that attract you, and add to it your own flair with what is fashionable now. It's a tense fusion between the traditions of the past and the forward thinking of the present.

At Beckett & Robb our primary aim is to help you discover your own style. We're making men into gentlemen one suit at a time.

As Alexander Pope once said regarding trendiness, "Be not the first by whom the new are tried / Nor yet the last to lay the old aside."

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

More Stain Removal Tips

I wrote recently about DIY cleaning for spots and stains. If you spill something or get something onto your clothes, no need to be intimidated. Use the following tips and tricks to get the stain out. Note: many of these methods use soaking or saturating with something that will eventually be washed out in the wash. For suits or other un-washables, try blotting with the substance, then use a sponge to absorb any residual moisture. For tough stains on clothes you can't wash, the dry cleaner may be your only recourse.

Ketchup: Scrape off any excess, then apply a mixture of cool water and liquid dish soap (or hand soap if dish soap isn't readily available). For tougher stains, blot with white vinegar.

Ink: Spray heavily with hair spray or douse with rubbing alcohol and blot. Apply laundry detergent directly to the spot before putting into the wash.

Blood: Hold the fabric under cool, running water while rubbing it against itself. Avoid hot water, which sets the stain permanently.

Oils: Blot excess from fabric with a cloth or napkin. Work baking soda or cornstarch into the stain to draw it out. Wash with detergent. Or, blot with a sponge into which you've put a few drops of dish soap, as I've demonstrated previously.

Perspiration: Saturate the area with shampoo--preferably one for normal hair, as shampoos for dry hair contain extra conditioners--and then launder as usual.

Red Wine: Blot with club soda. The salt helps prevent permanent staining while the bubbles in the soda help lift the stain.

Coffee/Tea: Rinse with white vinegar or commercial stain remover. Blot.

Grass: Soak the area with white vinegar for an hour, then wash.

Chocolate: Scrape off excess with a dull knife or spoon. Saturate the spot with a solution made from a tablespoon of an enzyme detergent (like Wisk) and two cups of water. Let stand for 20 minutes, then rinse well.

Lipstick: Remove as much as possible with a credit card or dull knife. Dab with baby wipes, then rinse with hot water to dissolve the oils.

Chewing Gum: Freeze the gum with a wrapped ice cube, then peel it off the garment.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

12 Rules for Wearing & Caring For Your Dress Shoes

  1. Purchase a nice, expensive pair, with genuine leather uppers, a leather welt, and thick leather sole. Care for these properly and they'll last you 10 years or more.
  2. With a suit, oxfords or brogues are classic.
  3. Slip-on's are okay if they have a high enough vamp (the part of the shoe where the laces are, if they had laces).
  4. Shoes with buckles are acceptable if they are to one side.
  5. Shoes with tassels are never okay. To quote from a favorite source, "There is no occasion or outfit in civilized society which justifies the wearing of loafers with a leather fringe and a dangling tassel over the vamp. These shoes are an abomination."
  6. Ankle boots are daring. They can make a suit look fantastic, if a bit romantic. They are acceptable with a suit if simple in design, however they may not be appropriate for some settings (i.e. The Boardroom)
  7. With a suit, your shoes should NOT have metal grommets reinforcing the eyelets for the shoelaces. This look is okay with chinos and a blazer, but never a suit.
  8. A gentleman knows his laces should be neatly parallel, not in the criss-cross pattern with which you lace your tennis shoes.
  9. Black shoes are classic. Long ago many believed only black shoes should be worn with a suit. These rules no longer apply. Brown shoes are very appropriate, although never with a black suit. For more tips on color, see this post.
  10. Your shoes and belt should match. However, if you're wearing a suit jacket a belt isn't required. See this post for additional insight on this look.
  11. Have a cobbler install a thin protective rubber sole for $20. When it wears out, have a new one installed. Spend $20 instead of $200.
  12. Most importantly, nothing helps a nice pair of shoes last longer than a regular shine. The good old fashioned way. Read here to see how to properly care for your shoes. And here to read about polishing your shoes.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Vest

Adding a vest to a suit makes for a great look. The vest, also called a waistcoat, has always been a part of good menswear, and even though it may be a bit more popular now than it has in recent years, I still very seldom see a three piece suit. It's a shame because it's not only complimentary to a suit, but it looks great without the jacket. In fact, I recently had our tailors make me a trouser/vest combo and didn't have the jacket made. While I'll be adding the third piece sometime soon, I've enjoyed wearing the trousers and vest during the summer when a jacket can be too much because of the heat. A lot of guys find themselves removing their jacket throughout the day for better mobility at the desk or to avoid getting too warm. Unfortunately they lose the flattering lines a suit jacket provides. The shirt balloons and the tie flails about, and what used to be neat and tidy becomes sloppy. The vest restores the flattering vertical lines and the V shape on the torso, and it keeps the shirt and tie tucked and trim. Next time you get a suit (or preferably, have one made) consider adding a vest. You'll add functionality and style, and it's a great alternative if you're not wearing the jacket full time.

The vest should fit well for optimal effect, and the best fitting vests are always the made-to-measure variety. A vest should be snug through the midsection and chest, so off-the-rack vests frequently don't fit correctly as, like jackets, they're made to accommodate a wide variety of people but not necessarily fit them well.

A lot of guys may not feel entirely comfortable in a vest without the jacket. The back on many vests today are a silky material that some may not want exposed because it's shiny and looks a bit fancy. Traditionally the vest back was made of the same material (wool) as the front. That's largely been done away with because it's assumed the vest back will seldom be seen, and it's cheaper to use less wool. It's still possible to get a vest with self material on the back if you go custom. I prefer mine to be made with the same material all around. If you're getting a vest made by a tailor, take advantage of this option and get it the same all around. It's a mark of a custom-made vest.

A vest should ideally be one to three inches higher than the top button of the suit, but not much more than that. Generally speaking, a three button suit goes well with a five button vest. A two button suit does well with a vest with three or four buttons. The point is that because a two button suit has a deeper V than a three button suit, the vest should follow suit (no pun intended) and correspondingly be a bit lower.

The vest can be single or double breasted (yes, double breasted works with single breasted suits). It can have lapels or no lapels. If you plan to regularly wear the vest sans jacket, lapels are a good option since they add a bit of what's lost by being jacket-less. The length should be such that shirt material isn't exposed in front or in back. I've realized through personal experience that a vest should be requested to be a bit longer if you wear your pants on your hips instead of around your waist like I do. I have a vest that's a bit short in back as a result and it's a hassle making sure no shirt peeks out the back.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Spot Cleaning

I recently got some grease of some kind on my suit trousers. I'm not even sure how it happened, but it was right on the upper knee of a pair of light grey trousers, so it stood out like a sore thumb. Instead of running to the dry cleaner, I tried a little DIY cleaning to see if I could beat the stain myself. In this case, I don't necessarily have anything against taking it to the dry cleaner, if they can spot clean it there probably won't be much harm done. I've written about alternatives to dry cleaning in the past because it's overused by a lot of guys to the detriment of their suits. There are several products that are gentle and yet effective for spot cleaning, and you avoid the chemicals that may not be necessary. For this spot, since it was grease or oil, I used a drop of dish soap on a clean sponge and dabbed the area. The degreasing action of the soap cut right through the stain, and my pants were as good as new. Saved me a trip to the dry cleaner, as well as some money, and it took literally 3 minutes to fix.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

How to Shine Your Shoes

There are certain things a gentleman should know how to do, and shining your shoes is one of them. After years of experience shining my own shoes, I've come to enjoy it and take pride in it. I've never felt comfortable trusting it to an airport or street shiner. I'm sure they do a fine job, but I've always taken responsibility for my shoe care. It's not a complicated or difficult process, and can be quite satisfying. It's important for shoe maintenance as it polishes, waterproofs and restores the leather. It also keeps them looking nice and clean. Follow these steps for a nice shine:

1. Get your area ready. Shoe polish stains, so make sure you're working someplace where you've laid down some newspaper or something to cover anything you don't want to possibly damage. You should also change your clothes if it's something you'd not like to see stained, just in case. Also, I wear latex gloves so I don't stain my fingers.

2. Get your shine kit ready. I've pieced mine together over time, you can also buy a kit with most or all of what you need included. You'll want to make sure you've got the polish to match the color of your shoes, something to apply the polish (a small round brush works, I often use a cotton round), a horsehair brush, and a soft cloth to buff. You may find other implements effective as well. Make sure you use good quality polish. Use a clear or neutral polish for light colored shoes, and take care not to use the wrong brown on brown leather.

3. Clean the shoes with a cloth to remove any dirt and grime.

4. Apply the polish with your brush (dauber)/cotton round/rag. Apply it uniformly. Leave the shoetrees in and tuck in the laces. You can use a bit of water (several drops at a time) to help it go on evenly and with a bit of moisture. I've used this method in the past when I really want a high shine. Use a circular motion. Don't over-apply as this takes the polish longer to dry and doesn't help anyway.

5. Allow the polish to dry. Should take around 10 minutes.

6. Buff the shoes with a horsehair brush using a fast, sweeping motion.

7. Bring out the shine with a soft cloth, rubbing the leather lightly and quickly.

You're done! The leather should feel a bit slick and smooth, and definitely not tacky.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Shoe Care

Shoes are a huge part of your look, and you want to be sure to care for them properly. But first, a word about picking a good pair. A great suit can be defamed quickly by bad shoes. I've written before about color and shape choices. Those considerations aside, and speaking in general terms, you want to invest in your shoes. Cheap ones not only look cheap, they don't last. Why not spend what's necessary to get a good looking and good quality pair? You'll look a lot better (enough justification by itself), and overall they'll probably end up being less costly because you're not paying to replace them like you would with a cheap pair. Price isn't the only indication of quality, but on the whole, you have to pay more for good quality shoes. It's worth it. It pays dividends on the style side and in the service they'll render. Watch for sale prices and specials at places that have good shoes and you can get the best of both worlds.

Shoe care is essential to making sure they look good and give you the performance and longevity they're capable of providing. Here are a few tips:

  • When putting your shoes on, use a shoe horn, especially if you have a bit of difficultly maneuvering your foot into the shoe completely. This will save the heal from wear and from losing it's shape.
  • After a day of use, give them a breather. Your dogs need a day or two of recovery. This will allow them to air out completely before you put them back on. You should have at least 2 pairs to rotate if you're wearing them every day.
  • Clean, condition, and polish them often. More on this next time...
  • Use shoe cream as needed to cover scratches, to moisturize, and to renew color. With brown leathers, you should pick a cream that is slightly lighter than the shade of the leather. It can be helpful if you can find a cream that is made by the company that made your shoes. Allow it to dry, then buff using a horsehair brush.
  • Use cedar shoe trees. They absorb the moisture left in the shoe when you take them off, and without them your shoes will lose shape.
  • When traveling, use shoe bags or wrap them in a soft cloth so they don't get scratched.
  • Use rubber oversoles to protect your shoes in bad weather, especially with leather soled shoes. Wet leather wears out much more quickly than dry leather, so keep 'em dry.
  • For bigger problems in the sole or elsewhere, take them to a shoe repair shop. Once your soles have worn out, you should be able to resole them relatively inexpensively. If you've cared for the leather and with the addition of new soles, your shoes will give you years more service.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Supers

Wool comes in a variety of grades. Maybe you've seen suits in a department store with "Super 130s" or "Super 120s" written on them and wondered what that meant. The S system, a sort of scale for rating wools, places fabrics generally somewhere between Super 80s and Super 200s. So what do those numbers mean? In short, the numbers refer to the fineness of the fibers, as measured in microns (one millionth of a meter), that make up the fabric. For example, a Super 140s wool is made from finer fibers than a Super 100s. The finer the wool, the higher the number. You might assume that the higher the number, the better the fabric. Not necessarily so.

First, a bit of history. The S system has been around for a long time (since the 18th century), and has always denoted the fineness of the wool in question. In those days the range was between 30 and 100. In more recent history, technology has enabled textile manufacturers to push the boundaries on how fine they can go by spinning the wool lighter and finer than ever. Fineness isn't the only indication of quality; length and strength are also important. The longer the fiber, the stronger the yarn that can be spun from it. And with strength comes the ability to twist tightly, creating a fine weave and eventually a superior fabric.

So how do these numbers figure into your decision on which fabric to choose? Be aware that the numbers can be a bit misleading. You would assume that a high number fabric would create the best suit. That depends on what "best" means for you. Remember that the higher the number, the softer and lighter the fabric. If you go for a Super 150s and above, you should count on using the garment sparingly, as it won't take well to normal day-to-day use and is much more high maintenance. You should dry clean it very infrequently, if at all. They are delicate and wrinkle fairly easily. They have a great feel and look, but are not as durable as the lower numbered fabrics. And the higher numbers will cost you more.

If your suit is going to see a lot of action, you're better off going with something in the Super 100s-140s range. These are known as the performance wools--you can wear them throughout the day without wrinkling or loss of shape. They travel well. Generally speaking, they make for good all-year suits. Today's fabrics in this range are superb, combining a sumptuous feel with resilience and durability.

Friday, August 7, 2009

No Belt with a Suit

I mentioned in the last post that I prefer to wear no belt with a suit. This isn't because of any fad or trend, and the idea of not wearing a belt isn't new. While it may be gaining some popularity, guys have been wearing suits with no belt for decades. In fact, before it came to be seen as a necessary accessory to the suit, it was seen for what it really is: a way to keep your trousers up. For men who didn't need the extra help, the belt was superflous. Believe it or not, it's still possible to get pants that fit properly today, so belts should continue to be seen as optional. Made-to-measure and bespoke suits specifically provide the opportunity for going beltless, not only because your pants will fit your body perfectly so you won't need a belt, but also because you can request side tabs to be added to make little adjustments should your find the need to tighten or loosen. This is a great way to go. And to truly go beltless, you can get your pants made sans belt loops.

A great advantage of wearing no belt is that you get the full effect of the long, sophisticated lines created by a suit. A belt clutters and takes away from that because it adds a different color that cuts you in half visually. Belts look especially bad when your pants don't fit well (ironic because in that case you need the belt. The lesson is to make sure your pants fit, whether or not you do wear a belt). You can see extra fabric cinched around your waist, making you look sloppy. This problem is exacerbated by pleats. You don't have to be trim and fit to go beltless, you just need pants that fit.

While it may still be looked upon as odd or even outrageous by some here in the states, in England and elsewhere it's seen as quite normal by most, and preferable by many. Some would argue that your look is incomplete without a belt, others would say to be truly dressed well, you should be one color between your shoes and your tie. The point is that there are no hard and fast rules, you decide what you like and what you're comfortable with. Going beltless is definitely worth a shot. Fair warning: once you've tried it, you might not go back.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Right Belt

I enjoy the beltless look with a suit, and have gotten some questions about it. Some like the look and wonder how to effectively go beltless. Others have been quite taken aback, never imagining that such a thing as wearing a suit with no belt could or should happen. They feel an ensemble is incomplete without a belt. Wherever you find yourself on the belt debate, here are some arguments for wearing a belt, and how to choose a good one. My next post will discuss the virtues of no belt.

Why wear a belt

The most basic question is do your trousers stay up and in the position you want them? If the answer is no, then a belt is in order. Aside from if your trousers need help staying put, there are some other pro-belt arguments to consider. Because a belt forms a horizontal line around your midsection, it serves to break up the lines and colors of your suit. This may be more subtle with dark suits (think black on black) and more pronounced with lighter suits (think of a light gray suit with a dark brown or black belt). Some, like very tall people, might see this as a positive, as it takes away from their height a bit by breaking up the lines. A belt can also be helpful for those who like to wear their pants above the hips. Depending on your height and proportions, keeping your pants higher on your waist could help even out a long torso and shorter legs by making your legs appear longer than they are.

If you're wearing a sportcoat or something a bit more casual than a suit, a belt is a good accessory and can add nice accents of color, and is possible more appropriate than no belt, since your jacket will be a different color than your trousers anyway.

Choosing the right belt

The first rule is that the belt should match your shoes. Black with black. Dark brown with dark brown. Tan with tan. With browns, it can be tricky to find the right shade. The colors don't have to match exactly, but should be pretty close, I'd say close enough that it's not blatantly obvious that your belt is a different shade than your shoes.

The textures of your belt and shoes do not need to match. With most leathers this probably isn't a concern. If you're talking about a more distinctive texture, such as alligator skin, having a matching belt and shoes can look tacky, like having a matching tie and pocket square. You don't buy these things in sets. The shades should match, but not the texture. Nicer belts that are intended to be worn with nicer clothes are more finished looking. The leather is shinier and it has clean, subtle stitching. Casual belts that look frayed and unfinished should be worn with jeans, not suits.

The belt shouldn't be too wide or too narrow. That's a bit vague, but generally speaking, the belt should fit the loops it'll be going through. I wouldn't try to stuff a wider belt that's better suited for jeans through trousers, just as a sleeker belt with jeans would look out of place.

The belt buckle should be sleek, subtle, and preferably silver colored. Gold colored is okay if you're heavily accessorized with gold elsewhere. It should also be classy. No logos or crazy designs. It should have clean lines and should be squared, rectangular, or either of those with slightly rounded corners.

Friday, May 8, 2009

How to Care for Your Suits

Most guys want to take their suit or sweater to the dry cleaner anytime they get something on it or it gets some wrinkles. Here's the rub: dry cleaning your clothes too often will deteriorate fibers and shorten the life of your clothes. The problem is the solvents, chemicals and high temperatures. So it might come back to you cleaner and perhaps with less wrinkles, but it's taken a few big steps toward its demise. A lot of the stuff you're taking your things to the cleaners for can (and should) be taken care of at home, even if it is a bit more of a hassle.

Dress Shirts:
Cotton shirts should go very infrequently to the cleaners, or you'll be replacing them. The chemicals can give your shirts a yellowish tint, and the fibers are being deteriorated by the process used to clean them. If you do take your shirt to the cleaners, ask them to hand press rather than machine press. No starch also lengthens a shirt's lifespan. A better (and cheaper) idea for your shirts is to machine wash them and hang them to dry. Then iron them yourself. Don't know how to iron? Shame on you. A guy should be able to effectively iron a shirt, and indeed should do so before wearing a dress shirt.

Dry cleaning is rough on your wool knitwear, especially cashmere. You're better off using mild soap and water and handwashing it. One word: Woolite.

Your suits cost more than your shirts and your sweaters, and are perhaps what you are dry cleaning (and damaging) most. Once or twice a year isn't terrible, but if you're not wearing the suit a lot, probably unnecessary. First off, a suit should be hung on the hanger it came with (should be a curved wood with hopefully some width in the shoulders) in a place where it can get some air, not stuffed between other suits or clothes in your closet. Hang it in a place wear it can breathe for a day or so, then you can put it back into the bullpen. Airing it out lets the wool release any odors and wrinkles. You can also brush the suit after use to remove any loose dirt or dust. If you do have a spot or stain, go at it with mild soap and water. If you're not comfortable doing that, take it to the cleaners and ask them to spot clean the stain, telling them what the stain is from. For wrinkles, invest in a steamer, or let the suit hang in your bathroom while you run a hot shower so the steam releases the wrinkles. If you do take it to the cleaners, take both jacket and trousers at the same time, so that any discoloration happens to both equally, and ask them to hand press it. Find a good cleaner. You get what you pay for. A bad job will be evident by getting clothes back that have shrunk or don't fit the same, shinyness in the material, or marks left in the fabric under lapels, around buttons, etc.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Cotton Suit

This past week was consistently in the 70's, and it's about time. So it feels like Spring finally arrived, and Summer is around the corner. It's the perfect time to add a cotton suit to your repertoire. The cotton suit is versatile--it can be dressed down easily, or worn with a shirt and tie. Just make sure you get one with a good cut and fit. Check out How to Buy a Suit for more info. You can get a wide variety of colors, too. Just because it's cotton doesn't mean it has to be khaki. You can get navy or black or brown or whatever. The darker colors can be worn post-labor day, and the lighter ones even work later in the year if you're in a warm climate. One suit that is a summer only is the seersucker. Makes a bit more of a statement. Best worn with a white shirt and darker tie. They don't have to be white with blue stripes; you can find tan, navy, green, or other colored stripes. And the white part doesn't necessarily have to be white. An overdyed seersucker can be gray, navy, or black.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Skinny Ties?

Skinny ties have seen a resurgence recently. You've probably seen them a lot on TV, in magazines, and in movies. The narrow tie isn't new; guys were wearing them decades ago. As with anything, it's usually wise to avoid extremes, and ties are no exception. Some are so narrow that they won't go well with much. Narrower ties look great with a slimmer suit, which have clean, tapered lines, and lapels that are a bit more narrow than the average. On average, ties are around 3.5 inches wide (give or take a bit), and if you check suit lapels on the average suit, they'll be close to that measurement. The rule is, narrower lapels=narrower tie. If you have big lapels, you musn't wear a narrow tie, and vice versa. If you like the look of the narrower tie, just make sure you're not pairing it with a suit with wide lapels.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

How to Buy a Suit

When it's time to buy a suit, you should go in with an idea of what you're looking for. Color, fabric, and number of buttons are just a few examples of the choices you'll be making. No matter how much you're looking to spend, you can find something that will look great if you know how a suit should fit. Getting a custom made suit with your measurements will always be a better investment than something off the rack. Remember, a custom suit requires around 20 measurements to ensure a great fit. A department store works off of 1 measurement for the jacket and 1 for the trousers.

Know what fit you like. Specifically, do you like a snug fit or a looser fit? Sounds basic, but if you know what fit you want, and you see a suit that doesn't fit your mold, you can move on immediately.

Here are some of the basic components of a suit that you should be familiar with:

1. Shoulders: The suit's shoulder's should hug yours. The shoulder pads shouldn't stick out past your shoulders. If you stand against a wall and the suit touches the wall before your arm does, the suit is too big.

2. Chest: You should allow for a fist's worth of space between your chest and the button when you have the suit buttoned. Not too tight though--you shouldn't have to strain to button it.

3. Length: With your arms hanging down, you should be able to cup your fingers under the sides of the jacket. Some styles have the jacket fitting shorter than that.

4. Number of buttons: Now we're getting more into the style of the suit. A 2 button suit is the classic, and is currently the most popular. The 3 button was popular for quite sometime, but can make you look '90s if you're not careful. If you can find one that doesn't look too high cut (you're not in the NBA) and that preferably has a roll-over lapel (you can button the top button or just do the middle button, the soft lapel will naturally roll over the top button) then the 3 button can be an acceptable choice. A 1 button suit is a bit more rakish but can be a good look if you're a bit more daring.

5. Vents in back: A center vent is all-purpose. Both modern and traditional. Side vents (2 vents on the side instead of 1 in the center) is a bit more stylish. No vent is a no-no.

6. Lapel: A notch lapel is the most common. Always a safe bet. A peak lapel is what you usually see on a double-breasted suit, it's the lapel that points upwards instead of sideways and now is quite common on a single breasted suit. They look a bit more elegant.

7. When you're trying suits on or being measured for a suit, make sure you're wearing dress shoes.

8. The pants: they should fit comfortably, the rise shouldn't be too high or too low for your taste. Plain front (no pleats) is classic and also very popular right now, as is no cuffs, although cuffs are still very popular.